Lupe Fiasco’s “B—- Bad” and the ongoing fight to protect the B-word (Participation)

Lupe Fiasco’s “B—- Bad” and the ongoing fight to protect the B-word

By Rahiel Tesfamariam

When Lupe Fiasco’s controversial “B—- Bad” video premiered last week, the criticism was swift and fierce. The song and its video trace society’s misogynistic roots, grapples with black self-hatred and provides a much-needed contribution to contemporary hip-hop culture.

Yet, white male critics like Spin Magazine’s Marc Hogan and Brandon

From left, Lupe Fiasco, Melle Mel, Scorpio, Common and Grandmaster Flash, in background, perform at the Grammy Nominations Concert on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles) (Matt Sayles – AP) Soderberg have accused Lupe of mansplaining, over your head self-righteousness, “reducing rap to a game of preaching to the converted,” and “replacing one type of misogyny with another.”

But it hasn’t stopped there. Black women have also joined in on the criticism, particularly on Twitter, by accusing Lupe of “benevolent patriarchy” and sexism. This left me wondering why so many women are joining in on the fight to protect the B-word’s place in our society, especially after I wrote an article two weeks ago that resulted in several debates with men about the B-word’s evolution and reappropriation by masses of women.

“B—- Bad” got trashed for what some saw as a hierarchy for womanhood with motherhood placed on top at the song’s conclusion (”B—- bad, woman good, lady better, greatest motherhood”). The video’s emphasis on women who wear provocative clothing was also a point of criticism.

I agree that Lupe’s privileging of motherhood and conception of ideal femininity is problematic because patriarchal sentiments will inevitably cloud any effort to combat misogyny. But those shortcomings do not invalidate his message. Lupe gives voice to hard-to-swallow truths about the destructive hold that the B-word has on society despite our best efforts to overcome it. I often see the reality of those truths play out in my own life.

The upside is that I’m a 31-year-old black woman with a lot to say and years of education and professional experience to back it up. Perhaps the same factors that shape the “I’m a bad b—-” mother in Act 1 of the video. The downside is that an outspoken and accomplished woman often gets branded as being an intimidating man-hater. You couple that with the “angry black woman” stigma and my independence can quickly land me in vicious B-word territory.

Another upside is that I love me some Jesus and do my best to hold the men in my life accountable to treating me like a child of God. The downside is that “Jesus freaks” often get accused of having unrealistic expectations and standards that are too high. You couple that with the “black women are never satisfied” stigma and I’m right back in B-word territory.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is in the realm of sexuality. I have no problem wearing a form-fitting, short dress one day and a conservative business suit the next. While I refuse to be defined by what I wear, I’m absolutely clear that assumptions about female hypersexuality are often (ignorantly) rooted in a woman’s fashion choices. The same age-old assumptions that led to “the fruit of the confusion” in Act 3 of the video.

My point is that the B-word box is inescapable for women. No matter who we are, we’re likely to find ourselves in it at some point. But I’m not going to try to break my way out of it by calling myself a bad, boss, dime or dope b—-. I haven’t worked this hard to be reduced to a female dog (regardless of the adjective that proceeds it). I think Beyonce made a critical mistake by allowing Jay-Z’s “That’s My B—-” verse on the “Watch the Throne” album to see the light of day, and Kim Kardashian publicly played herself by calling Kanye West’s “Perfect B—-” dedication an honor.

I find it hard to put a positive spin on a term as hateful as the b-word, but can understand how and why other women do. Yet, it’s the difference between what “bad b—-” means when said by mature-aged women and how it’s heard by young girls and boys that I can’t overlook. That’s why I appreciate the emphasis that Lupe is placing on children and their inability to examine the words and imagery critically. I’m not mad at him for wanting to put an end to rampant usage of the b-word by adults for the sake of young people.

Continue reading @Lupe Fiasco’s “B—- Bad” and the ongoing fight to protect the B-word – The Root DC Live – The Washington Post.

