Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bitch Bad. Queen Good. Goddess Better.



Yes. The title needs some work, but give me a break. The point was to put a bit of a twist to the chorus of Lupe Fiasco’s Bitch Bad single. I have been a staunch supporter of Lupe since I was an undergraduate student. At first, I did brush him off as a nerdy weirdo when I heard Kick, Push (he was a black rapper rapping about skating for goodness sakes!), but he reeled me in with Daydreamin’. When I heard Paris, Tokyo, from his second album, I was in love—I mean I became a fan of his music. I went out and bought both albums soon after and then began collecting his mixtapes. I became an official supporter of Mr. Fiasco.

When Lupe came out with his third studio album, Lasers, and everyone said he had dumbed down the music (even Lupe admitted as much) and had become a sell-out, I still bought the album to discern for myself. I thought it was pretty good. Sure, it was a different style of music than Food & Liquor and The Cool, but it was not as if he was talking about money and fucking a bunch of random women. It was actually a very political album. So I am very certain that people will be very critical of his fourth upcoming album, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album. His former fan base will be waiting to see if he goes back to the so-called old Lupe (which is impossible) and his newly acquired fan base will be waiting for more of the same as from Lasers (which is more likely). 

There are, of course, those who are just tired of Lupe and his “conscious” music altogether. People like Brandon Soderberg from Spin magazine who wrote an article that tore one of Lupe’s singles to shreds...for no apparent reason. In response to a recently released video for a single off of Food & Liquor II called Bitch Bad, Soderberg posted somewhat of a review of it to the Spin magazine online blog entitled: Lupe Fiasco Mansplains Some More in the Video for ‘Bitch Bad’, which threw Lupe into a fit (to the point of starting a boycott of the magazine). On Bitch Bad, Lupe attempts to challenge misogyny and the use of the word “bitch” in reference to women in rap music. It showcases how “bitch” has negative psychological effects on its young and impressionable consumers. Why this would upset anyone is beyond me. He referred to the song and video as “half-baked consciousness.” It seemed like he did not like single/video specifically because they attempted to challenge misogyny in hip-hop music.

Soderberg’s entire post is full of “half-baked” insults. He begins by saying that the single is a “muddled, mealy-mouthed missive about rap and misogyny” and then says that the “lyrics over everything” attitude is “moronic.” Since when has having meaningful lyrics that actually talks about something significant in the lives of people been moronic? Soderberg also must not know much about women because at one point he asks “does any female want to be called ‘a lady’?” when discussing the chorus of the song. I suppose women prefer to be called “bitches” instead. Even rappers want a “lady in the streets, but a freak in the bed.” Of course the footage in the video of a fake rapper and video vixen rubs Soderberg the wrong way as well. To him it was a “reckless social commentary.” How can he not see that rappers really are blackface performers making their white record executives wealthy in the process and that (mainstream) hip-hop has turned into a literal coon show, which, ironically, is what he was trying to explain that hip-hop is not. And hip-hop does perpetuate “ugly mainstream representations” of the black community. Did Soderberg even bother to sit down and think about what he was writing?

Then, towards the end of his piece, Soderberg has the audacity to use Jay-Z and his hit 99 Problems as an example of how misogyny is already being discussed in hip-hop along with artists like Azealia Banks and Nicki Minaj. Can someone please point out to me in which line(s) in 99 Problems does Jay-Z “sensitively deconstruct” the word “bitch”? Azealia Banks and Nicki Minaj (and any other mainstream female rapper) are not having any kind of discussion about the word “bitch”; they are only perpetuating its usage. Misogyny in hip-hop is being discussed, but it is being discussed by women scholars in academia. Hip-hop panels tend to focus on the negative image of black males. Only a small amount of time is spent discussing misogyny in the music. So if a male rapper is actually willing to go near the discussion, then I will applaud him.

If Soderberg was really intent on being critical about Lupe’s Bitch Bad video/single, then how about pointing that going after one word is not going to solve the problem of misogyny. Misogyny is a mentality that affects both men and women in society. “Bitch” is only a symptom of the illness. Besides the word “bitch” there is also “hoe.” How about the way that feminine words are used as insults? Like the word “pussy.” No man wants to be a “pussy,” but they sure always want to get up in one. Even Lupe made use of it in Joaquin Phoenix (Flow is really manly though/ [...] /No camel toe, no Monistat/No pussy in my program) from the mixtape, Friend of the People: I Fight Evil.

It could have been pointed out that a better way to confront misogyny would be to discuss how it plays a big part in history: the decimation of ancient Goddess-worshiping civilizations, how religion helped to devalue the sacred feminine, etc. Misogyny has been in existence for several millennia now. A new way to look at things would have been for Lupe to discuss how young, white men view black women seeing as they constitute the largest percentage of consumers of hip-hop music. Do they see us as “bad bitches” and “hoes” that are ready to drop down to our knees the moment a man with some money throws a couple of stacks at us, too? Soderberg also could have pointed out that the term “lady” was never meant to refer to women of color. It was only reserved for elite, white women. Hell, why even stop at “lady”? Why not “Queen” or “Goddess”?

Unfortunately, Soderberg mentions none of these things to counter Lupe. Rather, he got his little panties all in a bunch and decided to go on a rant attacking everything that was positive about Bitch Bad. It was not a well, thought-out written piece by any means. Lupe is no academic scholar and perhaps he did not express himself the way some would like, but he is far from ignorant and his intentions are clear. And although I am a Lupe supporter, I am not going to boycott Spin magazine...I do not read their magazine anyway. Ha!

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