The WAP Backlash Exposes Sexist Expectations Of Female Rappers
WAP has been getting a lot of attention online since its release.
The collaboration between Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion has become the focus of heaps of conservative criticism – like this video where right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro dissected the lyrics on air.
So, why is WAP stirring up so much anger?
And what does it say about our expectations of women in rap that it’s challenging listeners this much?
WAP has been incredibly successful in the week since its release. The video’s got over 84 million views on YouTube and it’s on its way to hitting the number 1 spot on the Billboard rankings.
Ok, but what’s the song actually about?
Sosefina Fuamoli: “It’s about having really fire sex knowing you’re great at it, being confident in your love for it owning your own sexuality and sensuality.”
That’s Sosefina Fuamoli, she’s a music writer and radio host.
She’s been watching the commentary about WAP unfold and told me that it’s surprising to her because the level of vulgarity in the lyrics isn’t exactly new for the genre.
Fuamoli said female rappers have been producing sexually explicit songs for years.
And male rappers have obviously been creating songs with super racy lyrics as well, it’s a big part of the genre.
Megan Thee Stallion actually responded to the criticism of WAP with this tweet referencing a Three 6 Mafia song.
So, what sets WAP apart?
Fuamoli said it’s partly related to who Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B are as personalities.
They’re both assertive, polarising figures who have changed the game in their own way.
Megan Thee Stallion has been really vocal during her rise about being an educated college student who’s shirking the archetype of a female rapper.
SF: “She can be sexy but she can be smart too, she can wear provocative outfits but she can also be getting a college degree to help her community too”.
And Cardi B, who has been in the spotlight for a lot longer, has stirred up a bunch of controversy with her history.
SF: “She’s coming from a reality TV background, she was a stripper, she’s been very vocal about her experiences pre-getting into music and she’s kind of like the archetype for everything the conservatives just don’t agree with.”
Fuamoli said that the negative attention that WAP is getting is also related to how rap and pop culture have basically become one and the same in the past few years.
Rap wasn’t exactly ignored before but with the rise of social media, rap artists have become far more integrated into mainstream online culture, which is why it’s not abnormal for say, a Kardashian to turn up in a Cardi B video now.
But with that popular consciousness comes a lot more pressure on the women in rap to fulfil more stereotypical feminine roles.
A bunch of the online commentary around WAP has focused on how Cardi and Megan Thee Stallion are poor role models for children – a kind of pressure that’s typically placed on female pop stars.
As female rappers hit the mainstream, they’re asked to answer for how appropriate their music is for kids.
Nicki Minaj was pressured with the same conversations when she first became famous and was criticised for swearing on her albums.
SF: “I don’t look at many male rappers and think ‘you shouldn’t be rapping about the amount of Percocet or the amount of drugs you’re doing because you should be a role model’. I hardly think we were looking at Juice Wrld before he passed or XXXTentancion and thinking he should have been a role model, of course not.”
Fuamoli said even though the WAP lyrics are explicit and hard-hitting, female rappers like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are respectable in the sense that they’ve made a name for themselves in a genre dominated by men.
SF: “They’re changing what it means to be a female artist in this genre and they’re kind of blazing a trail where they wouldn’t be able to before … they’re not so much relegated to being video vixens or quote unquote ‘hook bitches’, they can actually take the spotlight themselves and own it in a way that should really be respected and entertained.”
WAP is a dirty song but that’s not exactly a new concept for rap music.
What makes it different and so much more confronting for conservatives is really the mainstream success of the artists singing those lyrics and just the fact that they’re women owning their sexuality in a REALLY confident way.