You know where I’m at; you know where I be.
Where I be is riding ‘round the suburbs of Maryland. The stereo inside my leased 2014 Nissan Maxima has the volume on 6. I’ve got my sunglasses on; one hand on the wheel. Windows rolled down. Sunroof open. My seat reclined so deep, you can barely see my niece’s booster seat in the back. And I’m ice-grillin every grandma that dares to even think about merging into my lane.
If I see you and don’t speak, that means I don’t fuuuuuuuck wit chu…
That’s right. You know me as the 40-something-year-old woman. The professional. The one who proofreads her emails, and says please and thank you even when it’s not warranted. I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket. Never smoked marijuana. Hell, I’ve never smoked a cigarette. My worst offenses in life are eating too much chocolate and dropping too many “F bombs” (though never in mixed company). I am that Bachelors of Arts-having, Juris Doctorate-earning, suburban neighborhood-living, two-level-townhouse-owning, 9-to-5-working chick. Yet, when Cardi comes on, the beat has me shedding that skin and morphing into some sort of a gansta-boo superhero. I will step to you, fight you, take your man, and make you say sorry. All without breaking an extra-long pointed fingernail. All because I can.
Now, can I fight? No. I’ve never actually been in a physical confrontation. In fact, when I get angry, my first instinct is to cry, which won’t exactly land me on America’s Most Wanted any time soon. But none of that matters – not when Bodak Yellow, the Summer of ‘17 anthem, comes on. When that slow, ominous track starts – sounding like it was lifted from a Ghetto Boyz album – mothers, housewives, and good girls all across the country collectively narrow their eyes into little slits, ready to spit a rhyme, climb a pole, or make it rain.
Now, I’ll admit. At 44 -- having been fortunate enough to come up through the era of what most of my friends would deem “true Hip Hop” -- I laughed the first time I heard this song. And the second. And the third. I remember going home and saying to my man, “Babe – have you listened to this song? Bloody moves, bloody shoes… it’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.” We literally had conversations about how bad it was, each one ending with the same question: “HOW are WE not RICH?” But then, a few nights later, I woke up to go to the bathroom, and found Bodak Yellow playing in my head. And it was the same the next night. And the night after that (note to self - make that urology appointment). And, suddenly, the tide had turned. Suddenly, I was looking forward to hearing that song; turning the radio up whenever it came on.
Now, as a professional black woman and a proud graduate of Spelman College, I understand that my affinity for this song is NOT the move. Its use of the word “bitch” in reference to women; its talk of exchanging sexual favors for designer goods. This is certainly not the record I’d want my nieces bobbing their heads to, and with good reason. But, if I’m honest, I have to admit that, in the midst of the misogyny, there’s a message of empowerment that speaks to something in me. When my employees whine about their mediocre (yet well-deserved) performance ratings. When my boss has, once again, failed to deliver on that task I first emailed him about eight weeks ago. When I look in the mirror and see 20 extra pounds. When the bank disrespects me, yet again, by declining my card on some “We just wanted to make sure that this charge - which you make every week, on the same day, in that same grocery store - was authorized” bullshit. When LIFE comes at you, sometimes, all you want is to drop the top, turn up the volume, and yell:
“YOU’S A WORKER, BIIIIITCH! I MAKE BLOODY MOVES!”
In that moment, am I being a role-model? No. I’m being a survivalist. One who knows that she’s not built for jail, and, is, therefore, smart enough to allow her fantasies to play out on wax, while leaving the real stuff to Cardi and her woes.
Now, I’m not here to defend Cardi B., or her music, or the current state of rap. I’m not here to advocate for the First Amendment rights of strippers, or former strippers, or Love and Hip Hop cast members. I’m just here to say that, in life, everyone needs an anthem. When that boxer or that wrestler steps into the ring, his (or her) theme music is playing in the background for a reason: to hype him up; to keep him focused; to remind him of the badass that he is. You know why? Because no athlete can walk into that ring and expect to win if he’s feeling like a loser. And no woman can feel like a loser when her theme music is playing. So, whether your song is Brick House or Bodak Yellow, if it makes you feel like you can conquer the world – even for a few brief moments - then I say: ROCK IT. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the road and to use your turn signals while you’re doing so.