The Conversation: Lupe Fiasco’s “B*tch Bad”

Warning: The word “bitch” is used throughout this piece in review of Lupe Fiasco’s new video “Bitch Bad”.

The hook on Lupe Fiasco’s newest video thumps like a 90s rap hit that spews the word “bitch” with effortless fluidity.

“Bitch bad, woman good, lady better.” 

If you follow Lupe Fiasco, then you may do a double-take, mainly because this is not his style; he doesn’t usually use the “B” word. But, it’s not even like that. Call it a wake-up call. Call it a history lesson. Whatever you call it, know it’s not like that. It’s something that we have rarely seen in video form as of late–a deconstruction the incessant use of the word “bitch” in Black music. But, is it really making impact simply because the images used trigger us emotionally?  The searing image of the two lead characters smearing on greasepaint to portray blackface is not so subtle that it keeps us from understanding and knowing that the message is intended for Black people. But, maybe, that audience is not the Black buying public. Maybe the intended audience members for this video are his fellow Black entertainers. And, if it’s more for them, his fellow entertainers, and not us the buying public, will that message land where it’s supposed to?

Watch & Learn

In Lupe’s “Bitch Bad” video, a group of young girls, no older than 10 years old are seen watching a music video of a pink-wigged, scantily clad Nicki Minaj-esque clone sucking on a lollipop and being called a bitch by the lead. One of the young girls in the video grows older and, in time, becomes the personification of the image she watched as a little girl.

I watched the video on Friday for the first time on YouTube with my 8 year old. We watched it quietly all the way through and after it was over, I asked her what she thought it was about. She started off with, “It’s about how we [girls] call ourselves bad names like boys call us bad names but then we try and turn the bad words into meanings that make us feel good, but we don’t feel good, because, really, the words are still bad.”

From there, we had a half-hour conversation where she asked questions and shared more of her impressions. The biggest question was, “Why don’t some men like us and then try to make us not like ourselves?”

Your Bitch is Not My Bitch?

If a word’s definition changes based on who uses it, is it necessary to be used in the first place? Lupe’s video points out how those definitions become so blurry that it begins to infect simple interactions between men and women when trying to build relationships.

When talking about the term “bad bitch” and how it is often used by women in music with the intention of depicting the image of a strong woman, Lupe Fiasco told MTV, “It has some troubling elements to it. Especially when you look at who it’s being marketed towards.” He goes on to explain that he wanted to promote a conversation about the use of the word because it is not necessarily as clear cut as some believe. “I just wanted to have a conversation. It was more to just put it out in the world and see what happens.”

My daughter’s question offered an opportunity for us to discuss why some women are more apt to believe they are a bitch while others don’t. We had a good conversation, I thought. But, imagine the conversation that could be had among the entertainment community to collectively examine why the word is used to refer to women in the first place. Imagine that discussion leading possibly to the first authentic discussion about the misogyny inherent in some of our most mainstream music performed by Black artists. Now, that, that would be transformative.

What were your thoughts about the video?

-Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a music writer based in Maryland. Visit her on http://www.KhadijahOnline.com.

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