Yesterday, hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco released a single off of his upcoming album Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part I. The single is called “Bitch Bad” and I initially thought “okay what is this going to be about,” but when I actually listened to the song, I fell in love with it and thought we may have a hip-hop artist who is also a feminist. Here’s how it starts:
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
“N***** 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.
The song is all about the confusing message that typical rap songs and society in general sends to young men and women. If you’re a follower of Lupe’s story you know that his music is all about being a conscious citizen and challenging social injustices. I felt the need to share this today because you rarely see anyone using their medium to stand up for women, especially in the hip-hop, rap and R&B realm.
This reminds me of one of my favorite TED Talks from Tony Porter called “A Call to Men.” In his talk, Porter shares some life experiences and challenges men to analyze their actions toward women and other men. He focuses on the misperceptions of men and women based on gender roles and the socialization of their relationship. He calls into question what we define as manhood. Both Fiasco and Porter offer inspiring perspectives through two very different forms of media.
I think the reason I asked myself if Fiasco was a feminist is because we have lowered our expectations of what it means for a man to advocate for women. I’m not saying that what Fiasco has created isn’t great and I strongly believe in his message, but the concept isn’t new. In basica terms, a feminist could be described as someone who believes women should have the same rights as men. Does Lupe believe that? I don’t know, but it certainly sounds like he’d like to see the misogyny in rap music disappear.
In a world where politicians are silencing women for using the word “vagina,” and taking away reproductive rights and where two young women were shot for being lesbians it’s about time we had someone speak up for women, and I’m extra happy that their men.
If you want to learn more about masculinity, misogyny and the socialization of gender in hip-hop, check out Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes by Byron Hurt.