 

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What’s So Bad About Lupe’s Latest Single? by Jamilah Lemieux (Participation)

What’s So Bad About Lupe’s Latest Single?

by Jamilah Lemieux

What's So Bad About Lupe's Latest Single?

Lupe Fiasco video screenshot of ‘Bitch Bad’

Race and gender have always been complicated issues in and around hip-hop, a culture that is consumed globally, produced primarily by Black men yet largely influenced by White male label executives, fans and music critics.  Two scathing criticisms of Lupe Fiasco’s “B*tch Bad” from SPIN’s Marc Hogan and Brandon Soderberg are a powerful example of what happens when someone who is not emotionally connected to that which they profess to be an expert on is given a microphone and a position of influence.

Hogan’s “Lupe Fiasco Mansplains Misogyny on Counterproductive ‘B*tch Bad” opens by suggesting that two very different songs speak to a massive cultural shift around the word ‘b*tch’:

“Who you callin’ a b*tch?” rages Queen Latifah, on her jazz-sampling single “U.N.I.T.Y.,” originally released on the 1993 album Black Reign. “I’m a bad b*tch / I’m a, I’m a bad b*tch,” repeats Nicki Minaj on her fire-breathing 2009 mixtape cut “Itty Bitty Piggy”…Clearly, something has changed in hip-hop’s relationship with anti-woman slurs over the past two decades.”

Perhaps if Latifah’s attitude had been the most pervasive one at the time in hip-hop culture; alas, ’93 was the same year that Snoop’s Doggystyle was released and rap was becoming an increasingly hostile space for women. Fun fact about “U.N.I.T.Y.”- Latifah calls out a young girl for attempting to be a “gangster b*tch” after the popularity of rapper Apache’s hit song (produced by Q-Tip, creator of affirmative and loving songs about women) of the same name…meanwhile, Apache was her label mate and homeboy. Contradictions and complications are not new territory for rap music, be from a “sanctimonious” emcee or a blissfully ignorant one, so the anger at “B*tch Bad” really seems unwarranted.

Hogan goes on to charge that there is no need for rap music to “scold” listeners, as the genre has grown to include emcees who are better at being thoughtful without being preachy:

“From Das Racist and BBU to Killer Mike and Big K.R.I.T., more and more MCs are remembering how to make rap that has a political charge without sounding like Tipper Gore.”

Here, the writer’s cultural disconnect is painfully clear. The 12-year-old girl popping her butt to the latest Nicki Minaj track doesn’t know who Das Racist is. God bless BBU, a multicultural Chicago hip-hop collective that was progressive enough to name a mix tape “bell hooks,” but the average 25-year-old brother from that same city doesn’t know who they are either. As for Killer Mike and his ‘romantic’ tale of a violent relationship on “U Know I Love You” and Big K.R.I.T.’s narrative about stepping out on his problematic girlfriend to sleep with an overweight woman who will pay his rent (“I Ain’t Sh*t” ), both songs peppered with the b-word…Hogan fails to cite evidence that “B*tch Bad” is worthless.

It’s 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”

If one anti-“B*tch Bad” piece from a White dude who will never walk down any of the country’s Colored main drags and have the experience of being called a b*tch for no other reason than being a woman and present…SPIN ran another one weeks later.

Writer Brandon Soderberg is obviously no Lupe fan, made blatantly obvious from his opening line  (“Why must we continually endure Lupe Fiasco’s half-baked conscious hip-pop?”)  and slams the rapper for “mining the moronic “lyrics over everything” attitude, reducing rap to a game of preaching to the converted,” as if this particular artist isn’t championed by fans for his style of rapping (and as if one has to be ‘converted’ to see the value in challenging the word ‘b*tch.’) This is from a person who has championed the faux-gangster narratives of Rick Ross, yet clucks his tongue at the bra-busting rapper for exploiting ghetto life with his latest video, so weigh that as you will.

He goes on to reiterate Hogan’s assertion that the song is guilty of “mansplaining,” but in the very next sentence asks “but does any female want to be called “a lady”?

Son.

