Bitch Bad, Woman Good, Lady Better Or, Hip Hop Heteronyms

I can rhyme every word of Juicy by Biggie, I took a hip hop class in college where I wrote papers about the Geto Boys’ Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta and the whitewashing of hip hop culture and I can, have and will continue to get into raging arguments who can truly be considered the G.O.A.T. (Hov’ obv’)

Despite this, I don’t consider myself a hip hop head.

Mostly because the hip hop I listen to is equal parts party and bullshit and party and bullshit.

I know that hip hop can be lush and poetic. Lyrical, gritty, eloquent, intellectual and socially-conscious. As someone who loves words, I should devour this stuff. Gorging myself with a half-mad ferocity but for reasons utterly unknown, I don’t.

Instead, I shimmy shimmy ya and gleefully boast that I see some ladies tonight that should be havin’ my baby, baby…

Luckily, I have a litany of people in my life far more plugged in than I am and who have no problem dropping some knowledge.

A couple of months ago, Biffle sent me this video:

I didn’t know much about Lupe Fiasco other than I really liked the track he did with Jill Scott (Daydreamin‘) and The Show Goes On – a gem that based on a Modest Mouse sample but after one listen, I was hooked.

Bitch Bad is a pretty interesting commentary on misogyny in hip hop culture and the double-edged duality of the word ‘bitch.’

(Tangential aside: I Googled ‘Most Misogynistic…’ and it immediately auto-completed to ‘rap songs’ which I feel is slightly unfair.

Yes, the Ying Yang Twinz says some really shitty things about women but you know what, dudes? So does Mick Jagger.

And as utterly repugnant as the words to The Whisper Song are, Under My Thumb is so much worse.

I love the song. I really do. I think it is a great piece of music and when it comes on, I turn it up loud but the lyrics terrify me.

“It’s down to me, oh that’s what I said /The way she talks when she’s spoken to/Down to me/A change has come/She’s under my thumb,”

Kaine and D-Roc are practically vibrating with testosterone-fueled bullshit braggadocio. But Jagger? He genuinely seems to abhor the woman in his life. That is real misogyny, not some pissing contest between two clamheads)

There’s a school of thought that reclaiming a negative word abjures it of its power, thereby empowering the formerly disenfranchised. The grande dames of hip hop like Missy, Nicki and Queen Bitch herself, Lil’ Kim brandish this word like a flaming sword.

Oh, you think I’m a bitch?
No, no, no, honey.
I’m the bitch.
The meanest, the prettiest, the baddest mofo lowdown around this town.
Sho’Nuff.

And there’s the other razor-edge of the scimitar.

Where a bitch isn’t all She-Ra powerful and in total control of herself but rather a conniving harridan who betta’ have your money or a gyrating, semi-naked piece of bubblegum – delicious and disposable.

So, which one is it? The latter? The former?

Personally, I believe it’s both. Words are malleable and intensely personal. A revolutionary can be a freedom fighter or a terrorist depending on which side of the line you’re standing on just as a bitch can be a zenith to which a woman should aspire to or a nadir to which she can sink.

I’m not a fan of the word ‘bitch.’ I never have been. I just feel there are better ways to extol your bad-assery than repossessing venom and spitting it back out with equal rancor. There are just too many good words out there to merely settle on an arrow shot in your direction

And despite never being mistaken for a lady or ever being called a woman (‘Muppet-esque baby child’ is much closer to the truth), I’m with Fiasco on this one: bitch bad, woman good, lady better, but my name is probably best.

Or if you wanna be real sweet, call me honey. Seriously. It’s ridiculous how far that’ll get you.

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One thought on “Bitch Bad, Woman Good, Lady Better Or, Hip Hop Heteronyms

  1. I’ve liked Lupe Fiasco for awhile. “Bitch Bad” is a good commentary on how that word is used. I picked up that single as it was a promo for his last album. I remember the first song I heard from him was about skateboarding called “Kick Push”. I’ve never liked it when a woman says “yeah, I’m a bitch” or like proudly states that she is like its something to be proud of. i dunno. To me, it just sounds like “I’m selfish and/or self-centered. Look at me as I demand your attention.” I dunno.

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