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Why we should defend Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP"



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Cardi B performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 6, 2019, at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. Her and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP" has been No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks. Tribune News Service

I've been muttering the hook "There's some whores in this house" to myself ever since I first heard "WAP" by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, and for good reason. The two artists have enjoyed a huge amount of success from the single, with it remaining in the No. 1e spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. That's no small feat either, considering the large amount of backlash the song has gotten. 

Sexuality is nothing new to hip-hop and it's a mainstay of most songs that end up on the Billboard Hot 100 list, but "WAP" takes things further. The hook I alluded to earlier is likely the tamest lyric you'll find in the song, with the rest of the verses and chorus exclusively building on what the acronym "WAP," which coyly stands for wet ass pussy”.

Both Cardi and Meg spend the whole song talking about sex, how much they like sex, and how they want their sex to be performed. The music video accompanying it doesn't shy away from this topic either, with provocative outfits, set design and choreography. Everything associated with this song is dripping with innuendos and packed with sexual metaphors. Naturally, the expected pearl-clutching parents who don't want their kids exposed to this kind of music were upset despite never policing what music their kids listen to apparently.

Many conservative critics, such as Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson, took this song and video to be debilitating to society, lambasting it for promoting a terrible lifestyle for young women. 

"This is what feminism fought for," Shapiro said in a video critiquing the song .

Frankly, this wasn't too surprising. There's a long and ongoing pattern of conservatives critiquing hip-hop for vulgarity and content. What was surprising was the number of viral videos of Black men, mostly older fathers, repeating this sentiment and describing their disdain of the song.

The paradox lies with how sexuality and vulgarity has always been a mainstay of hip-hop. Many of the "old-heads" of hip-hop, those who believe the genre of music peaked in the 20th century and consider most of modern hip-hop to be tasteless, came out in droves to parrot the words of conservative pundits. The same conservative pundits that would criticize N.W.A's or Nas' music.

These fans of older hip-hop would defend themselves against such criticism for decades, and this criticism of promotion of violence or sexual promiscuity was always defended when it was men rappers discussing it, but once two women rappers decide to do the same, they not only neglect to defend it, they go so far to critique it themselves.

Cardi B and Meg Thee Stallion’s song is simply the latest of a trend in hip-hop, which arguably started with the likes of Nicki Minaj, wherein women, often sexualized and objectified against their will or interest, decide to display that sexuality proudly, claiming it as their own. It's no coincidence, then, that so many male fans of hip-hop often debate how many female rappers need to be in competition for space on the radio. These fans of hip-hop, the same ones who bear the title of "old head" never had such issues with female emcees before.

MC Lyte was one of the earliest names in hip-hop, but she presented herself modestly, dressing in Adidas tracksuits much like her male peers. Queen Latifah was a respected name in hip-hop, with lyrics decrying the violence faced in Black womanhood. Missy Elliott was a huge name in the 90s, but she wore experimental outfits in her videos. None of these artists had necessarily pushed for sexually explicit lyrics, but another female duo, much like now, did: Salt-N-Pepa.

Though it was never their intention to make a sexual song, "Push It" was nevertheless received as one, to the point where the pair had almost gotten arrested after a concert when police officers mistook the lyrics. For years after, and even to this day, the song is criticized for its apparent sexual nature, despite said sexuality being present in many contemporaneous songs. Yet such vehement and quick retaliation from Black listeners never came from an equally sexually explicit song made by a man. 2 Live Crew was a staple of house parties despite the lyrics of their songs glamorizing rape. White folk, of course, took severe issue with it, but for the most part Black folk (men) kept listening. 

Yet, as much as people can deny the morals, lyrics and people behind the song, they can't deny the success of "WAP." Like it or not, the way women hip-hop artists present themselves is changing, and, thankfully, it doesn't seem like they care too much about the detractors.

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