Before we get started, allow me to define “Me-ism” to all of you that have no idea of what in the hell I am talking about. “Me-ism” (as defined by LEFT) is a quasi-narcissistic obsession with one’s perspective, marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur. This megalomaniac focus on the self is often at the expense of other’s views/perspectives and is rooted in a delusional, self-centered version of the truth thus placing a hyper-value on one’s personal opinion. This “Me-ism” that I speak of, is at the center of the controversial fervor swirling around Lupe Fiasco’s new record entitled Bitch Bad.
First, you have Lupe’s take on the use and eventual danger of the word bitch being used in the Black community, while being propagated, defined and commercialized via Rap music (not to be confused with Hip-Hop) and its double entendreic function. To be clear, a double entendre is a word or expression capable of two interpretations with one usually being risqué. A double entendre is normally utilized to express potentially offensive opinions without the risk of explicitly doing so. Now, let’s play with the double in double entendre. Because doubling plays a key role in understanding Lupe’s record Bitch Bad and its functionality. As Lupe is attacking misogyny, manifesting and manipulating the minds of millions that move to the music made by rappers making money off of the “Bitchology” prevailing in the Black community, the record also touches on the de-gendering of who can be seen as a misogynist. Most commonly we associate misogyny (justifiably so) with men, but women harboring hatred towards other women- or even themselves thus, also practice misogyny. Misogyny functions as a patriarchal ideology/belief system that continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision-making. Wait; allow me to provide a truncated explanation of what I call “Bitchology.” The term Bitchology is the epistemic knowledge surrounding all ideological standpoints and usages of the word bitch. If you are a practitioner of the use of the term bitch as a vernacular norm, then you are aware that it is a roach-like term, capable of adapting to a multitude of conditions/situations. Bitch can be used as a term of endearment, a term of emasculation, a term of empowerment, a term of assertiveness, as well a patriarchal, sexist epithet, used to besmirch and belittle women. The term bitch is multifunctional, and though many may not agree with its use, if you’re keeping it real with yourself, you are aware of the terminological complexity of the term bitch, or as a person that says bitch would say, “you’re acting like a bitch, if you don’t recognize how many different kinds of bitches there are.” Okay, now let’s get back to Lupe’s record Bitch Bad.
In a blog post for Spin magazine, Brandon Soderberg goes in on Lupe Fiasco for “mansplaining” in his new song and video, “Bitch Bad.” Mansplaining, in case you’re unfamiliar with this term, generally refers to a man’s condescending way to explain an issue that primarily concerns women and their experiences within society (I’ll get back to Soderberg and Spin magazine later on in this piece). I can see how a person would see Lupe’s mansplaining of how the use of the term bitch is affecting the impressionable minds of Black youth growing up with a normalization of the term, while simultaneously woman-blaming for the continual colloquial use of the word bitch. As Lupe states in his first verse:
Now imagine there’s a shawty, maybe five maybe four
Ridin’ ’round with his mama listening to the radio
And a song comes on and a not far off from being born
Doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong
Now I ain’t trying to make it too complex
But let’s just say shawty has an undeveloped context
About the perception of women these days
His mama sings along and this what she says
“Niggas I’m a bad bitch, and I’m bad bitch far above average”
And maybe other rhyming words like cabbage and savage
And baby carriage and other things that match it
Couple of things that are happenin’ here
First he’s relatin’ the word “bitch” with his mama, comma
And because she’s relatin’ to herself, his most important source of help,
And mental health, he may skew respect for dishonor
To quote Lupe there are a, “couple of things that are happenin’ here.” As Lupe is giving a “mansplanation” as to how the terminology and understanding of how the word bitch is being taught to “shawty” (an innocent four or five year-old boy with an” undeveloped context”) by his mother, we are left with the impression that “shawty’s” mother (therefore all mothers) is responsible for not only giving definition to the term bitch to her son, but also the child’s introduction to the term as a whole, while simultaneously providing him with an example of who and what a bitch is. My question is, what is the absentee variable in this equation? The absentee variable in this equation is “shawty’s” father. This doesn’t stop at “shawty’s” father, but also leads us to unpacking the “who” as to (if we are using the radio and rap music as the technological teaching/spreading tools for the term bitch) “who is indoctrinating the ‘shawty’s’ of the world to see women as bitches?” The obvious answer is young Black men making rap music- this is a partial truth. The expanded version of that partial truth is that its the record executives, hip-hop magazine owners, program directors and all other men in influential positions of power that push, promote, propagate and profit off of the commodifiable component of Bitchology. In other words “bitches” bring in money. I am not writing this piece to talk about the economic exploitation of women, but understand, it’s a multi-billion dollar business, that takes place both legally and illegally. Point being, “shawty” probably heard the word bitch in his baby carriage and his brain has been bombarded with bitch-like female characters ever since “shawty” was able to watch cartoons on television. Like I said, I can see how a person can take the song as a mansplanation of an issue primarily pertaining to women, but was that Lupe’s intention? Is Lupe adhering to the tenants of the aforementioned “Me-ism” or is he doing something more? Well, according to Spin Magazine Lupe is the quasi poster-child of “Me-ism” and they didn’t mind letting it be known.
