Lupe Fiasco has always been a rapper who has spoken with force and clarity, never backing down from his beliefs and always in-tune to the environment around him, challenging it at every turn. It's why I have been a fan, and why I continue to listen. So it comes to no surprise that he would drop a potent point in his song, "Bitch Bad", which examines the complications of the word "bitch" and its association within the hip-hop culture. The song tells the all-too-familiar tale of a boy and girl who grow up hearing the word, but have varying ways of interpreting and utilizing it.
The chorus pretty much defines it all: "bitch bad, woman good, lady better" and please don't be misunderstood. Fiasco doesn't sugar coat things over in the visual either, as in bold stance explores the stereotypes and hypocrisies that permeate the hip-hop culture and continue to cloud our thought patterns on the daily.
Tricky it is to stand on this topic, as "bitch" takes on varying connotations for different people. For some people it's a degrading term used to belittle women. For others it's a word of empowerment, to prove independence and spotlight that you aren't one to be fooled with. We know all too well that the word has been tossed around with free reign in the spectrum of hip-hop culture, yet like the kids in Fiasco's song, the word takes on varying significance for each gender. While male rappers spit out the word in order to minimize and keep women shuffling behind them, you then have Lil' Kim crowning herself "Queen Bitch", Nicki Minaj saying she's "the baddest bitch", and Missy Elliott roaring back utilizing the term to define women's forceful nature. Oh, what a tussling grey area. Yet, in the end, it's all on where you stand that makes the difference.
Hip-Hop has been sort of a He-Man Woman Hater's Club for me due to its misogynistic undertones. I mean, how could I listen and endorse something that slaps you verbally back and degrades you at every sting? Also just looking at the little girl in the visual imitate what she sees the video vixens doing brings home the fact that we've all been conditioned in some way by this, and at young ages. That has been a conundrum with me and hip-hop, the images and ideals it sort of paints you into a corner with. Then there is the internal hypocrisy of it all, since I do listen to it, sometimes hearing the worst of the worst. Still thank goodness! for Queen Latifah (U.N.I.T.Y., baby!), Salt n' Pepa, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and yes, Missy Elliott, all of who softened the blows with their la femme lyricism.
My stance on "bitch", in general, has been that I deplore the word's usage when it's utilized by women themselves as a positive way of describing themselves, which leads some men to believe that it's a-okay to call them that on their terms, stepping over the way the woman is aligning the word with herself. The word brings on such confusion that I try to refrain it as a whole, using it with sparsity like salt. As someone in a love affair with words, it doesn't take much to stretch my brain and think up more clever descriptors to describe and affirm myself.
For Fiasco, he says in-track that he's not using the word "as a lesson", but as "a psychological weapon", and he further explained his reasoning with MTV's RapFix Live giving some choice commentary on why he decided to spark this conversation. He says:
"Even if we don't come to a definition about it, even if we don't come to an agreement about it ... it's definitely something that I think we should talk about because it's so prevalent in our culture right now."I couldn't agree more. Let's stop putting reality under rug swept.
Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album will be in stores September 25th.