What's So Bad About Lupe's Latest Single?

What's So Bad About Lupe's Latest Single?

[OPINION] Jamilah Lemieux says two scathing critiques of the Chicago-emcee speak volumes about cultural disconnect of today's popular rap critics

Jamilah Lemieux

by Jamilah Lemieux, August 26, 2012

What's So Bad About Lupe's Latest Single?

Lupe Fiasco video screenshot of 'Bitch Bad'

Photo courtesy of MTV

their detriment, sorry), he’s super annoyed by the images of a rapper and video model applying blackface and “perpetuating the sounds-good-but-doesn't-really-parse argument that male gangsta rappers and female models/video girls are the modern day equivalent of blackface performers.”

Again, the problem of reporting on Black life from the outside looking in…and I don’t care how hip-hop ‘approved’ you are, how many Eightball and MJG tapes you have from seventh grade or even if you bothered to take an Afro-studies class at whatever liberal arts college that taught you how to wax poetic about Dipset, you are on the outside.  The imagery in rap music is even more damning than early 20th century minstrelsy because there are so many folks inside and outside of the Black community who will fight tooth and nail to suggest that the buffoonery is not only authentic Blackness, but the most authentic form of Blackness. Furthermore, and most damning, these images influence young people to aspire to some of the lowest forms of modern human behavior, such as standing around and calling the women of one’s community “b*tches” with the same casual tone one may use to observe the weather.

Soderberg whines that the video “feeds on outdated and simplified hip-hop stereotypes…(and) plays into a decade-old understanding of hip-hop as the world of endless thugging and violence, which as I've said time and time again lately, just does not represent what rap music actually looks like and sounds like in 2012.” Alas, while the writer doesn’t see the need for a 50 Cent stand-in considering 50’s lack of musical relevance in today’s market, the character’s mannerisms bring to mind Waka Flocka, Lil’ Boosie, 2 Chainz and others who have both done extremely well in the ‘hood AND amongst pseudo-intellectual hip-hop hipsters.

Ironically, this same writer cried earlier this summer that the current dearth of “street rap” on mainstream radio is a bad thing. This is White privilege at its finest: being able to complain that there aren’t enough narratives about Black death and pain on the Pop stations, without being touched by said death and pain outside of one’s headphones or whatever corny hipster bar one goes to drink artisanal beer and nod awkwardly along to Chief Keef.

I don’t challenge the right of other writers or hip-hop fans to take issue with Lupe Fiasco just because I like him. “B*tch Bad” isn’t a perfect song or video, nor is it reinventing the way in which we discuss a controversial word; however, I still believe it delivers a powerful message that is particularly significant to rap’s youngest, most-easily influenced listeners.

It’s bit absurd for two men who can enjoy rap music while existing on the outside of the culture that sustains it to dismiss the need for a conversation about “b*tch,” a takedown of gross stereotypes in rap culture and the influence that their favorite music has on kids who don’t look like them. Clearly, guys like Hogan and Soderberg aren’t here for a “supposedly serious rapper like Lupe Fiasco, or the many thinkpiece-writing raconteurs who spend their days on hip-hop panels” and considering what that rapper and those writers must look like to someone who gets to enjoy “everything but the burden” when it comes to Black culture, I can’t hardly say I’m surprised. But that doesn't make their words less frustrating.

Jamilah Lemieux is the News and Lifestyle Editor for EBONY.com.

Stay in the Know
Sign up for the Ebony Newsletter