By the end of “WAP,” the new single by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion (even if you listen to the "radio edit" that is technically not profane but no less NSFW) you will clock that "macaroni in a pot" is not about food and a "bottom feeder" has little to do with fish. But you will have known from the first bass beat that maybe had you dancing in your kitchen with a wet bucket and a mop — you're probably now asking yourself if that's a metaphor, too — that the song was a glorious gender role reversal and the triumph of delicious filth.
With rapid-fire flow and endlessly quotable one-liners, the two hip hop stars create a female sex-positive anthem as they trade lyrics and grab back the genre’s sexual narratives from “hard” male rappers ... and then wipe the floor dry with the boys' boxer shorts.
They also have music traditionalists complaining, social conservatives saying they are pouring holy water in their ears and other people moaning about women’s rights and the Stone Age.
“WAP” — the initials don’t mean Wireless Application Protocol, folks — is a radio-unfriendly acronym describing — nay, celebrating — the sparkling of Maya Angelou’s metaphorical diamond, and the song and video find Cardi B and Stallion, two of the biggest (female or otherwise) rappers in the game, still rising.
Against a sampling of Frank Ski’s “Whores in this House,” Cardi B raps about Big Mack Trucks in little garages and hooked king cobras, telling listeners “I don’t cook/ I don’t clean/ but let me tell you/ how I got this ring.” Stallion, in her first release after an incident involving rapper Tory Lanez in which she was shot in the foot and he was arrested on gun possession charges, growls about the food chain and bottom feeders. “Your Honor, I’m a freak b----, handcuffs, leashes / Switch my wig, make him feel like he cheating.”
And with the video, featuring stunning visuals and cameos from Normani, Rosalía, Kylie Jenner, Mulatto, Sukihana, and Rubi Rose — all girls who Cardi B rated highly — the release video broke the internet.
Since it came out last Friday, “WAP” scored over 26.6 million views in its first 24 hours on YouTube — the biggest debut for an all female-collaboration on the platform. It debuted at No. 1 on U.S. Spotify; No. 6 on Global Spotify (with 2.34 million and 3.75 million streams, respectively); and No. 1 on U.S. Apple Music.
Christina Aguilera tweeted she was feeling things about it. Gynecologist Jen Gunter suggested women watch it to understand that their physical reactions to good sex aren't problematic. Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis tweeted an altered version of the video with her character from "How to Get Away with Murder" dancing in it. (Cardi approved.) “As a Muslim, the song slaps. Sex positivity is halal. Carry on,” Blair Amadeus Imani, a queer African-American Muslim author, tweeted.
But not everyone is a fan.
The conservative Republican activist Deanna Lorraine crowed on Twitter: “Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion just set the entire female gender back by 100 years with their disgusting and vile 'WAP' song.”
James P. Bradley, a Republican congressional candidate from California, clutched his pearls and tweeted that Cardi B and Stallion “are what happens when children are raised without God and a strong father figure.” He said he accidentally heard the song and “it made me want to pour holy water in my ears.” (He also promises, if elected, to force Hasbro to change the design of Bratz dolls because, he tweeted, it "makes a joy noise when you press the button on her PRIVATE PARTS!" Apparently, women's nether regions are a major focus of his campaign.)
Similar criticisms of the song were heard far and wide over the weekend. Carole Baskin, of "Tiger King" infamy, called it "lurid" while criticizing the video's use of big cats. Ben Shapiro, after quoting it at some length on his podcast, called it "really, really, really, really, really vulgar."
So, let’s get this straight: Women rappers glorifying in their sex is "vile," "lurid" and necessitates filling one's ears with holy water, even as male rappers' sexually demeaning women is award-winning? Kid Cudi, Kanye and Common can rap about various methods of obtaining oral sex on “Make Her Say,” and the venerable Dr. Dre can write “Yo, I tied her to the bed, I was thinking the worst / But yo, I had to let my n***** f*** her first" and add verses to Snoop Dogg's chorus in which the latter explains how women are only good for performing sexual acts on him, and that is laudable poetry?
In a video responding to critics, Cardi B called out the double standard by which female rappers are held. “First of all, I rap about p---- because she’s my best friend and second of all it’s because it seems like that’s what people want to hear,” she said.
“There’s a lot of female rappers that be rapping they a-- off and don’t be talking about they p----," and don’t be talking about getting down and dirty," she added, "and y’all don’t be supporting them and they be mad dope.”
“If male rappers can talk about sex and drugs in all their songs, so can female rappers,” Guisell Gomez, managing editor of the Latinx site Be Latina, told me. “Whether or not you agree with the lyrics or the way Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion expressed themselves, you can’t deny the power. Women are power. Our sex is power, too,” she said.
And, of course, Cardi B and Stallion come from a long line of female artists, both in and out of hip hop, who have chosen music as a means to express their understanding of their sexuality and its power. Whether Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Missy Elliot; Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Janet Jackson' Liz Phair, Peaches, and Bikini Kill; or the early 20th century blues musicians Lucille Bogan, Alberta Hunter and Bessie Smith — and the list goes on — female artists have been singing about their precious flowers and how they would prefer they get watered for as long as we've been writing and singing our songs.
“WAP,” then, is not female rappers playing into tropes of women's sexuality as others see it; it is a claw-sharpened smackdown about women's sexuality, written by two of the most powerful women in hip hop today, as part of a long history of female artists doing just that.
“WAP” is as honest and tasteful as a song can get when it's about something — female pleasure and female desire, in all its messiness — that men still consider too vulgar for words. In times like these — and with a president who says he likes to grab unsuspecting women by the p---- — we could use more of the female-fronted kind of vulgarity.
Macaroni in a pot? Get me a bucket and a mop.