**TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual violence, violent language**
We need intergenerational conversations—“beating the pussy up” is a hip hop metaphor for sex that’s not new. We need and have been trying to have a conversation about the violence this metaphor (and others) conjures but folks using it don’t understand themselves to be talking about intimate partner violence when they use it. It is used by men and women to describe sexual prowess, not violence, despite its employment of the violence of “beating”. In reading the framing of the outrage we see elders taking issue with Till being compared to the “anatomy of a woman” and “domestic violence.” That’s not quite what’s happening and we wonder if intergenerational strategies can help alleviate some of these misreadings. Rather than domestic violence, perhaps we can shift our frame to think about sexualized violence and violent sexualities more broadly, which, to be clear, are not always practiced in the context of traditional understandings of intimate partner violence or under duress or coercion. Patricia Hill-Collins already hipped us to the violence that undergirds many discussions of black sexual prowess in her incisive reading of black colloquial usage of the term “booty” and it dual meaning/invocation as both the spoils of war and conquest (i.e. violence) and as the long standing icon of black women’s sexual desirability. Too much connection to be coincidental, no? This framework might allow us to see how violent sexual prowess acted out on the bodies of women of color is a staple of hip hop and popular culture more generally. The issue is not just the ill-informed invocation of Till’s brutal murder but the normalization of brutality acted on women’s bodies.
Is it because it’s Emmett Till? Perhaps we are bugging but doesn’t it disturb people that sex= “beating the pussy up” in the hip hop landscape already? Like “beating the pussy up” is only offensive insofar as Emmett Till is implicated through Wayne’s simile? In no way are we excusing this lyric but it’s interesting to us that the invocation of Till seems to move people in ways that regular misogynoir does not. Perhaps it’s because folks understand the dangers of the US’ ahistorical forgetting, a result of which is that many younger folks might not even know who Emmett Till is (even MTV had to assume the ignorance of their young audience when they first reported the fiasco). What a shame for those who will first come to know of Till through Wayne’s verse. Yet, what shame for us all that we are yet again confronted with violence to women bodies and our outrage seems limited only to the context of its description. We are not surprised by the lyric as it seems to follow the logic of “shock” that we see in verses by Wayne, Odd Future and others. Perhaps this outrage is a way to capitalize on people’s reverence for the freedom struggles of Black people but it makes us incredibly sad that the most women can hope for are comparative politics that attempt to equate our humanity to someone elses for it be understood as valuable. I shouldn’t have to be your sister, mother, cousin, daughter, Emmett Till for you to care when I say your words grate on people’s understanding of me as a person.
The document, which was given exclusively to Vibe, the Till family asks Weezy to think before he speaks and to take ownership of the power of his celebrity status:
"Yesterday marked a week since the ‘unofficial’ release of ‘Karate Chop~remix’ inclusive of your lyrics. The words we speak are powerful enough for preservation of life but also have the capacity to destroy it. When you spit lyrics like ‘Beat that p—-y up like Emmett Till,’ [sic] not only are you destroying the preservation and legacy of Emmett Till’s memory and name, but the impact of his murder in black history along with degradation of women.
"The tongue possesses power! I could offer you a history lesson and talk about the trailblazers that paved the way for our people and lyricists to engage in freedom of speech such as Marcus Garvey, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mamie Till Mobley; but this isn’t an argument about freedom of speech. It is critical that we stay true to urgency of the hour… our youth! Your “celebrity” thrusts you into the spotlight affording you the opportunity to embrace your role as a black man, father, friend, and artist that has the ability to reach international audiences. Are you bothered in the least by the staggering statistics of the extinction of our children?"
While Epic Records removed the Till verse from its release, is it time for Lil Wayne to respond personally?
The anti-cunnilingus stance in hip hop can most definitely be attributed to heterosexual black male politics. In short, black men who claim they don’t eat pussy do so because it’s not “manly” to do anything sexual that is not pleasurable for the man, even though you know that’s not true if you’re a grown up. This is why a lot of mainstream male rappers are lyrically all about getting their dick sucked, running trains, participating in threesomes or various other kinds of sexual orgies, and so on. For those guys, it’s all about busting a nut, not making sure the woman they’re fucking gets hers. You might be tempted to counter that these politics are not exclusive to black communities or even hip hop. Well, you’d be right, but these issues do manifest themselves uniquely in black communities for several reasons. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just suggest that you read up on the Buck and Jezebel stereotypes for more context.
So, what does this have to do with Li’l Wayne? Intellectuals—academic or otherwise—have too easily dismissed Li’l Wayne as problematic along many lines. We’ve heard and/or read it all before. He’s an admitted drug addict. He’s said terrible things about dark-skinned black women. He arguably does not have any talent, even though it’s also been claimed that he doesn’t even write his own raps. He’s a misogynist, sexist. There’s enough of this floating in the air that I won’t spend a lot of time detailing those arguments here. I’m more interested in nuancing existing conversations about Li’l Wayne, because someone needs to recognize the fact that Tunechi has recently, in some ways, begun to redefine hip hop masculinity by taking a stance that is extremely pro-cunnilingus.
Let me give you some examples that are sure to have you clutching your pearls. On “Upgrade” (2007), he raps “Let me just taste you. We can fuck later.” On “Time for Us to Fuck” (2007), he raps, “I’m on a strict diet. I can only eat you.” On “Pussy Monster” (2007), he raps, “When I lift my top lip, I could still smell you. When I swallow my spit, I could still taste you. Put that pussy in my face every time I face you.” On the “Lollipop” remix (2008), he raps, “That pussy in my mouth had me loss for words.” On “Mr. Carter” (2008), he raps, “I suck a pussy, fuck a pussy, leave it there. Long hair don’t even care.” On “She Will” (2011), he raps, “I like my girl thick, not just kind of fine. Eat her ‘til she cry. Call that wine and dine.” On “So Special” (2011), he raps, “Just sit on my grill. That’s that tailgate for ya.” I’m wiping the sweat beads from my forehead as I type.
So, what do we do now? I’m not asking that we slap a feminist label on Li’l Wayne, even if we only slap it on his willingness to pleasure a woman sexually. Throwing around the feminist label is not the best use of my intellectual time and energy—at least not right now. However, recognizing the ways in which Li’l Wayne challenges hegemonic black masculinity is just as important as thrashing his ass when he subscribes to and reinforces those very ideals. And don’t come for me with that, “It’s just sex!” line. Patricia Hill Collins already schooled us on the importance of examining, challenging, and revising black sexual politics. Along those lines, Li’l Wayne is openly calling out his hip hop brothers out on their sexual immaturity. Eating pussy may not be for every brother, but if that’s the case only because you think it makes you less of man, you need to grow up and take a cue from the President of YMCMB…