Now That's a Bad Bitch!: Starting in Bronx, New York rap was always seen as an underground subculture that deviated from the social norms and patterns of the dominant culture. It was here that the expressions of young Black and Hispanic men were freely expressed and not criticized. Rap music is a cultural art form that consists of four elements: Having its historical roots in ancient African culture traditions, rap music can also be traced to countries that were part of the African diaspora.
For example, Lliane Loots indicated that two elements of hip-hop culture have their roots in Brazil and Jamaica , p. The art of rhyming culturally stems from West African tradition of the griots or story tellers that were part of the oral tradition of African culture.
The Jamaican influence on hip-hop can be located in deejaying practices referred to as dub-mixing, utilized first by Jamaican immigrant Deejay Kool Herc. Since its inception, rap music has evolved from an underground subcultural movement to a mainstream subcultural expression that profits from the ideology of dominant culture and vice versa.
Rap music during the s remained national commodity until the s. During this time participants in this subculture were involved directly in one of the four elements Hunter, , p. The s ushered in the idea that rap music could not only be popular in the United States but also in other countries. The market for rap music increased as capitalism expanded along with the industry. With the increased popularity of the genre, media sources became the main locus for rap music to not only become more mainstream, but to also increase their purchasing power under capitalism.
In order to examine the purchasing power of rap music under capitalism it is important to talk briefly of the underpinnings of capitalism. Rap and Capitalism Capitalism can be defined as an economic system based on private ownership with the goal of making capital or profit for the owner. Under capitalism there exists a divergent economic relation between the laboring class proletariat and the ruling class capitalist.
Unlike the capitalist, the laborer becomes a commodity as their labor is sold to the purchaser. According to Rousseau, the relationship between the owners of production and the workers is inherently oppressive, as the goal of the capitalist to accrue wealth from the laboring working class , p.
As the laboring class becomes increasingly objectified in the market, the state represents the instrument of class rule. The state can be seen as an instrument of power because of its production of ideological hegemony of the ruling class, which not only legitimizes exploitation but maintains the ruling class ideals as described by Antonio Gramsci. The state produces ideas that control our behavior through various forms i. This buttresses Antonio Gramsci's argument that the capitalists can assert their power and control through the subordination of the working class by means of ideological hegemony.
The ideological hegemony of the ruling class, therefore, prolongs the subordination of the working class and also legitimizes the power and control of the capitalist or owner.
As hip hop grew in popularity, capitalists found new ways to assert their control and power over the industry, which became more lucrative with neoliberal policies. According to Derek Ide, rap was born from the ashes of a community devastated by a capitalistic economic system and racist government officials Ide continues to express that it was not long before corporate capitalism impinged upon the culture's sovereignty and began the historically familiar process of exploitation As hip-hop transitioned from its unadulterated underground image to mainstream adulteration, the industry began to support the capitalist ideologies which spread rapidly as profits increased with the deregulation of the market.
As the rap industry expanded, many have argued that the image and state of rap worsened as rap became a keen marketing tool for corporations. Felicia Lee asserts that "protestors want media companies like Viacom to develop 'universal creative standards' for video and music including prohibitions on some language and images" Achieving this level of prohibition has not happened in recent years as images of scantily clad female rappers, misogynistic lyrics, and the negative portrayals of African culture continue to be exploited.
The relationship between rap artists and corporations can be paralleled to that of slavery. Solomon Comissong explained that the s saw a corporate takeover and commodification of rap, which has made the music less diversified in various media forms This change has led to changes in lyrical content, style, and fashion as artists display themselves in the best way to expand their marketing power, which is directly influenced by capitalism.
The hegemonic ideologies of the ruling class have been transferred into the beats, rhymes and imagery in the rap industry as artists continue to exploit themselves and culture for economic gain. In , Forbes magazine released its first annual "Hip Hop's Wealthiest Artists" list which measured the annual earnings of rappers.
As stated by Greenburg, unlike traditional music genres like pop, rock, and country, whose artists generally make their money through touring and album sales, rappers like Jay Z, 50 Cent, Kanye West, and Sean "Diddy" Combs have become entrepreneurs who have parlayed their fame into lucrative entertainment empires Goldman and Pain, But at what cost? This paper explores how the commodification and consumption of the black female body has given rise to the "bad bitch" phenomenon in rap culture.
It is argued that the effects of being a bad bitch not only changes the state of rap but also the attitudes and behaviors of young black girls, and their interactions with the opposite sex. Also, the topic of whether or not the bad bitch phenomenon is a form of deviant behavior within African-American culture will be addressed. Bad Bitch The word "bitch" has morphed from a term of disrespect to a term of endearment that often takes on the meaning of empowerment.
Once viewed as debilitating, the term has appropriated a new perspective within a subcultural context that is perceived as a term of empowerment. In examining this change, Aoron Celious explains that the term "is located in a society where sex and power are interrelated - men afford status and privilege over women because they are men, and women are relegated to a diminished status and restricted access to resources because they are women" , p.
The change in the meaning of the word thus subverts the tools of oppression used to dominate women to now empower them. This has been seen in the frequent usage of the word by many female rappers as rap music became commercially lucrative. Although the word historically has been a long-noted negative stereotype against women, it has only added to many stereotypical orientations for women of color. Misogynistic orientations of Black women were not separate from the historical changes in the United States - "the imagery projected in rap has its roots in the development of the capitalistic patriarchal system based on the principles of White supremacy, elitism, racism, and sexism" Adams and Fuller, , p.
