‘WAP’: Explicit Lyrics or Explicit Bias? Exploring the Controversy Surrounding Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s New Hit

Embellished in their gold hoop earrings were the three letters about to break the internet…‘WAP’ was on its way

Trigger Warning: mention of rape, racism and sexism

As Cardi B unveiled a picture of her and fellow powerhouse Megan Thee Stallion, she rallied millions of excited fans around the world for their new single. Embellished in their gold hoops earrings were the three letters about to break the internet… ‘WAP’ was on its way.

On her way to stardom, after becoming a fan favourite on Love and Hip Hop New York, in 2017 Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’ catapulted her into the mainstream music market. This success was followed less than two years later by Megan Thee Stallion, with club anthems such as ‘Hot Girl Summer’ and ‘Freak Nasty’. It only made sense that the pair would eventually link up for a chart topping hit. 

The chart topping hit had some last minute lyric changes, Cardi herself warned before the song’s release that the original lyrics were too explicit for platforms such as YouTube, though this only built up more anticipation amongst fans. On 7th August this anticipation came to a head when the song was finally released with its accompanying music video. 

Cardi and Megan invited us all into the ‘WAP house’. We see them pay homage to Lil Kim’s iconic squat as statues, lay seductively (albeit bravely)  in a pile of snakes, and then break into a sexy dance routine. This was all before Kylie Jenner made a cameo, sauntering down the corridors, keeping up the sexy theme with her low-cut leopard print leotard. As we continue through the ‘WAP house’ Cardi displays flexibility most of us can only dream of, while Megan showcases her infamous knee-strength. We see a few more guest appearances from other successful women, such as singer Normani, who completes her scene with a dance routine in her monochrome set and towering heels. 

Most fans were enjoying what was clearly meant to be a light-hearted, liberating, party song; scrambling to find memes to match playful lyrics, such as Cardi’s desire for a “big mac truck”. However, politicians, male celebrities, and ‘concerned’ adults soon began to share their disdain for the song. Though the lyrics of the song are quite explicit, the girls’ male peers and white female peers are rarely held to the same standard of criticism for content that is arguably just as suggestive. The backlash Megan and Cardi have received is sexist, racist, and completely unnecessary. 

Republican congress hopeful James P Bradley’s critiques of the song are well documented on his twitter page.

Megan’s religious beliefs are not officially confirmed, but a simple google search shows that Cardi is a Catholic. In addition, suggesting that the duo are without “a strong father figure” is a comment clearly rooted in a racist stereotype and ironically incorrect. Cardi has a close relationship with her father, while Megan’s father sadly passed away in 2011, before which he was present in her life. His ignorance shows the lack of interest Bradley usually has in the pair. Instead it seems (and he has claimed) he “accidentally” heard ‘WAP’ and saw an opportunity to bash two successful, young, black women for simply expressing their sexual desires and for their use of some shock-factor lyrics. 

Unfortunately, it gets worse. DeAnna Lorraine, another Republican politician (recently unsuccessful in her run for congress), also had something to say about the song. She claims that the song is “disgusting & vile” and undoes the progression women have made:

So much for women supporting women. DeAnna Lorraine’s Tweet . This public bashing coming from a female politician, someone who is actually responsible for leading the way for women, was disappointing to say the least. While personally I disagree that Cardi and Megan are ‘bad role models’ it is important to remember it is not their job to be role models; they are instead musicians who express themselves through their art. 

Cee Lo Green chose to express his hypocritical opinions on the song during an interview with Far Out Magazine . As a man who previously found himself in hot water for declaring “it’s not rape if a woman is unconscious”,and for facing charges of a similar nature, I would have hoped he would give this one a miss entirely.

We will likely never see Green, or many other male celebrities criticising their male peers for songs such as Ty Dolla $ign’s ‘Or Nah, 50 Cent’s ‘Candyshop’, or Lil Wayne’s ‘Lollipop. Also notable is the lack of criticism for their white female peers such as Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirty (though on a positive note Aguilera herself showed full support for the girls), Ariana Grande’s ‘Side to Side‘, or Iggy Azalea’s ‘Pussy Pop. Therefore two black female rappers cannot be dubbed “salacious” for the same behaviour that both their male and white female peers have been enjoying for years. 

While the artists were both bombarded with disapproval of their song, it could not have kept the superstar rappers down for too long. The captivating song proved to be a great victory, as it debuted at #4 in the UK Official Singles Chart and #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While some would prefer to dub the lyrics ‘vile’ or ‘too explicit’, most of us will remember a female-led, all-female video; along with a song that created a space for the pair to express their sexual desires through innuendos and world play, or with the confident directness that the duo seems to prefer. 

These are two women who have never been afraid to challenge their peers in the male-dominated Hip Hop industry, so it seems fitting that Cardi and Megan soared to the top of the charts with a song about women and for women. This Number 1 debut was perhaps all the more satisfying, as the successes they have gained from it far outweighed the criticism they received. After all the unnecessary commentary, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion can relish in proving all their doubters wrong, along with an outpouring of support from fans. 

1 thought on “‘WAP’: Explicit Lyrics or Explicit Bias? Exploring the Controversy Surrounding Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s New Hit

  1. So so sad that children listen to these lyrics and may think this is behavioural norm. I’m no prude but it has really frightened me. I have daughters of 8 and 12 . What do young kids think when they hear these lyrics? Puts women back centuries, it would nearly be laughable that this is considered ‘liberation’ and ‘self expression’ but the consequences are so serious for self esteem and sexual health. These lyrics blur boundaries.

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