Way back in 2006, Young Dro climbed the charts with his one and only hit, "Shoulder Lean". As much as I would love to regale you with stories of how this song was played at every party for the following two years, the reason I bring it up is because it’s the song that started it all. In my mind at least. Young Dro’s seemingly innocuous throwaway punchline started a trend that will probably outlast hip hop’s greatest obsession -- comparing one’s self to shit.
This everlasting trend is using women to attain other women.
And then I pimp a hoe, take a bitch to Berlin
Bitch break niggas, after that we fuck they girlfriend
My girl got a girlfriend, Chevy blue like whirlwind
Young Dro - "Shoulder Lean"
Hip hop and R&B remain genres fraught with tension when it comes to relations with the LGBTQ community. Between Nicki Minaj’s faux bisexuality and Chris Brown’s what-seems-like-weekly homophobic rants, who would’ve thunk that male artists would be so affirming of the queer lady lifestyle...kind of? In these industries, being a gay male is equated with weakness and failure as it’s the exact opposite of the “I got bitches” mentality that’s so prevalent. Why then are lady loving ladies the holographic Charizard card of urban music?
I'm super fly
A few of my
Lady friends is super bi-
Sexuals and usually high
Might even give you a try
T.I. - "My Girl Gotta Girlfriend"
Using supposedly bisexual women as a pawn in their mastermind scheme shows just how cunning the artist is. In a landscape where sexual prowess is as important as money and power, sending sexy woman folk out to do their bidding has become the ultimate bragging right. These men are only interested in lesbian action as it relates to them. The sexual conquests and flawed versions of bisexuality strangely assert and negate women’s sexual agency simultaneously.
I'm a cold young midwest Cleveland represtenter
My bitch could take your bitch home with us
Chip Tha Ripper - "All Talk"
These guys don't even have to do the work anymore. They simply hand the responsibility off to their women because her bitches are their bitches. The oft-perpetuated falsity of females never being an active participant in sexual activities or having their own desires makes it impossible for two women to have significant sexual encounters without the presence of a man. The song and video for “My Girl Gotta Girlfriend” by Ray Lavender shows how these sentiments impact this phenomenon.
Lavender’s girlfriend cheats on him with another woman and he doesn’t give a shit because both women are still attainable for him. I guess what Santana said about the plumbing is true. Or maybe he falls into the ‘eating ain’t cheating’ camp of lore. Either way, it never occurs to him that his girlfriend may be in search of something else. Namely, boobs. Or that the woman she cheats on him with, whom he has only seen in the context of a same-sex relationship, may not like men at all. Especially not his ass. He has no reason to get mad. His love life is the McDonald's apple pie conundrum: if you can get two for basically the same price as one, why would you ever get a single pie? Now replace "pie" with "women" and you have this song:
Cuz having two chicks
Is better than no chicks
I'd rather just join in
Keep my girl and keep the other one too
Ray Lavender - "My Girl Gotta Girlfriend"
These women aren't valued for their own bodies alone but by their proximity to another. These bodies are to be won or lost... by MEN! Bisexual women fit right in to the male's conquest for the freakiest of freaks because you know, a lesbian relationship can't possibly be normal. Same-sex attraction automatically means you're a sexual deviant and in the musical world, that means "freak."
Maybe cause T.I.P. girls leaving with girls
And in the morning they'll be waking up with six girls
T.I. - "Freak Though"
Where are the mainstream artists to offer an alternative to these images of bisexuality? Though never confirmed, lesbian rumors about Shawnna, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, and Remy Ma have circulated. And then there's Nicki Minaj. I've never been a fan which is reason enough to get me shunned in these parts. It's also reason enough for me to have actively avoided "Lil' Freak", her song with Usher that I'd forgotten about until Rachel reminded me. There was no half-stepping in this one. The entire song is about fetching women for him unlike the happenstance of Lavender's song. In Minaj's verse she tells the woman the only way to get to Usher is by proving her worthiness (read: freakiness). This will be accomplished by letting Minaj touch her "kitty cat". It's coercive and overall just weird that Minaj is acting as guardian to Usher's pants. Watching the video I half expected her to emerge from underwater at some point to inform us that the royal penis is clean.
Whereas the other songs rapped about these voiceless bisexual women, Minaj is actively acknowledging her role and participating in the dialogue. While she and other mainstream female artists are busy denying their queerness, male artists continue to revel in their ability to use women as a cultural currency. And not just straight ones. Not anymore. Their collection of women now includes an obsession with acquiring queer ladies (though only a specific kind).
Does the acknowledgment of queerness help the cause of homophobia in hip hop? Does it perpetuate stereotypes about bisexuality or even about lesbians? Is this more problematic than the usual flaunting of straight women?