Why I Love Lupe Fiasco But Hate “Bitch Bad”

Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad”

Let me start off by saying that I would consider myself to be a fan of Lupe Fiasco. “American Terrorist,” Kick Push,” and “All Black Everything” are my jams! I also applaud Lupe Fiasco for being very outspoken on things like Western imperialism and the hyper-materialism and all around foolishness of modern mainstream rap. However, despite the fact that some seem to think that “Bitch Bad” is a deviation from the usual patriarchal narrative in hip hop, it is not different so much as it is just another side of the same coin–the patriarchal coin. As I tweeted recently, there is nothing new or subversive about black men telling black women that we need to be (better) “ladies.” There is a deluge of movies, books, blog postings, tweets, etc. that are dedicated, if not hell bent, on telling black women what the “appropriate” standards of womanhood are and how we can best adhere to them.  I can’t stand it when it comes from pin stripe, pimp suit wearing Steve Harvey. I can’t stand it when it comes from Tyrese, a fallen off R&B singer who thinks he is Socrates reincarnate and I am not anymore receptive to it when it is coming from the likes of a conscious rapper like Lupe Fiasco.

In the song’s hook, Lupe claims “Bitch bad, woman good, lady better.” This hierarchy in which “lady” is “better” ultimately divvies up which women are worthy of being treated like human beings and which ones are not. Ideas of “proper” womanhood and ladylikeness are too subjective and ever changing to use them as standard measures for deciding which women deserve to have their humanity and dignity honored. The politics of respectability always seem to dictate that we tell young girls and women how to be more “respectable” but the more apt and important message is that ALL girls and women are worthy of respect. NOTHING, and I do mean NOTHING, warrants our emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual degradation. In the same way that we know Trayvon Martin’s hoodie and black skin did not give George Zimmerman license to stalk him down and take his life as if he were mere prey, we should know that black women’s clothing choices, musical tastes, hobbies, etc. do not and should not invite subjugation and abuse.

Earlier today I logged onto twitter and my timeline was full of people tweeting about a domestic violence situation that unfurled right before our eyes on the social networking site. A young woman tweeted pictures of her bloodied and bruised face that she received at the hands of her boyfriend. A whole slew of folk were in his mentions telling him that he needed help, he should be in jail, and he shouldn’t hit women to which he responded something to the effect of “I don’t believe in hitting ‘females,’ but [his girlfriend] is a dumb bitch and I don’t mind hitting dumb bitches.” Again, this is what happens when we decide who’s humanity is worth being honored and who’s isn’t.

I would have been much more impressed had Lupe actively taken his hip-hop colleagues (especially his male peers) to task for not only perpetuating but profiting off of the controlling images meant to justify black women’s oppression. It is interesting that in his opening verse, out of all the examples he could have used, Lupe uses a hypothetical mother rapping along to a “Bad Bitch” anthem to suggest that she is sending mixed messages to her young son about women. Wouldn’t it have been much more “inventive” and “new” had he taken on men that make these misogynistic songs that mirror how black women are portrayed and treated in society at large? Where do black men’s culpability figure into Lupe’s narrative?

Some people have argued “Hey it’s not perfect but we should give him an E for effort and applaud the fact that he has tried. Stop downing the brother.” As the domestic violence case I mentioned above illustrates, the situation is just too dire for us to be lax on any sort of well-meaning yet arbitrary hierarchies and dichotomies that ultimately dehumanize black women. To those folks I say that Lupe’s (and black men’s) egos will heal much faster than black women’s lives, souls, and bodies.

What are your thoughts on this “Bitch Bad” business?

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13 thoughts on “Why I Love Lupe Fiasco But Hate “Bitch Bad”

  1. *ten snaps* While I agree with Lupe on the whole bad bitch being the thing to be nowadays, I agree with you more about how everyone always seem to want to get on women about this stuff like we are the ones who started it and constantly perpetuate it. The thing I actually liked most about the song was the black face in the video and I wish he would have touched more on rappers selling an image and lifestyle that is ridiculous. Oh the well…

  2. I just wish Lupe had taken the time to unpack more of the complexities of misogynistic pop and rap music. As a fellow Lupe fan, I can remember a time (Food and Liquor) when he did call men out on their language and actions, but never to this degree. I do not dislike the imagery in this video. Though a one-sided attack, women, especially mothers, should also be called to task for internalizing these images and projecting them onto their children. I fear that treating women as “victims” in these types of scenarios takes away any responsibility they have in the matter. I have a cousin similar to the first caricature in Lupe’s video, and there is nothing you could say to convince me that she is not wrong when she behaves like that in front of her son. She deserves to be called out as much as any man. This isn’t about telling women how to behave. Women and men alike need to be taught self-respect. The difference between Harvey/Tyrese and Lupe is that Lupe’s advice, if followed, should yield self-respecting individuals. Harvey would rather you beg a nigga to pay your light bill, and if you can comprehend Tyrese’s psychobabble, you are already beyond redemption. I don’t think Lupe is saying that it is okay to disrespect “bitches.” But he is advising young women to respect themselves, which, as an educator and older sister, I cannot disagree with. I think Lupe’s most egregious offenses were his whack ass delivery and that shaggy hair.

  3. When I first heard the song I loved it but I admit I was confused about the chorus. Bitch bad… yeah, I get that. Woman good, we are in agreement. Lady better… well, what is a lady but a woman who behaves in a way that society expects her to? How is that much different from the original “bitch” he was criticizing? Good Post, I could totally hear you reading it.

