(August 11, 2020). Four days ago, two star female rappers, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, released what has been perhaps the most scrutinized new song and video of 2020 with “WAP,” a radio-unfriendly tune whose title doesn’t mean Wireless Application Protocol but which needs very little explanation – especially after one view of its video.
In the song and the video, the two rappers explore and celebrate their sexuality in ways that would have made ‘90s rap icons like Lil Kim and Trina proud, with their newly coined acronym leaving no doubt which part of the female body – and its natural abilities – they’re enamored with.
But more important than the song’s raunchiness – or its ratchetness, if you prefer – is the level of acceptance it’s received since its release on Aug. 7. Its sex-positive message has been embraced by women from nearly every walk of life, with Grammy-winning singer Christina Aguilera tweeting that she was “feeling some kind of way about it” (a good way, that is), and Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis tweeting an alternate version of the video with her own likeness (replacing that of the video’s most scrutinized guest star, Kylie Jenner).
Even African-American Muslim author Blair Amadeus Imani, who happens to be queer, wrote: “As a Muslim, (WAP) slaps. Sex positivity is halal. Carry on.”
Upon seeing these and other similar reactions from women, whatever jaw-dropped, salty reaction I may have had as a 54-year-old man upon my introduction to “WAP” was rendered irrelevant. After all, who am I to tell a woman how her body should be represented or what words she should use in her art to describe her natural abilities? Any notion I had that these women – arguably the two dopest female rappers in the game at the moment – were not completely in control of their music and how they’re portrayed in a male-dominated music industry were archaic at best and hypocritical at worst.
I mean, here we are in 2020 where several of this year’s number one Hot 100 songs are by male rappers who have no problem boasting about their sexual prowess or marginalizing and demeaning women. The year’s biggest hit – “The Box” by Roddy Ricch – contains the line, “Got a bitch that’s looking like Aaliyah – she a model.”
The song with the second-longest No. 1 run in 2020 is by DaBaby and Ricch. While their chart-topping “Rockstar” is tame by most hip-hop standards, DaBaby is known for bragging about his male parts and for his unique way of “exalting” women in his lyrics. On last year’s “Bop,” he rapped: “my bitch got good pussy, fly her ‘cross the country” and “She be throwin’ that ass, yeah, she good at it…Turn around when we fuck, make her look at it.”
The amount of hypocrisy in rap would be funny if it wasn’t so sadly blatant. CeeLo Green, whose biggest claim to fame is the 2010 girlfriend diss, “Fuck You,” offered a very measured critique – but a critique nonetheless – of “WAP” and its creators during an interview with NME, saying “A lot of music today is very unfortunate and disappointing on a personal and moral level. There was once a time when we were savvy enough to code certain things. We could express to those it was meant for with the style of language we used. But now music is shameless, it is sheer savagery…There should be a time and a place for adult content.”
Again, his biggest hit was called “Fuck You.”
Green also chose to target Cardi rival Nicki Minaj in the interview, saying she could be effective in so many other constructive ways but her music “feels desperate.”
Leave it to men to tell women how they should be expressing themselves in their music.
Well, the criticisms from conservative pundits – and the likes of CeeLo Green – have only raised the profile of “WAP,” and, in a year where Minaj achieved her first two No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, Cardi B and Megan are about to add to their own No. 1 hauls as “WAP” is projected to debut atop the Hot 100 next week, giving Cardi her fourth and Megan her second No. 1 single.
If that happens, “WAP” would be the fourth No. 1 single involving female rappers – and the fourth No. 1 collaboration involving two women – in 2020. Both of those are calendar-year records as there had only been two No. 1 duets between solo women in all of Hot 100 history before this year and never more than two No. 1 songs by female rappers in the same year.
From WAP to VEEP
This would also happen in a week when a historical development has occurred in the U.S. presidential race: Senator Kamala Harris – former presidential candidate herself – was tapped by presumed democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden to be his running-mate in this year’s election.
Harris is a Black woman and a woman of south Asian descent who, by her selection, is the first such woman to run for the second-highest office in the land. With her VEEP candidacy now secured (or at least it will be when next week’s Democratic National Convention makes it official), she instantly becomes a role-model for so many women of color who before now could never have imagined themselves or anyone who looked like them being this close to the presidency of the United States.
You may say, how can any blogger equate the two – WAP and VEEP – in an article about female empowerment? One seems raunchy and base – filled with imagery that plays on men’s stereotypes of women, while the other is honorable and noble, with the kind of power and influence that demands the kind of respect few other jobs can.
How can a song whose underpinning is the old hit by Frank Ski, “There’s some whores in this house,” be even mentioned, much less uplifted, in the same article that celebrates the historic accomplishment of Sen. Kamala Harris as the next democratic Vice Presidential nominee?
It’s simple. It’s about female empowerment and it’s about versatility. These women – all of those involved – are taking role-reversal to a new level in ways that are about as diverse as only women could do it.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are the first to admit how “filthy” and “nasty” “WAP” is at its core, with its references to parking “Big Mack trucks in this little garage” and the declaration: “I don’t cook, i don’t clean, but let me tell you how i got this ring.” (Hey, give Cardi credit, at least she’s using metaphors here, something today’s music is often accused of lacking).
But these women are also taking back the sexual narrative from men – namely male rappers whose misogynistic lyrics have defiled women for decades (just ask Luther “Luke Skywalker” Campbell, formerly of the 80’s raunchiest rap act 2 Live Crew).
And isn’t it also true that, no matter how noble the job is, whether it’s that of crass rapper or vice presidential candidate, women have been – and likely will always be – on the receiving end of unwarranted criticism and disrespectful name-calling?
On the very day that Biden’s announcement came, the current president referred to Harris as “extraordinarily nasty” and “the meanest of anybody in the U.S. Senate,” saying she badly disrespected men like his supreme court justice pick Brett Kavenaugh and the current U.S. Attorney General William Barr (both white men above the age of 50, mind you), when she was simply grilling them – like any male senator would do – during senate confirmation hearings in 2018 and during Barr’s hearing earlier this year about alleged interference in the convictions and/or sentencing of several people tied to Donald Trump.
In other words, she was doing the job that hundreds of thousands of Californians elected her to do as U.S. Senator – in a way that senators from opposing parties have been doing it likely since hearings were first introduced centuries ago.
The bottom line is that it makes no sense to scold women like Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion for expressing themselves so sexually – especially in 2020 – when men do it all the time, unscathed. It makes even less sense when some of the same terms used to degrade rappers like Cardi and Megan (and Nicki Minaj and others) are equally used to describe strong women in more “noble” positions like, potentially, the Vice President of the United States of America – simply for doing the job she’s paid to do, in ways that men have been doing it for eons.
It makes no sense, and it’s a sign of weakness – our own.
DJRob is a freelance blogger from Chicago who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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