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Let’s talk about sex: how Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP sent the world into overdrive | Television

As winter forces many people to ditch nights out with mates in favour of nights in on the couch, Belcalis Alamanzar’s iconic phrases ring out throughout the digital ether: “A ho never gets cold!”. In a clip that went viral in 2014, the rapper higher generally known as Cardi B parades up and down a resort hall, clad in a plunging, barely-there bralette and tight-fitting skirt. For ladies who put on little and care about it even much less, Megan Thee Stallion has made a reputation for herself in the identical vein. Collectively, Meg and Cardi would go on to delivery a motion with their hit 2020 single, WAP, an ode to feminine sexuality and “moist ass pussy” which introduced a slice of the membership to the worlds’ residing rooms at the peak of lockdown.

In three minutes and seven seconds of poetic soiled talk, the pair stroll us by the spiciest of bed room periods, besides – opposite to patriarchal norms – they’re firmly in the driver’s seat. From fellatio to make-up intercourse, Cardi and Megan depart their targets weak. With the video shortly turning into a speaking level round the world, their sexual want (and that of girls usually) grew to become the topic of fierce debate. Whereas many praised their cheeky candour, others had been unimpressed, with Fox Information’s Candace Owens going as far as to call Cardi a “cancer cell” who was destroying tradition.

For the director and producer Poppy Begum, the thought to make a documentary about WAP fever was fuelled by these excessive and polarised reactions. “I wasn’t anticipating the morality police to have their knickers in such a twist over the track,” says Begum. She started considering about the double commonplace that exists between male and feminine rappers. “The second a lady [makes a song like this], the scrutiny and hypothesis goes by the roof. It will get so boring after some time.”

Meg and Cardi’s loud, empowering exclamations made an influence, however they’re not the first. Ladies – and feminine rappers specifically – have at all times talked about intercourse. Collectively, they’re following in the footsteps of artists together with Lil Kim, Trina, Missy Elliott and Khia (who was answerable for the iconic 00s anthem My Neck, My Back). And but, such frank dialogue nonetheless brings out a mix of marvel and disgust in many individuals.

‘Upending patriarchal norms’ ... Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B.
‘Upending patriarchal norms’ … Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B. {Photograph}: Arturo Holmes/Channel 4 / Arturo Holmes

In Queens of Rap, Begum unpicks folks’s opinions, and makes an attempt to place herself in Cardi’s sneakers by visiting her previous stomping floor in the Bronx, likening the singer’s roots in a tight-knit Dominican neighborhood to her personal upbringing amid the Bengali neighborhood of London’s Brick Lane. Swinging from membership to membership as a stripper, Almanzar was first identified in the streets for her raucous giggle, daring flirtation and barely misaligned entrance enamel, which she has since had corrected (see: Got a Bag and Fixed My Teeth).

On the identical streets, Begum felt that little had modified since Cardi was first developing. Regardless of the on-line prominence of stars reminiscent of Doja Cat, she remarks, “In the offline world, the quantity of individuals I got here throughout that had old style, conservative views … [talking about Cardi and Megan] didn’t at all times go down effectively.” The circularity of the debate pissed off her, basically boiling right down to “the identical classroom debates I had with my mates at school”.

Begum interviews one specific lady on the road, who recoils at the considered the WAP lyrics (“She’s a mom”, she says, referring to Cardi). In fact, Beyoncé, who joined Megan on the remix of her hit Savage, can also be a mom. Whereas the singer whispers coyly about becoming a member of the grownup web site OnlyFans on the monitor, she obtained little to no criticism from the media about being inappropriate. Not solely is there a double commonplace between males and ladies, however between ladies themselves; Cardi is framed as “ratchet” – unappealing, unclassy – on account of her rags to riches story, whereas Beyoncé is seen as extra respectable, from “higher inventory”, even.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, the former editor in chief of the ladies’s information and tradition web site Jezebel and certainly one of the movie’s contributors, says that the music trade hasn’t but come to phrases with ladies as lively contributors. Linking Cardi and Megan to early blues artists reminiscent of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, who made what she refers to as “f*cking and s*cking songs from the Thirties”, Shepherd is eager to stress that music about intercourse is nothing new. Nevertheless, the trade continues to have a blind spot, and change has not traditionally come from inside. “It took the democratising pressure of the web to get us to a spot the place we may have multiple mainstream lady rapper at one time,” she provides.

A double standard? ... Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 Grammys.
A double commonplace? … Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 Grammys. {Photograph}: Kevin Winter/EPA

The no-nonsense perspective to intercourse – and probably utilizing one’s physique for materials achieve – as described in WAP additionally overlaps with conversations on intercourse work. In the documentary, the presenter Zeze Millz explains that WAP is, to her thoughts, “mushy porn”. To some, to be discovered engaging and to promote that picture again to ladies as a captive viewers, is to be complicit in your personal fetishisation. However the journalist Jacqueline Springer makes the essential level that for ladies who need to make it at any price, it’s higher to profit off your personal fetishisation than handy the energy to another person. Controlling their very own picture – to “reclaim and defame”, in the phrases of Shepherd – could be an try to make the most of this catch-22 scenario.

In some methods, although, the artists stay powerless. For Shepherd, the liberation of creating this type of music could also be uncapped, culturally and artistically. The capitalistic facet of promoting music, nevertheless, signifies that “till the trade is dismantled from its very lengthy historical past of exploiting Black artists”, absolute empowerment isn’t doable.

Queens of Rap paints a vibrant historical past of feminine sexuality in music, although there’s way more nonetheless to debate (magnificence requirements, for instance, and colourism in relation to sexuality might be a complete separate documentary – simply have a look at the incessant trolling Lizzo obtained after collaborating with Cardi). It highlights that WAP was greater than a development, nevertheless, and {that a} new wave of feminine rappers will take up the mantle earlier than lengthy. And, as debates and discussions rumble on, there may be room for a follow-up but.

Queens of Rap is on Channel 4 at 10pm tonight.

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