    • Okay, after another listen I retract my former criticisms. The bitch bad part is coming from the ladies side while the lady better is coming from the men’s side where they want a woman who is up to certain standards (the part of the rap where he is saying his mother wouldn’t go out like that). Ultimately, they are all misunderstood because of the conflicting messages they are receiving in our culture which, to lupe, cause a lot of the gender strife in the (particularly urban) black community. I will level no more criticism because he actually says that he is trying to present it simply and not “complex.”

  4. I really cannot understand what everyone’s problem with this song is… Did I miss something?
    It is about time someone tells it like it is. I’m tired of these young girls and grown women claiming the word bitch and thinking there is positive meaning in the word.
    I think people are going a bit tooo deep into this song. I didn’t see anyone analyse, 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P or any of Nicki Minaj’s ratchetness, esp her image!
    We must admit the young women growing up towards are missing the charateristics of being a lady. This may come across a bit like a rant, but I really can not understand the problem.

    And as for the woman who got beaten by her boyfriend, where did she post the pictures via twitter?

  5. His message is to encourage a certain type of woman who is at her lowest and probably does not realise it. There are a lot of these women who don’t happen to be ‘black’ either. Race coming into it raises a whole other debate. White/Latino/Asian hoes etc exist too. You seen Prodigy – ‘Smack my bitch up’? Now that’s female oppression…

    I COMPLETELY commend lupe and I agree with ‘notimeforplay’. You really need to spell these things out sometimes. You only get a few mins in each song which is not enough time to cover all the issues. He did a stellar job.

  6. First of all I love the posting!!! Awesome work lady!! however I would have to agree with some of the fellow commentators that on the one hand I agree with Lupe for calling women out on their behaviors that are conducted in front of their children and that they internalize and perform in front of the world. Although I understand our society has placed or are trying to place people in boxes, there are differences amongst the titles that you give to yourself; and with those differences comes different treatment. This same song can be spun from a females perspective and the chorus could go something like “Ballers bad, Man, good, Gentleman better”….bottom line I applaud Lupe for putting the behaviors of women on front street in order to bring a realization that some shit can not be and should not be condoned….I would have liked the song even better if he spun it and sent the same message to men as well….

    By the way, the tweet with the abused woman posting pictures on twitter..now that deserves a commentary because from my POV that is pure RATCHEDNESS!!! I am soo sick of people putting there personal business out there. What is the point of posting the pictures? In my opinion it is a lot of people in this world who need too much damn attention and social media is there outlet….I digress…

    Can’t wait to read the next posting!!!

    • I don’t know why that young lady decided to post the pics but I am guessing it was either a cry for help or expose someone who had been abusing her. I also disagree that it was simply a “personal” problem. I didn’t get into on this particular post, but there were a lot of people sending her positive affirmations telling her to leave, telling her to call the police, etc. Someone even documented all of the pictures and the tweets and called the police to let them know what was going on. We as a community have to provide support whether in the real world or virtual world for anyone who is being abused.

  7. First let me say that I appreciate ya’lls comments and additions to the discussion. It’s great to share dialogue. Let me try to pick some of the points being raised here.

    I am not saying that women should not be critiqued for being complicit in their own oppression. We do have agency and that should definitely not be diminished. And to Rachy’s point there have not been many critiques of folks like Nicki Minaj, actually there have been all sorts of critiques that have been levied against her and rightfully so. However, again, my point is that this always seems to be the point made when we talk about misogyny, patriarchy and sexism especially in rap music. The common quip that male artists make is that “well some women are bitches” or “Women are only treated the way they allow men to treat them.” Not only is this backwards but it’s not even necessarily true.

    It needs to be said that even when women ARE being “respectable,” we still endure disrespect! There have been many times when I (and other women) have been walking down the street not dressed like a “ho” and men still feel that it’s okay to shout things out at us or they resort to calling us a slew of derogatory names when we turn down their advances. This is what I’m talking about. Why don’t men challenge each other on these issues?

    Take the president for example. Barack Obama is one of the most erudite, esteemed, laid back, and cool presidents we have had in modern history and he is STILL painted as a crazed, enraged, angry black welfare backer. When people make these racist remarks, we challenge the racist ideology undergirding these attacks. Why don’t we do the same for sexism?

    Also, I understand that this is just a 4 minute song and not a master’s thesis on the ills of sexism so he couldn’t tackle every point. The point that I am making is that he could have entered the conversation on one of the many facets that aren’t usually discussed, which again, is how men actively participate in the oppression of women.

    • I do believe that some women are bitches and they deserved to get treated the way they act, the same can be said about men.

      Yes, men do get away with alot of things, when it comes to the portrayal of women, but some women do bring this upon themselves!
      If you act like a hoe, you can’t expect someone to give you respect, because you have set your standards for yourself. As this is one of the points I believe Lupe was making, if you act like a bitch and claim the word bitch then how can you expect to be treated any different? It isn’t the man’s fault..its the woman’s.

      This isn’t the first time Lupe has rapped about topics like this.

  8. I’m waiting for his song “Nigger bad.” Have the chorus state “Nigger bad, niggah good, nigga better.” Really, what would be the big deal?

    I love your insight afroblazingguns!

  9. Hello, thank-you so much Nikeeta for sharing your provocative ideas and experiences on this topic! Your perceptions are very stimulating, and for the most part i whole-heartedly agree, but I did get another overall message from the video/song.

    I thought he compared the way black women r represented in hip hop culture to “black-face” and at the end of the video/song, wasn’t he sating something along the lines of “What are we doing to our women?” <>

    For most of the video/song, I think he used irony as a tool to get his point across. He told us a story, and we were all following along forming our own thoughts and opinions of the story. It was a story with a stigma that had been told many times before …. then there was the game changer, as he revealed the black-face comparison and took responsibility (and asked responsibility from his colleagues) by saying something along the lines of “what are we doing to our women?”

    If this is the case, then i think its brilliant.

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