Bitch Bad: Is Lupe Fiasco Starting An Important Discourse?

Rapper, Lupe Fiasco released the video for his most recent song, “Bitch Bad”.  Not one to mince words about the state of politics and social issues, Lupe takes on the cultural impact of the word bitch… which has weaved its way into the lexicon of popular-culture, for better or worse. Rappers laud the traits of women of their choice; summing her up as a “bad bitch” to be reckoned with when they aren’t hurling it as a hateful epithet, feminists have taken bitch by the horns and have opted to use it as a tool for empowerment; and women young and old(er) have taken bitch and slapped it on their chests as a proof that they’re about their business and to exert their womanly prowess… when they also aren’t hurling it contemptuously at one another, as well (to be fair).

The dichotomy that the word bitch presents isn’t lost on Lupe, as his video opens with a young boy riding in a car with his mother as she’s presumably singing along playfully to a song using the word bitch,  as Lupe raps-narrates…

 “Yeah I say, Bitch bad, woman good, lady better, hey, hey, hey, hey. Now imagine there’s a shorty maybe five or maybe four, Ridin’ round with his mama listening to the radio, and a song comes on and not far 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 shorty has an undeveloped context, about the perception of women these days. His mama sings along and this is what she says, ‘N*ggas , I’m a bad bitch, and I’m that bitch; something that’s far above average.”  

A series of other scenarios play out; featuring vignettes with video vixens gyrating on a rapperreveling in their bitch badness and little girls seeming to interpret the “bad bitch” ideology differently than young boys, which I found interesting, albeit it a bit problematic.

Check out the interview:



While Lupe Fiasco’s message is well-intentioned and he makes a valid point about the influence of words rooted in negativity, bitch is probably as polarizing as the term, n*gga [a word Lupe has employed in his lyrics]. People have weighed-in and some are not keen on the rapper’s self-righteous stance on what he deems to be the portrait of lady.

Some folks argue that Lupe [or any man for that matter] doesn’t have the right to dictate the terms of a woman’s femininity or police female respectability, and that the rapper is belittling in his effort to sum up an aspect of womanhood he doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on. The scenarios in Lupe’s video seem to work to put the onus of female respectability solely on women and young girls [as outlined by men], and seems to illustrate that, the way a woman dresses earns her any derision she might get. Many of the critiques of Lupe’s video aren’t without merit…

“Be a lady so you don’t get raped and mistreated! Says society. Boys will be boys… but you better not be a hoe!” Popular tweeter, @HarrietThugman wrote on her Twitter timeline…

“not interested in being transferred from the “bitch” prison to the equally confining “lady” prison.” Tweeted @juhneda

In a blog post for Spin Magazine, Brian Soderbergh accuses Lupe Fiasco of mansplaining and eschewing one form of patriarchy while touting another, writing that  “…it is the umpteenth example of so-called “conscious” hip-hop replacing one type of misogyny with another. While listening to Lupe’s well-intentioned grousing, I couldn’t help but think of Azealia Banks, whose pointed use of “cunt” on “212” blew minds and inspired enthusiasm, and whose clothing style might not meet Lupe’s approval. So much of the song’s characterization seems to hinge on the clothes the female character wears (and also how sweet or “nice” she is).

Dismayed by the negative review, Lupe urged his fans to boycott Spin Magazine, deeming the critique(s) as “personal attacks on artists for the sake of web visits.”

Lupe explained during an interview on RapFix, that the first vignette in his video, which features a properly dressed mother singing  the word “bitch” in front of her son, carries a different meaning for the son. That hearing the word innocently filtered through his mom connotes it as something that’s positive, versus him later hearing it from a scantily clad video vixen using it in the same, celebratory way… and how the two instances “don’t match” [for the boy].  And while I appreciate Lupe’s painstaking process for “Bitch Bad”, his explanation doesn’t quite ‘match’ for me.  Particularly since the terms of what’s considered to be a proper lady seem somewhat superficial and is being filtered through the burning  glare of the male gaze.

Admittedly, Lupe definitely incited people to chorus about the [mostly male] rap culture that makes it acceptable to call women bitches. But he insists on setting the parameters for what constitutes a “good” bitch versus a “bad” one by employing a different type patriarchy that’s patronizing, confining, and self-righteous; and this is where  he and some other men fall short, when they set out to champion womanhood on behalf of women and young girls.

Check out the video: