So, I will say what many already know, some are afraid to admit, and others refuse to say. The main reason why many people have an issue with the song “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion is that this song represents something that many people — mostly men and surprisingly some women — have an issue with. The issue is with women being bold and strong enough to say exactly how they feel. It is still a problem for so many people in this country, and around the world for that matter. This is just another illustration of how inequality is still a real problem.
I am a hip-hop fan. To expound on that I am a product of the hip-hop culture. The hip-hop culture basically defined the transition from the mid-1980s to the 1990s and how we went from a Rock n’ Roll culture to Hip-Hop as an entire nation. So, for those of us born between 1980 and 1995, hip-hop became an essential sound and way of life. It influenced everything from music to fashion to politics. Do not believe me or unaware? Check out the Hip-Hop Evolution documentary series on Netflix. Hosted by Canadian rapper Shadrach “Shad” Kabango and produced by acclaimed film and television production company Banger Films, it is highly informative of hip-hop’s impact on the world. But provocative music and art for that matter is nothing new nor a product of hip-hop, so why is a track by Cardi and Meg causing such a stir? It is deeper than music, but art, in general, has always been the best tool to spark conversations on tough subjects.
Provocative art is nothing new
This did not start in the 2010s, 1990s, or even in the 1970s. Provocative music or art in general is typically considered provocative based on the standard of the times it is published. Think about it, Picasso’s paintings were considered perverted and pornographic at one point since he openly used prostitutes as models. Now his work is considered fine art. There are multiple pieces of “fine art” that were once considered overtly sexual or suggestive when they were first produced and are now considered priceless works art.
Art helps to make statements, such as Pablo Picasso’s 1937 mural Guernica, which depicts the massacre of a Basque village in 1937. This has become a representation of every city ever bombed. It is one of the most powerful artistic criticizes against fascism, over the years this mural has been a point of contention throughout the years due to its strong, critical message. This is just one of the so many pieces of art that have openly critiqued and stood against a political movement.
And music has always planned a pivotal role in making a statement against systemic oppression, injustice, and inequality. For instance “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, which sold half a million copies despite being shunned by mainstream radio, took on a life of its own, from the black students in Virginia Beach who chanted the chorus at police during riots that September all the way to Serbia’s dissident radio station B92. They used the song and turned it into an anti-Milošević anthem in 1991. Playing it repeatedly when banned from broadcasting news during an armed crackdown by the Milošević regime. The song became an anthem for the early 1990s where art was being used to challenge the inequalities within the United States and spark conversation, from Spike Lee’s legendary thought-provoking film, “Do the Right Thing” to films by the late John Singleton such as “Boyz n the Hood” and “Higher Learning”.
Music can be empowering, and that is the very reason why it can be a dangerous tool depending on what side of history one chooses to stand on, and this is nothing new. So why are Cardi and Meg getting so much heat for this song and it is just as trigging video?
The Fear of Equality
Your opinion of good music is neither right nor wrong, it is your opinion. So, what is the real issue? The lyrics? Remember the Too Live Crew or Too Short’s early tracks between the late 1980s through the early 1990s…oh I do. And something we need to really think back on is some of the insinuations and innuendo of many songs from all genres between the 2000s and 1930s. Most of which were by men. Take for example, in 1931 Harry Roy and his Orchestra recorded “My Girl’s Pu**y”, presumably about how he loves playing with his girl’s pet cat. But later revealed what he was really playing with. Although there was much flack and even Congressional action regarding 2 Live Crew’s music. So what is the new issue with WAP and why are so many people so shocked? The primary reason WAP is getting lots of negative attention is that the song suggests that these two artists are graphically explaining the prowess of their sexuality. The effects it has on the opposite sex and their pride in what they possess. Would I want my child to listen or repeating what they are saying in the song, no way? But if my underage child is doing something that I do not condone then I have a bigger issue in my household, and I cannot blame Cardi or Meg for that now can I.
Another aspect to think about is the fact that this video includes 3 extremely successful female entrepreneurs. Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Kylie Jenner. Not one major male musician or celebrity feature, cameo, or reference is made in this production. And throughout the entire song men are not projected as equals in any way. And so, what! I have heard hundreds of rap, rock, jazz, pop, and even dance tracks where women were not referenced in a position of equality. All three of these women have used their creativity, talent, and almost super-human work ethic to build successful global brands. Once again businesses that were not inherited from men, not given to them, and are forging legacies for their children. Not to mention business models for others to use as examples.
