The Woman MC Discussion Is Dehumanizing
Men weaponizing one group of women rappers to police another flattens all of them into patriarchal props.
Meghan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s “WAP” song earned YouTube’s biggest ever debut for an all-female collaboration. 26.5 million people watched the video within its first 24 hours of release. And apparently, millions more saw fit to criticize it.
Many people agreed with one Twitter account that theorized, “this WAP video really shows how you chicks be fetishising these rapper chicks that shake and twerk. Because it ain't about the bars. Because Rapsody be given out bars left and right.” The account appears to belong to a man using the age-old tactic of extolling “real hip-hop” lyricists comparing raunchy rhymers to “real hip-hop” lyricists in an attempt to shame the previous.
Rapsody and Noname, another artist consistently pit against the Cardi Bs of the world — explore their sexuality in their music. They’ve both extolled praise for Megan and Cardi, and have repeatedly expressed that they don’t wish to be regarded as “anti-Cardi B’s.” But regardless of their desires, they’re constantly stripped of their agency to represent ideas they don’t believe in themselves.
Men presenting these juxtapositions don’t see the full humanity of the artists they’re supposedly praising. When they weaponize one group of women to police another, they flatten all of them into patriarchal props. Comparing women on moral grounds is futile when they all respect each other’s morals.
Cardi B had a perfect response to the criticism on Saturday, noting that, “there’s a lot of female rappers that be rapping they ass off and don’t be talking about they p***y, and don’t be talking about getting down and dirty, and y’all don’t be supporting them and they be mad dope. Bloggers don’t support them, they don’t be getting the recognition. So don’t blame that shit on us when y’all not the ones supporting them.”
She’s right. Hip-hop is an adversarial genre. So much praise is predicated on an artist’s status relative to others. How often does one see an artist praised simply as phenomenal as opposed to being framed as “who other people think (insert other artist) is,” or as “>” another person, or as more intellectually palatable than the next person? It seems like hip-hop fans are incapable of simply praising someone on their own merit — or putting their money where their mouth is and supporting them as much as they praise them.
The lyricists that Cardi B spoke of, people like Noname, Rapsody, Jean Grae, Tink, and Little Simz, are indeed victims of reactive praise. They have core followings but are also exploited by people who only champion them when it’s time to call someone else a loser. That praise is futile, and is as much, or more, about what a fan dislikes than they actually like. Therefore, reactive praise rarely translates into sales.
Take Rapsody, for instance. She’s a talented lyricist who steadily perfects her craft over the years. Her 2017 Laila’s Wisdom album was Grammy-nominated, and many people felt like 2019’s Eve was snubbed by the committee. She’s gone toe-to-toe with luminaries like Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, and GZA, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole before. But Laila’s Wisdom peaked at 125 on the Billboard 200 charts, and Eve peaked at 76. Those numbers aren’t presented to denigrate her or express that metrics should be a primary factor of artistic fulfillment, but they reflect that there is substantial room for more of the fans who reactively praise her to support her.
The same is true for Noname, an independent artist whose reflective, radical catalog sees her erroneously touted as the anti-’”WAP” by rap purists. But her social agency also makes her a target of ire from many of those same men. Earlier this summer, J. Cole sought to tone-police her on “Snow On Tha Bluff,” calling her “holier than” thou for her unflinching radicalism. Many of his male fans agreed with him, reflecting a similar urge to control. Cole also reflected a basic projection by assuming that she was “somebody blessed enough to grow up in conscious environment / with parents that know 'bout the struggle for liberation and in turn they provide her with / a perspective and awareness of the system and unfairness that afflicts 'em,” when in reality she credits social media with radicalizing her.
The Chicago rhymer is reactively praised as the anti-Cardi B for her social agency but then she’s policed by the same group. It seems there’s no place to win with women rappers, because there’s no place to win for women in a patriarchal society.
Last Summer, Jermaine Dupri caught flack for claiming that women are “stripper rappers” who are "all rapping about the same thing," airing a popular opinion amongst rap fans. He also surmised that "somebody's gonna have to break out of that mold," but ignored both Rapsody and Noname’s glaringly non-strip-club-friendly catalog.
