Cardi B, as usual, is right. This time, she’s right about comments made recently by pioneering hip-hop impresario Jermaine Dupri regarding female rappers. JD’s opinion of modern rapping women isn’t very high, as he told People magazine in a recent interview. It seems he, like so many other “hip-hop heads” of a certain age/misogynistic worldview, pines for the days when his artist Da Brat reigned on top of the charts, rather than more overtly sexualized rappers like Cardi B, City Girls, and Megan Thee Stallion.
Of course, he didn’t put it this way because just saying that you’re disappointed you fell off isn’t the hip-hop way. It’s the children who are wrong. Mumble rap is ruining hip-hop and back in the day, women never used sex appeal to sell records — except for, you know, Salt-N-Pepa, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Trina, Eve, and a slew of other women who could rap well and look good at the same time. Gasp. Here’s how Jermaine Dupri worded it:
I feel like they all are rapping about the same thing, and I don’t think they’re showing us who’s the best rapper. For me, it’s like strippers rapping. As far as rap goes, I’m not getting who is the best rapper. I’m getting OK, you got a story about you dancing in the club, you got a story about you dancing in the club, you got a story about you dancing in the club. OK. All right. Cool. Who’s going to be the rapper?… At some point, somebody’s going to have to break out of that mold and talk about other things.
Uproxx writer Andre Gee already addressed the faulty rationale that allows this double standard to exist. It’s a pretty good read. But Cardi has a way of breaking down complex ideas and restating them in such a simple, impactful way that it becomes impossible to just skip over what she says. And in this case, rather than addressing the double standard that men talk about sex more or less nonstop in their raps, she instead pointed out the rationale behind why she and other women choose to rap “like strippers”: Because evidently, that’s what the people want.
“When I did ‘Be Careful,’ people was talking mad sh*t in the beginning,” she reminded her fans on Instagram. “‘This is not what I expected. I expected this, I expected that.’ So it’s like if that’s what people ain’t tryna hear, then, alright, I’mma start rapping about my p*ssy again.” She then went on to list a number of other female rappers who would fit the bill of what Jermaine Dupri and other critics seem to be looking for, who focus on lyrics and messaging over turn-up anthems and twerking in hot pants. She namechecks Kamaiyah, Rapsody, Tierra Whack, and newcomer Chika as examples of modern “lyrical” female rappers but she could have continued for another 20 names if she wanted to.
The truth is, Jermaine Dupri’s brand of non-logic has long been used by a certain kind of rap fan, not just to pit women against one another, but to demean rappers who use sex to help them sell. The argument is fallacious for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the assumption that just because women rap about sex or come from a background like Cardi’s, they can’t really rap. Megan Thee Stallion disproves that theory by herself, while Cardi is sure to drop at least one gem per verse. While City Girls’ Yung Miami might not be the poster child for lyrical dexterity, her currently incarcerated partner in rhyme, JT, has been known to flex some wordplay on her half of their ratchet dance favorites. And how could you discount the reigning queens of yesteryear, like Foxy Brown, Lil Kim, and Trina, who were all more than happy to throw on a Chanel bikini to spit bars about bricks and Berettas?
Meanwhile, as Cardi points out in the second half of her rant: If these men are so fixated on “lyrical” rappers, why don’t rappers like Rapsody chart? Noname has two albums out and no Billboard chart history (she also had the perfect response to JD herself). Neither does Tierra Whack, whose Whack World was considered a 2018 standout. Kamaiyah has released viral hit after viral hit and appeared on the XXL Freshman cover and her label won’t even give her a release date because of the lukewarm response her singles garnered in comparison to those of Cardi, whose “Bodak Yellow” became a phenomenon, or Meg’s “Big Ole Freak,” which had women twerking at gas stations all over social media.
In fact, it seems like the only time men even mention alternative female rappers is as a counterexample of the type of rappers who “should” get all the attention. Jean Grae has often complained that the only time men brought her up for a big chunk of her career was to try to bat down Nicki Minaj, who was positioned by those men as the polar opposite. Missy Elliott is another favored example of an “acceptable” female rapper who “doesn’t sell sex,” but Missy’s highest-charting song, “Work It” is literally about sex. Rah Digga once bragged that she’d make a dude chew her tampon with her pants on. And there are dozens of women out even now who split the difference between rapid-fire raps and sexy imagery like 3D Na’Tee, Dreezy, and Maliibu Miitch.
The most mind-boggling aspect of Jermaine Dupri’s comments is that he is responsible for two female rappers in two different generations who can both spit and were okay with using sex to sell in their time. Da Brat may have started out as kind of a gender-swapped Snoop Dogg clone, but by 2000, she had released Unrestricted, an album that unabashedly embraced her sex appeal in both its content and its marketing. Incidentally, it’s her highest-charting album. Meanwhile, JD’s The Rap Game on Lifetime was the launching pad for Mulatto, a young rapper from Atlanta who’s got the bars to hang with the creme of the crop and a 2.4 million following on Instagram thanks to her alluring posts in plunging necklines and high cut shorts. She just released a really good EP, too, so how could Dupri claim to not be feeling an artist he helped break?
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It takes a village. Reals ones always rise. Stay your authentic self always, @iamcardib !! People ask me about the state of Hip Hop and women in it all the time….my answer is always it’s BEAUTIFUL! There are sooooo many dope ladies rockin! To the sisterhood….keep doing YOU….there’s room for us all! And space to show love. It doesn’t dim your light to see the light in others. To our folk….know our power….the culture moves thru us. Mad love always!! – Rap 🔻
There are plenty of female rappers who focus on bars and there are a bunch who use sexy imagery to sell who can really rap too. Instead of complaining that the subject matter is unrelatable — a proposition that never comes up for middle-class rap fans when it comes to Freddie Gibbs and Pusha T selling mountains of cocaine or 50 Cent getting rich the “Ski Mask Way” — those fans who prefer “lyrical” rappers could do something truly revolutionary and actually support the artists who make the music they claim they like. Meanwhile, there’s another moral lesson to take away from all this: Listen to Cardi B because no matter how rough her delivery, she’s almost always right.
Cardi B is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.