Last week, our Gender Matters columnist Akiba Solomon took on herself. (Hey, sometimes it’s hard to find a rhetorical equal…) Revisiting her earlier take on Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad,” a track that digs into internalized racism and sexism, Akiba finds herself reassessing her standards for Lupe’s black male feminism, finding herself happier to hear it than she first realized. She concludes:
Call me preachy, but I think we need to hear more straightforward challenges to the prevalence of “bitch” from black males (yes, black males) who use it in multiple ways with few consequences.
I say this as a black woman who has been called a bitch by men who look like me in the streets; had dudes who look like me throw juice and 40 bottles at me for ignoring their advances; had a man twice my age who looked like me call me a trick-ass ho for daring to hail a cab rather than riding with a stranger; had a classmate who looked like me shove me into a cafeteria conveyor belt because I wasn’t tactful enough when I told him I didn’t want his number; and had another one who looked like me call me an ugly black bitch with no ass just for averting my eyes. That kind of verbal abuse from people you’ve been raised to call “brother” has a cumulative effect. So if Lupe Fiasco or any other black male hip-hop artist takes the time out to say STOP!, I’ll ride for that effort and hope that the fair criticism propels him to another level the next time around.
As Dream Hampton said in the comments: “That last graph man….”
Reader Joe Truss kicks off our conversation in the Colorlines.com community – ostensibly about Lupe, but also about the challenges rappers face in getting out a message that is both heard clearly and received openly.
Dope song. Dope message. Hard for many to swallow. The video with minstrel show references makes it even clearer. Internalized oppression is so commonplace we deny it.
Regardless, I think it was a failed attempt. Who is Lupe to tell any woman what makes her respectable? I do think it’s important to note, what you said about Fiasco spitting something other than the usual ignorance. I give him that much. No, I don’t think he’s an idiot or a spectacle, as most mainstream rappers appear to be, but he clearly needs to think further into the dichotomies he’s analyzing and his role as the perpetrator.
I appreciate the song even though there’s still a problem with it. Although the intent of the song is a critique of the imagery created in popular rap songs, by Lupe using “Bitch Bad” in his chorus, a little kid listening could actually interpret his song in the same way that they interpret the songs he critiques without getting the complete message. Dude in the video reminded me at first sight of 50 Cent but as the video went on, I saw every popular rapper who has contributed to the image of black women/video vixens.
Lupe’s one of the few rappers who I like nowadays, at least of those whom are somewhat popular. I would encourage those women who always get up and dance to songs that call women derogatory terms all the while saying/believing “he ain’t talkin’ ‘bout me” to see this video and peep the lyrics! Also, in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, artists have inadvertently become part of the machine that assaults and bombards the psyche with all sorts of images that end up having an effect on society. When entertainers do such, without caring about the effect of their images on themselves or society, they symbolically have donned blackface (shout out to Spike Lee). This is also the case in many facets of Brazilian entertainment, for example.
As always, hella thought-out and thought-provoking, AK-47. Still blows my mind how you always find a way to strike that balance between impassioned response and straightforward analysis.
My two cents – as a so-called hip-hop head AND a sometimes reluctant card-carrying member of the so-called hip-hop media AND MOST IMPORTANTLY as a father to three daughters and two sons? I’m with you: Lupe is indeed on to something deeper. And it’s up to ALL of us to keep digging…
This is definitely a more thorough analysis than SPIN or any other publication I’ve read cover this. The one thing they do hit upon that I think is of importance, though arguably subjective, is that for all Lupe’s good intentions and aims, the song just sounds awkward. I’ve often said I am interested in Lupe’s politics but not his music. That said, Lupe is one of the few explicitly political artists in the mainstream who make it a point to highlight and not dismiss their personal politics. As an avid hip-hop head, this puts me in a precarious position: Lupe has a message I support but a delivery I cringe at.
What a wonderfully written post. I totally agree that it should not be up to women only to police gender and racial slurs. I have to question whether Lupe Fiasco really intended such an intelligent message as you extracted but again, I’ll take what I can get.