You gotta let him know, you ain’t a bitch or ho

In light of Kelis and Nas’ divorce, I am reminded how much Kelis warms my heart when dating has me down in the dumps.

See her awesome screaming freak-out in “Caught Out There.”

Not to suggest I endorse domestic violence, but it is refreshing to see a woman react to a breakup and a man’s deception — not by crying, not by begging him to come back, not by singing the blues — but by screaming and tearing things up. With her wild rainbow-streaked hair, she is a force of nature.

Sure, everyone got fed up with that silly “Milkshake” song, but for this “Young Fresh N’ New” video, I will always love her. She mounts a big monster truck, rolls over some cars, loads up some runaway kids to hit the road with her.

Speaking of feminist hip-hop pioneers, let’s talk Salt-n-Pepa. I danced to their killer beats for 20 years before I stopped to think about how ground-breaking they were. When “Push It” became Top 40 sensation, I was too young to understand the significance of women aggressively asserting their sexual desire. Yet Salt-n-Pepa were creating a hip-hop revolution with just with one simple stanza:

“Yo, baby pop, yo you, c’mere, give me a kiss.
You better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed.
Can’t you hear the music pumping hard like I wish you would?
Now push it. Push it good. Push it real good”

Look at those outfits – aren’t they badass?

What’s interesting to me is that today, 22 years later, there’s still a backlash. I just heard this 2004 “cover” of “Push It” by the Diplomats. *cough* Excuse me, by “cover,” I mean sampling a song and giving it the same title.

“Birdman Junior I’m fly, Bitch know the name
in the game, airplanes and trains we came,
ya pussy pay me, I’m a pimp so I don’t have to buy,
No see niggas won’t buy you So I don’t f*ck for free like Akka-Nelly-Bitch!
No I ain’t Nelly bitch, this ain’t no tip drill
I got like six pills but I’m on that sip still
It make me sit still, What’s really money?
Get real, i’m tryin’ to f*ck you, and the 5th wheel
Push it”

That hook of “Push It” is undeniable. Put it on, and everyone wants to dance. It is particularly sneaky, I think, to take that wicked awesome hook Salt-n-Pepa came up with, and replace those rhymes with men rapping about women desperate to get in their pants. Visually, instead of Salt and Pepa giving attitude and busting moves in long leotards and puffy jackets, we get a bunch of passive prop-like video girls writhing in bikinis.

What an insidious formula: Take a infectious, irresistible tune by powerful women about powerful women, strip away those strong women voices, and rap about taking women’s power away! Do partiers even notice?

Here, we have a 2005 San Francisco Chronicle piece on some of the strongest and most talented women in hip-hop and R&B — Queen Latifah, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and Floetry.

Naturally, it’s loaded with “ironic” jokes about “man-hating,” for example:

Do they hate men? More than Oprah, judging by songs like “Mr. Messed Up” and “Headache.” “Ms. Stress,” meanwhile, delivers the ultimate kiss-off, “You to I means death of my heart my visions my dreams.” Translation: “We hate men.”

Would a joke about Too $hort hating women come off so well? No. You know why? It would not be funny — considering how many hip-hop artists say actually hateful things about women. If those same women stand up for themselves, God forbid, and assert what they want, let’s label them “man-haters” and make jokes to defuse our collective discomfort.

Thank God we have people like Byron Hurt in our corner. He’s an awesome male feminist and hip-hop fan who’s willing to take a hard look at how masculinity is presented in his favorite music, as he demonstrates in his 2006 documentary “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes.”

The full film is about an hour long if I remember correctly. Do watch it. It’s worth the money.

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3 thoughts on “You gotta let him know, you ain’t a bitch or ho

  1. Good post, but it’s worth remembering that in blues, R&B and even rockabilly, women were proclaiming their desire for decades before Salt ‘n’ Pepa. Track down Wanda Jackson’s “Cool Love” or “Hot Dog That Made Him Mad.”

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