A b*tch is a b*tch, except when it is not. A few weeks ago rapper Lupe Fiasco reopened the dialogue about the use of the word “bitch” when referring to women in his song and video, “B*tch Bad.“ It’s the type of song many of today’s popular artists avoid because it locks them into behavior that makes them accountable for their words, leaning on a false pretense of “free speech” to defend misogyny. So the only ones who bring it up are those who don’t use it, creating a “preaching to the choir” effect that leaves the discussion feeling empty.
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But every so often a song inspires some thought, or at the very least a questioning of the status quo. We’re not sure Q-Tip stopped using the N-word after recording “Sucka Nigga” but at least the song exists as a bookmark for those of us who wish to engage in debate about its use. While we won’t count on Kanye West recording a retraction to his Kim Kardashian ode, “Perfect B*tch,“ the mercurial artist has at least considered the impact of his words for a change.
In a series of Tweets Mr. West posed several questions about the use of the N-word and the B-word without coming to any real conclusion. But the exercise spurred plenty of reactions.
“I usually never tweet questions but I struggle with this so here goes… Is the word B*TCH acceptable?,” he began. “To be more specific, is it acceptable for a man to call a woman a b*tch even if it’s endearing? Even typing it in question form it’s (sic) still feels harsh? Has hip hop conditioned us to accept this word? Do we love this word as much as we love the word N-GGA in an endearing way?”
No. Maybe. Possibly. Nope. The word ‘b*tch’ is not acceptable in most forms of written and verbal communication but that hardly stops us from using it–or a bunch of other unacceptable words. If the woman doesn’t mind being called a b*tch by her man (or woman) as a term of endearment that’s between the two of them (ask your boy, Hov about that). There may be far more nefarious words being used to express love/lust between consenting adults than bitch. It’s the other words they’re NOT using (like ‘thank you’ ‘I paid the mortgage’ or ‘the kids are with my mother’ ) that couples should be concerned about.
As for typing b*tch, that could never be as harsh as saying it. Typing is passive. If you really are about that “b*tch” life say it to her face and live with the reaction. However, I don’t think women in hip-hop are prepared to defend b*tch with half as much zeal as men have fought for the word n-gger/n-gga.
“Correction, Here’s the age old question, would we refer to our mothers as b*tches? Would’ we call our fathers niggers or better yet N-GGAS?“
Of course not…doesn’t stop some of us from doing it though.
“If n-gga is such a positive word, why do we feel so uncomfortable for white people to say it, even with a hall pass?“
Because it’s not. The word was not created for positive use. It was created to demean a specific group of people. N-gger has specific history. N-gger has an arrest record. N-gger has game tape. N-gger has dental records. So even when N-gger puts on different sneakers to be cool, you know that n-gga when you see it. When the white guy at the Made In America Fest is screaming, “These n-ggas can’t hold me back!” during the Rick Ross set, yes I still give him the side eye.
“Is it ok to use b*tch as long as we put BAD in front of it? Like you a BAD B*TCH. Perhaps the words B*TCH and N-GGA are now neither positive or negative. They are just potent and it depends on how the are used and by whom?“
They both still have positive and negative implications, again, depending on who and how they are used. If you read that Kanye was a “b*tch a$$ n-gga” vs “that n-gga Kanye gets all the b*tches” it would evoke two very different emotions in you. We may apply new meanings to words tomorrow to serve our purposes (Remember the dark days when “guts”=”vagina”?) but B*tch also has history. B*tch has a FICA score. B*tch has two forms of ID and college transcripts. B*tch has been everywhere and is going nowhere. But call the wrong woman a b*tch and you could be calling Tyrone, Jacoby AND Myers.
“I was recently questioned about the use of the word B*TCH in my music and initially was offended by anyone questioning anything in my music. Stevie Wonder never had to use the word bitch to get his point across.”
But Miles Davis made a “B*tches Brew.” Prince called a woman a “Sexy Motherf–ker.” Stevie’s “Golden Lady” is the name of a strip club now. So holding up The Great Mr. Morris as a shining example of a bitch-free artistic existence is a little disingenuous.
“I will admit that I sometimes go back an omit cursing from my records. I like to use profanity as a tool and not a crutch. I’m not tweeting to say what we need and what we don’t… I just wanted to think out loud with you guys today…”
Well, thanks Kanye. Questioning your art is never bad and allowing others to finally question it is even better. It’s a sign of maturity. But we’ll see what your next song sounds like to see what fruit this bears…if any.
Watch our interview with Dwele where he talks about working with Kanye West and if he’d record with his “Perfect Bitch.”