Meek Will @1ExquisiteSoulThis WAP video really shows how you chicks be fetishising these rapper chicks that shake and twerk. Because it ain't about the bars. Because Rapsody be given out bars left and right. But I don't see no love and support for her on the level of stripper rap chicks.
It’s the same kind of ignorance that men exhibit when they weaponize Missy against the “stripper rappers,” which ignores all the raunchy, ass-shaking lyrics of her early-00s heyday. Similarly, Nomame has rapped about “a bitch suckin dick in the new Adidas” on “Montego Bae,” and Rapsody “was making it clap to Wacka Flocka last Christmas” on “Nobody.” The omissive projection of both artists as demure b-girls again reflects that fans don’t even listen to the artists they reactively praise.
They’re going to need to learn how, because today’s women in rap, for the most part, are all on the same team. The love radiates from both ends of the arbitrary spectrum. Rapsody has repeatedly defended Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B — the latter of whom she credits with boosting her fanbase via a December 2017 tweet . She has been firm about her stance in the discussion:
“A lot of times, people will use me as the… ‘You should like Rapsody because she don’t dress half-naked’ or ‘You should like Rapsody because she shows how a woman is supposed to be shown,’ and it’s like, bro, you don’t even have to do all that. If you like me, then like me, but don’t come at these other women because they choose to do their art the way they do their art.”
In 2018, Noname expressed similar disinterest in being the “anti-Cardi B,” noting “I feel like a lotta people are gonna be like ‘Ughhh.’ A lot of my fans...I think they like me because they think I'm the anti-Cardi B. I'm not. I’m just Fatimah.” She also reflected on Tweeters who act “like I’m this generation’s Lauryn Hill or I’m like the conscious version of different female rappers who don’t make the type of music that I make. ... Maybe this [Room 25] project will show some of those people who think that I am this very, like, conscious female rapper that I’m just as regular and normal as everybody.”
Rapsody has also noted that, “I’m so multi-dimensional. I choose to make the music I make because that’s what I’m drawn to and I’m good at...But I also like to go to the club and shake my ass sometimes or cut up and I like to drink sometimes. I like to be sexy some days—I’m not a tomboy all the time. I’m super-versatile; I can do any and everything.”
And that’s what it comes down to: woman agency. Men, infected by patriarchy that they refuse to unlearn, may not understand that Cardi B, Megan, Rapsody, and Cardi are all fighting the same fight as women seeking unpoliced artistic agency in a male-dominated society. These artists express solidarity with each other because they allgidentify with each other’s music at different times, and they understand the importance of protecting women’s space to explore whoever they want to be outside of an oppressive gaze.
In the same way that men can enjoy Jay-Z, Too Short, and Mos Def without putting the others down, more of them should be able to experience all four artists without the need to pit them against each other. When men denigrate, they’re expressing control. Most straight men would like to live out every lyric of “WAP.” but the idea that Megan and Cardi B confidently, skillfully took sexual agency into their own hands is threatening. That’s too bad.
Men apparently want a woman rapper who raps well, and talks about social issues but doesn’t talk too much about them. Also, she can rap about sex, but not too much, or she’s a (insert slur). This rigid policing is the epitome of control and entitlement ingrained by patriarchy.
Ironically, the artists on “WAP” want a better world than most men. Megan is a climate change advocate, and Cardi B is an avid Bernie Sanders supporter. Meanwhile, there are too many Black men actually considering voting for Kanye. Who really deserves the ire? Ignoring the full scope of Megan and Cardi’s womanhood because of their sex-positive catalog is dehumanizing. Additionally, ignoring Rapsody and Noname’s requests not to be seen as rap’s “good girls,” and reducing their humanity for soapbox fodder is equally dehumanizing. They deserve more than reactive praise. See them as they see themselves: human beings with the agency to be who they want.
As much beef as there has been between women rappers, there’s never actually been a prominent rift between women rappers on moral grounds. Cardi said “Ladies Night” two is coming. They’re not going to let men start one now.
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