Lupe’s “Bitch Bad” Is About So Much More Than “Bad Bitches”

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The first verse of Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad” begins with a little boy listening to his mother rap along to lyrics where she refers to herself as a “bad bitch.” Lupe’s latest single and its accompanying video examines the dualities surrounding the word “bitch”; namely, it’s a word that can be viewed by some as damaging to women, yet also a word that is held up by some as a feminine ideal. In the video the video vixen has accepted the title of “bitch” as being something to be proud of, and an ideal that she attempts to live up to by rocking a pink wig, short shorts and removable breast enhancements. Little boys pack the theater seats to watch the faux gangster with his rolled blunt underneath a blue bandana accompanied by a gun to give credence to his street cred. The kids idolize him because he has a “bad bitch.” Only they are too adolescent to understand the way the entertainment they’re exposed to as kids may eventually shape their realities.

Young girls watch those same videos but instead emulate the video vixen. Now they’ve formed a perception that being a “bad bitch” is somehow good because the pretty woman gets the man with the flashy jewelry and money. Again, the young girls’ underdeveloped minds don’t understand the video vixen is a paid model, one that is being paid (albeit probably not very well) to perform. Filling the theater with impressionable children proves the point that the message is marketed to the youth, and they’re the ones that become adults with a warped perception of respect for themselves and each other.

This brings us to the final act of the story, where Lupe parallels modern day black entertainment (read: music videos) to historical blackface, tap dancing and performances blacks once participated in for the enjoyment of white audiences, which reinforced negative stereotypes. A girl and a boy who were subjected to the “bad bitches” imagery as youth are all grown up. As a woman, she believes being a bad bitch is a compliment. As for him, well, he associates nothing good with bitches. In the background, caricatures of Sambo, blacks tap dancing and the video model/rapper in blackface plays repeatedly. The video vixen/rapper struggle with the images they’ve just presented to the world for money.

The allegory in the Gil Green directed video symbolizes new age minstrel shows. Beyond tackling the perception of bitch being good or bad, which is subjective, Lupe points out the ideal of black entertainers pimping themselves through reinforcing stereotypes all for a buck, or in this case, millions of bucks. One would have to understand history to comprehend what he did here. If you’ve seen Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, you’ll immediately recognize the similarities. Frankly, it’s probably one of the most important videos of the year. Because whether you consider “bitch” empowering or degrading, there is something to ponder on: What’s the message being ingrained in children, all for the sake of entertainment?

Lupe Fiasco's "Bitch Bad"