During slavery - a form of capitalism - Black women were not only exploited for their labor power but also their reproductive power. The location of Black women under capitalism therefore is dually exploitative and profitable. The patriarchal attitudes seen against Black women today can be traced back to oppressive and exploitative control methods of the state and the economy. The images of Black women historically have served the interests of the ruling class.
Adams and Fuller further assert that the images of the "Saphire" are analogous to the "Mammy" image in that they both serve the entertainment needs of Whites , p.
In rap music, the word "bitch" can be linked to the stereotypical image of the Saphire, as a woman who de-emasculates her man by running the household and being financially independent, or as a woman who simply does not know her place. This sentiment has been shared by radical feminist Jo Freeman. In Freeman's The Bitch Manifesto, the word is used to describe a woman who "rudely violates conceptions of proper sex role behavior" Buchanan, p. Among Generation Y, this word has been enhanced to compliment women who are sexy, smart and independent, thus justifying and perpetuating the commodification of the Black female body.
Black Power Action Films," the term "Baad Bitches" began with the sexploitation of Black female actors in the s, as well as being products of contemporary dominant culture Scallen highlights Dunn's work by referencing the following: The "Bad Bitch" suggests a black woman from working-class roots who goes beyond the boundaries of gender in a patriarchal domain and plays the game successfully as the boys by being in charge of her own sexual representation and manipulating it for celebrity and material gain" , p.
The role of black women in film is strikingly similar to the rap industry in that they both lucratively exploit black sexuality in different media outlets. Gwendolyn Pough states: By exploiting Black women's bodies, the blaxploitation movies fall short of offering fulfilling and complete images of empowerment for Black women.
However, the films do offer some interesting subversions and complications. If we really begin to critique and explore the genre, we can see the ways Black women such as Pam Grier have participated in the cultural processes of gender construction for Black women and turned some of those processes completely around.
We will also be able to explore and critique contemporary reclamation of Grier's characters such as the ones offered by Foxy Brown and Lil Kim. They are bringing the big bad Black supermamas into the new millennium and using them to construct contemporary Black women's gender and sexuality p. The portrayals of Black women in film, along with the music industry, have either classified Black women as Saphires, Mammys or Jezebels, also known as "hos".
These various forms of imagery have continuously been accepted by White America and thus perpetuated into the social interactions and perceptions of Black women and men in the Black community. The depictions mentioned here are increasingly common as more and more consumers are not only buying, but are also emulating these negative stereotyped roles. Black Feminist Thought The inclusion of black feminist theory is essential in examining the exploitation of the Black female body in rap.
Collins' Black Feminist Thought explains that race, gender, and class are oppressive factors that are bound together. In investigating the placement of the commodified Black female rappers in the industry, the role and location of Black women in the United States has to be examined. Since, central to this analysis, one may ask: Is the emergence of the bad bitch phenomenon foreign to the lives of Black women in this country?
Collins highlights how the role of Black women always contradicted the traditional role of women in mainstream society. Collins poses the question, "if women are allegedly passive and fragile, then why are Black women treated as 'mules' and assigned heavy cleaning chores" , p.
The placement of Black women as 'objects' and 'tools' for production has been and will always be embedded into American culture. Black feminist thought places the standpoint of Black women at the forefront, which deviates from the general practices used under conventional feminist theories. According to Collins , Black women in the United States can stimulate a distinctive consciousness concerning our own experiences and society overall p.
Collins understands this knowledge can be thoroughly attained from both women in academia and outside academia. The lyrics of some female rappers have taken a vocal stance displaying the issues and struggles faced particularly by Black women. These rappers have voiced their opinions on women's oppression in the industry as well as within their communities from the hypermasculinity of their male counterparts.
For example, in Queen Latifah's U. But I don't want to see my kids getting beat down By daddy smacking mommy all around You say I'm nothing without ya, but I'm nothing with ya This is my notice to the door, I'm not taking it no more I'm not your personal whore, that's not what I'm here for And nothing good gonna come to ya til you do right by me Brother you wait and see, who you calling a bitch !!
Rap music has been used as a stage for both men and women from disadvantaged neighborhoods to express their experiences with oppression and also serve as a means for coping with that oppression.
One main characteristic of oppression is the repressive nature it places on the individual that results in objectification of material wealth.
Historically, the Black body has taken the form of material wealth in that it was aggressively commodified during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, especially for women. The commodification of the Black female body has changed to meet the needs of the political economy in a particular society. The "bitch phenomenon" in rap culture is no different because it has been integrated into forms of the dominant culture to serve the needs of the dominant and ruling class.
Collins argues that the domination always attempts to objectify the subordinate group in which the ideas and one's own reality is not defined by members of the subordinate group , p. This was clearly visible in the distinction between the figures of the "Mammy" and the matriarch. The Mammy symbolized something good by the dominant group whereas the matriarchal figure was deemed bad according to the same "standards". The Case for National Action, in locating the thesis for Black matriarchy.
Spending too much time away from home, these working mothers ostensibly could not properly supervise their children failure at school.
As overly aggressive, unfeminine women, Black matriarchs allegedly emasculated their lovers and husbands , p. Black feminist theory reminds us to never forget how race, class, and gender are central in understanding the development of the Mammy, matriarch, and the vast appearance of the "bad bitch" phenomenon.
Data and Methods The "bad bitch" and Black feminist thought theses could be utilized to explain the manifestation of the "bad bitch" phenomenon. The bad bitch thesis explained by Dunn and Pough is a black woman who can be successful under a patriarchal system of control by defining success for herself and how she will go about achieving it.