This song not only exposes the fear of sexually liberated black women; the backlash that this song exposed is a fear of women, especially women of color being respected as equals in any subject.
We got a taste of this type of inequality earlier this year, the reaction to the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show which featured Jennifer Lopez and Shakira illustrated the fear of women in power positions. The FCC received over 1300 complaints about the show. 1300 complaints! Although, the event in the previous year featured a shirtless Adam Levine, and the FCC did not receive even a quarter of the same types of complaints. Mind you, Jennifer Lopez is a mogul in all rights, and Shakira is a successful international pop star and philanthropist for over 30 years. And their show was dubbed by some viewers as an “X-rated strip club performance,” and a “porno show” according to FCC reported complaints. No nudity at this show.
Some suggestive dancing in a few instances was a part of the show, but nothing on the level to warrant these descriptions. So, what is the real concern? These entertainers were celebrating the culture of the location of the Super Bowl which took place in Miami, Florida. Also, Lopez was the top-billed actor in a film about exotic dancers in late 2019 in the movie called, “Hustlers” which she received rave reviews for her role. So, the show’s themes and much of the choreography made perfect sense. Yet the received some of the worst post-show reactions in the history of Super Bowl halftime shows. It's sad to say that it was clear why this show made so many people uncomfortable and drive them to complain, remember there is great power in seeing a person that looks and songs like the community you come from. Seeing two successful, talented, and worldly women captivate a stage where millions of women and girls from all over the globe can view them, now they have real-life superheroes. The most prevalent fear here is the fear in the power of influence. And the only way to suppress the positive impact and influence is to focus on and highlight the perceived negative influence that these role models could have on viewers.
The Fear of Influence
Cardi B represents something that scares almost everyone that likes “the system” and “old way of doing things”. She is a successful ethnic businesswoman that rose to fame by showcasing the marketability of being herself. She did not conform to what an institution, industry, or “boss” wanted her to do or become. She made it on her terms and with no shortcuts. She is a self-made success story that has a family she loves, provides for, and makes a living doing what she loves. In almost every way this is the American Dream? Moreover, she continues to inspire millions to do what they enjoy and make living by unapologetically being themselves while pursuing their goals. Cardi B is one of the few true influencers; the way she moves millions will listen, and more importantly, they will follow and do as she did and/or said.
Reminds me of a few other notable entrepreneurs and multi-industry moguls: Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and Rihanna. Each of these entertainment and business leaders has displayed that one can achieve success on their own terms and build a profitable business-brand through their uniqueness and creativity. They are influential in that millions of people around the world will adjust their actions, make purchases, and replicate activities based on what these incredibly powerful women say or do. To those that long for change and equality — this is liberating and empowering, but to those parties that want to prevent change and want things to be the way they were back in the day, this is a problem. The influence of women like Cardi B is a problem for them. Think about it; if someone at the height of their popularity and influence backed a political leader, activist group, or movement to change systemic inequality? The only logical option is to destroy this type of influencers' character and their primary medium to connect with the masses. Sadly, this action illustrates incredible fear on the part of those standing against change. This is bigger than music and almost always is in these types of conversations.
And although the WAP song is very explicit, the moment people start attacking artists for creating art we then get into a dangerous zone. On top of the fact that much of the backlash this song is facing is in many ways’ responses from a lot of insecure men, one can clearly see that this is bigger than just not liking the lyrics of a song. This is the fear of a change plan and simple.
The world is always changing. Changing for good or worse is relative to the individual and which side they decide to align themselves with. But the fact is once the train starts, standing on the tracks with a sign saying “You are Moving too Fast” will not stop it. So, if you like the song, enjoy it that is why we love music, its entertainment. If you do not like it or find it inappropriate, do not listen to it, but do not be so afraid of women being respected as equals. There is so much fear of women’s equality that many people feel compelled to attack the song’s message because they either do not understand the message or are afraid that women are using their platforms to say how they feel. This song was most likely written to just entertain people and get them talking about everything except for politics, social norms being challenged, or challenging censorship, but thankfully this song is making people have these conversations. Now that is a fine art.
P.S. I hope that Megan Thee Stallion is recovering well, and justice is served after being shot. She shared the story via Instagram Live on August 21, 2020. Let’s stay away from victim shaming and justice should be served.
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I’m Ehren Muhammad, Founder of EMPro, Ltd
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