From Nicki Minaj to Azealia Banks, Hip-Hop’s Obsession With Female Bisexuality Continues
For better or worse, hip-hop has always fetishized female bisexuality. From female artists themselves using innuendo in order to pique curiosity to male rappers describing hordes of groupies starting the party before he even gets to the hotel room, girl-on-girl action has been a motif in this genre more than any other.
Take one of Kanye West's famous lines from his 2012 song "I Don't Like": "Girls kissing girls 'cause it's hot right? / But unless they use a strap-on then they not dykes." West pokes fun at women being intimate with each other for what he deems as attention-seeking, but they don't want to be labeled as gay.
Before Nicki Minaj was an international superstar, she garnered attention for her content, flow and swagger -- it was a breath of fresh air for fans looking for a worthy female MC. She was lyrically bold and many of her lines played with gender roles, challenging her male counterparts while retaining her black Barbie sex appeal.
By the time she released Pink Friday in 2010, she was armed with a new set of marketing tools in order to flood the mainstream. One of them was her hypersexual image and her questionable sexual orientation. While her talent was noteworthy, the intrigue of “Does she mess with females too?” indisputably added dimension to her brand.
Nicki seemed hip to the game from the beginning, exploiting this reality for her own benefit. “I don’t stop for pedestrians / Only really, really bad lesbians,” she spits on “Go Hard.” Between her playful insinuations and her seemingly eager willingness to sign her fans’ boobs, her mysterious sexual orientation became an invaluable marketing tool.
And while freedom of sexual expression is healthy and glorious, the fixation on female bisexuality in hip-hop is problematic here because it’s actually not about bisexuality. It’s not about the acceptance or celebration of the LGBT community, but moreso about the need to regulate women as objects of sexual desire for the heterosexual male gaze.
This is not at all a jab at men -- Nicki’s calculated messages prove that women are just as much a part of perpetuating this imbalance. There’s a thin line between feminist self-possession and the perpetuation of male dominance, after all.
Rapper Azealia Banks proudly asserts that a woman will "wanna lick my plum in the evenin'" on her hit "212." She uses plum to symbolize her lady parts and welcomes the advance. After all, she has no qualms with being bisexual.
In a 2012 interview with The New York Times, she explained that her sexual orientation is defined by what she makes of it, not how others expect her to represent herself. "I'm not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don't live on other people's terms," Banks said. However, that doesn't mean she can escape the very tag -- "bisexual, lesbian rapper" -- that she's trying to avoid.
She's come under fire for labeling herself bisexual but using derogatory words such as "f--got" to describe men, which has also earned her the label of being homophobic. In a series of tweets last week, she was fed up with the slander and addressed the issue. "Just give the Azealia banks is a homophobe thing a rest because I'm not. I have a transgender sibling," she wrote. "My whole life is gay All of my friends are gay, I am bisexual.... So please... Stop." News outlets had a field day, reporting on her rant and highlighting her bisexuality in the process.
Watch Azealia Banks' "212" Video
Take a more recent example of an artist playing the bicurious card. Dej Loaf is a talented rapper and singer. She’s aggressive, scrappy (not afraid to fight, as we learned on “Try Me”) and she has the audacity to discuss sex like a man does. Her manner of dress along with her short haircut add to the stereotypes of a woman who doesn’t necessarily cling to traditional gender roles.
And then there are hints in her lyrics. On her remix of “Me, U & Hennessy” -- an ode to inebriated nights of passion, Lil Wayne goes in on her rumored bisexuality. “I hope your girlfriend feelin’ me too,” he says. A bit presumptuous, we think. Who says she wanted to share?
Nicki has told us in countless interviews that she does not sleep with women. Dej has disseminated a similar message but in the end, it makes no difference. The conversation is still being had. They are seen as commodities in some ways and inevitably exploited for more press, which means more money. But at what cost?
Think about all the songs in which male hip-hop artists have described the joys of a freaky woman who goes both ways. Take Ray Lavender’s 2009 song “My Girl Gotta Girlfriend.” In an article from Jezebel, Brittani asserts that “Lavender's girlfriend cheats on him with another woman and he doesn't give a s--- because both women are still attainable for him” -- an implication of dominance.
Fast forward a year later to Usher and Nicki’s 2010 hit “Little Freak.” The premise here is not just the allure of Minaj’s sexual prowess, but the idea that she’ll go out and scout other women to bring home to her man. Therefore, her facetious goal to, “take Cassie away from Diddy” is not about her desire for a relationship with Cassie but a perpetuation of what the genre is fetishizing -- that women are objects of pleasure and not self-assured beings with their own desires and intentions.
What about artists like Kehlani, who don’t beat around the bush, so to speak, about their sexual preference? The bisexual singer believes that people fall in love with souls, not bodies. On her song “First Position,” off her Cloud 19 mixtape, she persuades a woman to give her a chance. “Baby, stop messing with those boys. Get a you a lady,” she sings.
Watch Kehlani's "First Position" Video
There is no man present on the song -- this is about her and another woman. Lyrics like these vary greatly from what's present in Nicki and Dej’s songs. Despite her intentions though, she can’t avoid being at least partially defined by the idea that a bisexual woman is the holy grail -- a sexually insatiable plaything for the male eye. It damages the idea that women are entitled to their own sexual agency, whatever that may be, without outside influence.
Another form of proof on hip-hop’s slant is the media’s recognition of Frank Ocean’s sexual orientation. We gossiped, speculated and then celebrated (for the most part) his courage and artistic honesty. His songs -- like journal entries -- contain depth and candor. He did get a lot of press for his actions, choosing to write a coming out letter of sorts in 2012, and reveal his first love was a man. However, the reception of Ocean as a man revealing himself as bisexual was different than the way females receive press when they’re thought to swing both ways.
And while gender lenses will continue to evolve, perhaps hip-hop artists can reexamine their relationship with women and how they're incorporated into their lyrics, opening some doors for them to pull a Frank Ocean rather than a Nicki Minaj.
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