I acquiesce the misogyny in rap music fairly often when I listen to it, to the point where I’m desensitized to the “bitches’” depiction and the rapper’s treatment of them. Even in the most conscious rapper’s catalog, there’s a special, untouched, unacknowledged pocket which holds every misogynist lyric they’ve written. The most interesting case is when a song is coloring the very ambiguous, and thus subjective, concept of (heterosexual) love. In doing so, many times the artist retains their misogynist viewpoint of the woman; simultaneously providing her with power and stripping of her.
One example, which isn’t necessarily about romantic love, is “Illest Bitch” by Wale, a song about empowering black women. The chorus goes:
“Illest bitch alive, illest bitch alive!
Yeah, that's my sista and I'm so proud how she hold it down
Illest bitch alive, realest bitch around
Pray you rich in confidence, now I'm paying you mind”
I understand the sentiment was coming from a place of solidarity and forward-mindedness, but perhaps the best way to approach a song about empowerment shouldn’t have referred to the empowered as a “bitch.” Some people will, of course, take pride in being called a “bitch” or a “bad bitch,” a colloquialism for an attractive female. However, it’s right in plain detail how odd the usage of the word is, and the overlapping spectrum of definitions the word has. A man will call a woman a “bad bitch” to compliment her looks, but in the same breath will call his friend a “bitch” for, say, not talking to the “bad bitch.” It’s a word that ultimately puts the target down and in a submissive spot. Be it as the object of someone’s lascivious glances or as the object of emasculation.
Part of it, for sure, has to do with the braggadocio nature of the molding environment most rappers, or minorities for that matter, grow up in. Rap started off as party music in the early 80s, with hits like Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, or that song that goes “I said a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop ya don’t stop the rock.” It wasn’t until the late 80s that rap took a more aggressive turn, what with the 80s signifying the dissolution of the Black Panther Party and crippling Black pride, section 8 housing being stripped down, and the crack/cocaine epidemic in lower income neighborhoods throughout the United States. The environment, as a result, took a much darker turn as the minority culture becomes the target of denigration and handicapping. The environment becomes criminogenic, with plenty of people resorting to crime because they couldn’t afford sustenance or shelter. Here, which still exists all over America, to survive, or to be best prepared, it’s advised to have a self-sufficient machiavellian attitude, which is the cause of putting down others by any means. A side note of the red-bloodedness/hypermasculinity which results from this kind of attitude (because what better way to show off being machiavellian than by being them manliest man doing it) is the downplaying of others, be it other males or other females.
I, unfortunately, do not know the etymology of the word bitch or why it’s an expletive nowadays, but the undeniable statement is the duality of its nature and the fluctuation of its definition from good to bad. Either way, why can’t you just compliment a girl without using the word? “Illest Bitch” empowers and slights, all in two words.