Under criticism, Lupe Fiasco explains “Bitch Bad” in his own words
Lupe Fiasco wanted to start a conversation with “Bitch Bad”, his deliberately provocative track and video about the slang term “bad bitch” and the relative merits and drawbacks (and actually, more of the drawbacks) of using the term. And well, he got more than just a conversation.
September 11, 2012
Lupe Fiasco wanted to start a conversation with “Bitch Bad”, his deliberately provocative track and video about the slang term “bad bitch” and the relative merits and drawbacks (and actually, more of the drawbacks) of using the term. And well, he got more than just a conversation. Perhaps he was trying to make the point that people should be more careful about throwing around such terms so casually in the media, but with the song, included as a part of his upcoming Food and Liquor 2 project, he created the appearance of a man lecturing women about how they should act, dress themselves, and what they should call themselves.
Most notably, and perhaps the ugliest episode to come out of this song and the criticism around it came from Spin Magazine’s Brandon Soderberg, who trashed Lupe for “mansplaining”, calling his output “half-baked conscious hip-hop” and “reckless social commentary”. At the same time, Aisha Harris at Slate Magazine calls Soderberg for his own mansplaining, picking out head-scratchers from Soderberg’s piece, like, “does any female want to be called a lady?”, as if he himself could speak on behalf of a half of all humanity that he’s not a member of. Lupe, of course, would later go ballistic on Twitter and call for a boycott of Spin for sensationalism and attacking him too personally.
In the meantime, there were plenty of feminist writers who were taken aback by the lyrics of the song and still felt slighted by Lupe. For instance, For Harriet’s Kimberly Harris writes, “The rapper set out to raise women up, but he reifies the same tropes that keep us chained. He repeats “bitch bad/woman good/lady better,” and I’m suspicious. Being a woman is hard enough. Why is it better to be a lady? And who decides who’s who?” Slam poet Naia Ferguson elaborates in-depth, arguing that the song reinforces “patriarchy by making it a man’s place to ‘protect’ a woman by defining her.” And there were a few on the extreme who accused Lupe of slut-shaming. Not all feminist writers were critical and taken aback however, Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart found merit in questioning the value of the term “bad bitch”, saying, “it’s a really interesting conversation to have, and Fiasco deserves credit for trying”.
Which leads us this point, in where the voice that’s missing in the argument is the one that started the whole thing in the first place. Lupe’s video with RapGenius here is his attempt to remedy that, and it features just his monologue on the subject, doing as little explaining into the song’s many facets as possible while still having some substance in the explanation. And from the horse’s mouth, he denies it was a lecture nor was an attempt to argue the term “bad bitch” is, well, bad. What it was, according to him, was a hypothetical and rhetorical device to explore the many connotations of the word “bitch”, and the term “bad bitch” in particular, where, to him, meaning is vague yet bothersome, given the history of the term “bitch”. He does not try to defend nor does he mention some of the other details of the song (for instance, the “lady better” line which had so many critics hung up about) or the other dimensions added in the video (the elements of minstrelsy in particular). He clings to the line that the whole enterprise was to promote conversation and nothing but. With so little added and so much unaddressed, it doesn’t seem like it will calm his most ardent critics and people will probably keep talking, and perhaps that’s the way he wants it.
In case you missed it, here’s the video to “Bitch Bad”.