Is All Fair in Love and Hip-Hop?
Amongst news of fake baby bumps, false hospital sightings, and extravagant delivery quarters, there was one issue that the birth of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s daughter Blue Ivy unexpectedly brought up: the use of the word "bitch" in rap.
The issue has never really gone away, and it was bound to resurface the minute Jay-Z put out a song that wasn’t as thoughtful and reflective as “Glory.” But a fake poem and wishful thinking spun things out of control and society believed what it wanted to—that the word bitch was making its exit out of hip-hop vernacular.
But should we really have expected that? After all, Jay-Z’s got the hottest bitch in the game wearing his chain, right? Except Beyoncé isn’t just his bitch now, she’s his wife. And if the Brooklyn rap king hadn’t laid the b-word down since exchanging vows with her in 2008, what made us think he would now just because he has a daughter?
By no means is this situation specific to hip-hop’s hottest couple. Plenty of rappers with wives, girlfriends, and significant others make constant references to the sexual favors “bitches” and “hoes” who aren’t their wives perform on them--all while their “main bitch,” i.e., their wives, are at home, most likely caring for their children. Given the natural transition from lyrics about selling on the block to "look what I’ve got," my only question is when do all of these rappers' lyrics begin to grow up with their changed lifestyle?
I don’t necessarily get squeamish about the use of the b-word. After all, tons of women use it on a regular basis to describe themselves, other women and even some men. But I do wonder how that dynamic plays out in these rappers' real relationships. Is the expectation of being referred to as a bitch and having the bodies of other women explicitly described in your man’s lyrics just one of the prices you pay to be in that position, sort of the same way politician’s wives are expected to swallow infidelity and stand by their man during a press conference?
Almost every artist talks about how their music has evolved as they went from a rookie in the game to one of rap’s biggest names. For the most part, that maturation is evident in the rhymes they spit, except for when it comes to women. If you really want to rap what’s real, shouldn’t the fact that you’re married or a father be a part of that—and I’m talking more than just dropping your kid’s name in a line every now and then. I know it’s not necessarily popular, but it’s real. And that’s what rap is, isn’t it?
There’s a certain hood smugness that goes along with being the bad bitch or a man’s main bitch that can only be understood in the rap culture, but there’s also a loss of honor when references used for a man’s partner and a random chick out in the streets become interchangeable. But who are we to fuss? We’re not the wives, girlfriends and significant others putting up with it. And from where we stand, they haven’t said a word in opposition. If all’s fair in love and war, maybe being the hot bitch in the home is just something that comes along with the rap territory. If that’s what these women have chosen to accept, I guess all is fair in love and hip-hop as well.
What do you think about the way rappers refer to their wives and girlfriends in music and how they suggest infidelity with their lyrics? Is it part of the game or does it need to change?