This is what happens when a person who is far removed from someone else’s world decides not only to peek in, but also tries to narrate from the outside. Speaking as an Actual Black Woman, not Race Non Specific Pretend Woman referenced in this article, I can tell you that the word “female” is a far greater point of contention than “lady” amongst sisters. And while plenty of women eschew the word “lady” or the expectation that one has to be “ladylike” to be respectable, others still cling tightly to the term and the traits. “Female,” however, is a term often hurled from the same lips that favor “b*tch.”

While Soderberg says little about the scenes featuring small children watching rap videos and emulating them (I don’t think this dude is particularly concerned about what little Black girls are witnessing that may be to their detriment, sorry), he’s super annoyed by the images of a rapper and video model applying blackface and “perpetuating the sounds-good-but-doesn’t-really-parse argument that male gangsta rappers and female models/video girls are the modern day equivalent of blackface performers.”

Again, the problem of reporting on Black life from the outside looking in…and I don’t care how hip-hop ‘approved’ you are, how many Eightball and MJG tapes you have from seventh grade or even if you bothered to take an Afro-studies class at whatever liberal arts college that taught you how to wax poetic about Dipset, you are on the outside.  The imagery in rap music is even more damning than early 20th century minstrelsy because there are so many folks inside and outside of the Black community who will fight tooth and nail to suggest that the buffoonery is not only authentic Blackness, but the most authentic form of Blackness. Furthermore, and most damning, these images influence young people to aspire to some of the lowest forms of modern human behavior, such as standing around and calling the women of one’s community “b*tches” with the same casual tone one may use to observe the weather.

Soderberg whines that the video “feeds on outdated and simplified hip-hop stereotypes…(and) plays into a decade-old understanding of hip-hop as the world of endless thugging and violence, which as I’ve said time and time again lately, just does not represent what rap music actually looks like and sounds like in 2012.” Alas, while the writer doesn’t see the need for a 50 Cent stand-in considering 50’s lack of musical relevance in today’s market, the character’s mannerisms bring to mind Waka Flocka, Lil’ Boosie, 2 Chainz and others who have both done extremely well in the ‘hood AND amongst psudo-intellectual hip-hop hipsters.

Ironically, this same writer cried earlier this summer that the current dearth of “street rap” on mainstream radio is a bad thing. This is White privilege at its finest: being able to complain that there aren’t enough narratives about Black death and pain on the Pop stations, without being touched by said death and pain outside of one’s headphones or whatever corny hipster bar one goes to drink artisanal beer and nod awkwardly along to Chief Keef.

I don’t challenge the right of other writers or hip-hop fans to take issue with Lupe Fiasco just because I like him. “B*tch Bad” isn’t a perfect song or video, nor is it reinventing the way in which we discuss a controversial word; however, I still believe it delivers a powerful message that is particularly significant to rap’s youngest, most-easily influenced listeners.

It’s 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 is the News and Lifestyle Editor for EBONY.com.

Graffiti Writers Warn Against Dangers of Oil Spills Via NYC Rooftop Spot – ANIMAL

 

Graffiti Writers Warn Against Dangers of Oil Spills Via NYC Rooftop SpotGraffiti Writers Warn Against Dangers of Oil Spills Via NYC Rooftop SpotBy Bucky Turco | August 24, 2012 – 04:00PMUndeterred by his last mural getting buffed by the man, graffiti artist Alan KET is once again creating provocative work for the public. This time he teamed up with fellow writers BRUZ SIN, SKINZ and NOC167 to paint a Queens rooftop visible from the 7 train. The petrol-themed piece is capped off by the words “Rotting In Sludge.” It’s “inspired by the oil spills that big oil companies have been responsible for,” writes KET on 12oz. “We decided to address this issue on this wall since it it so visible and we hope that people get the message.”Tags: ENVIRONMENT, Graffiti, KET, Murals, Oil Spills

via Graffiti Writers Warn Against Dangers of Oil Spills Via NYC Rooftop Spot – ANIMAL.

via Graffiti Writers Warn Against Dangers of Oil Spills Via NYC Rooftop Spot – ANIMAL.