Spin magazine’s Brandon Soderberg took on the task of not only critiquing Lupe Fiasco’s record Bitch Bad (which is his job as a writer for Spin Magazine), Soderberg took the critique two steps beyond critiquing the record and lashed out, cracking the whip of criticism on the person, that is Lupe Fiasco. Soderberg calls Bitch Bad a, “muddled, mealy-mouthed missive about rap and misogyny,” reckless social commentary,” and claimed that Lupe has a “moronic ‘lyrics over everything’ attitude.” This is not an attack on the song; this is an attack on the person that created the song. A Moron is a person of borderline intelligence in a former and discarded classification of mental retardation, having an intelligence quotient of 50 to 69. By labeling his lyrics “moronic” Soderberg is thus, associating the creator of said moronic lyrics as being (at best) temporarily befitting the status and stigmatization of being a moron. By using “mealy-mouthed” Soderberg is saying that Lupe is hesitant to state facts or opinions simply and directly as a form of cowardice, practicing hypocrisy and or timidity. And ultimately (according to Soderberg) Mr. Fiasco has a paternalistically “muddled” way of accessing/addressing Bitchological studies- he (Lupe) is thus a muddler, i.e. a person that thinks or acts in a confused and aimless way. This sounds less like a music review and more like a practice of judgment under the axiom of “Me-ism.” Interestingly, Soderberg’s Me-istical traits show themselves in plain sight when he paternalistically poses the question, “Does any female want to be called a lady?” Really, ”female,” as in the first word that I hear when some dude gives a half ass explanation as to why women shouldn’t be offended by being called a bitch? It goes something like this, “I mean why you trippin? A bitch is a female dog and you know you’re not a female dog- right?” If I were on Twitter I would have tweeted this face o_O when I first read these words by Soderberg. Then I began to think, wait a second, is Soderberg “mansplaining” and paternalistically speaking on behalf of women, by insinuating that women despise being called ladies? How would he know this? You see, this is another point where “Me-ism” is in play. Soderberg isn’t attempting to create a dialog to critique and attack the complexity affixed to the sociological issues and its damaging effects surrounding a word/concept/stereotype/ideology, that has/is/and will be, poisoning the children from the community from which he was reared. No, Mr. Soderberg is far from trying to create a dialog and bring attention to a larger issue. Mr. Soderberg is trying to bring attention to a smaller issue- himself and his self-centered version of the truth. Soderberg’s condescending tone not only comes off as patronizingly patrilineal, but it also comes off as uninformed and imbecilic. Okay, that sounds harsh and dare I say, Soderbergish, but what am I supposed to think when he writes things like this:
“Bitch Bad” is, to play Lupe’s game and get histrionic, how you “debase” a “culture.” You twist a rap song into poorly thought-out grab for attention, and give it a muddled video, all under the guise of “starting a conversation,” which implicitly suggests that rap music isn’t having these conversations already. The use of the word “bitch,” sensitively deconstructed by Jay-Z on “99 Problems,” and currently being twisted and challenged by Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj, and many more female MCs, proves that the discussion doesn’t need a backpack rap hustler selling cynicism. – Brandon Soderberg
I’m sorry, did Soderberg just say that Jay-Z “sensitively deconstructed” the use of the word bitch on 99 Problems? And that Nicki Minaj is challenging the negative depiction of women as acting out and embracing the word bitch? Really? Has he ever listened to Jay-Z or Nicki Minaj? This is the same Nicki Minaj that said, “I’m the baddest bitch. The mistress, I’m the baddest bitch. I’m the baddest bitch. Trick-trick-trick please I’m the baddest bitch” and then chased those lyrics with, “Baddest, the baddest, my pussy’s the phattest I’m bad.” Really Soderberg? Again, if this were Twitter, Soderberg’s comments would be getting the o_O face. But like Soderberg’s articles, I am getting away from the larger point- Lupe’s record Bitch Bad and the necessity for a conversation in the Black community (which Brandon Soderberg is not a part of) concerning the effects of the proliferation and propagation of the “bitch” character and all that, that entails within the Black community. Being that the majority of men calling Black women bitches for public consumption are Black rappers (men and women alike), it’s only fair that a fellow artist address the issue, thus creating a counter context and conversation surrounding the issue of contention. Maybe, and just maybe, Mr. Soderberg feels like since it’s (like the man in the business suit in the Bitch Bad video controlling the “Buck” and the “Jezebel” characters in said video with stacks of cash) white males that own the labels, radio stations, magazines, and manufacturing plants that profit off of the proliferation and propagation of the Black woman as the “bitch” character- Soderberg felt that he had to speak up and defend his mentors and models of success within the industry. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Soderberg will read this and let me know what he thinks.
I am going to conclude this piece (although I could keep it going) with the words of the one person who needs to be heard the most in this conversation surrounding the Bitch Bad record/controversy- a Black Women.
It’s [a] 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
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