So I watched the “Video Phone” video yesterday. I don’t quite yet know what a “videophone” is, but maybe that’s just a sign of me aging my way out of pop culture. I’m fine with that. And I’m not going into the Gaga vs. Beyonce debate because I think it’s clear to anyone with eyes that Gaga didn’t bring it. And while the video was a good look exposure-wise for her, artistically it was a fail.
Here’s what I do wonder though: what exactly is the difference between Bey, Lil Kim, and say, Trina? Yes, Bey sings, they rap. She can dance too and does her own beats and production whereas it’s still a big question mark if Trina and Kim even write their own lyrics. I fully acknowledge all of Bey’s talents. But content-wise, where’s the difference? Bey’s lyrics are just as materialistic, her video and stage outfits are just as scanty, and she spreads and P-pops it just as good as (if not more and better) than both Kim and Trina in their heyday.
So I’m confused. Is it that Bey cleans up nice for awards shows? That she comes from a two-parent home? That she’s from the ‘burbs? That she manages to be raunchy without cursing? That she’s light-brite and generally assessed as pretty? (just throwing ideas out there.) That she mixes her catalogue of raunch in with empowerment anthems? That she hides her raunchiest side behind an alter-ego, Sasha Fierce so it seems like it’s not really her? (Pause. You have no idea how disturbing I find it that a alleged 28 year old woman feels compelled to express her sexuality solely as a stage persona or an alter ego of said stage persona.) I’m really, really curious where the distinction lies.
And so we’re clear, this isn’t me trying to diss Bey. I’m not a hardcore Bey Bey fan, but I’ve got enough on my iPod to do a train ride to work and a three-mile run without doubling up. And though I don’t like all the content she puts out (frankly her film career is mediocre at best), I do respect a woman’s hustle and grind. I am, however, a hardcore Lil Kim fan (no pun) and can recite her debut album line for line. This is not me trying to bring Bey down, more like bringing Kim up, and Trina too, by extension.
I threw the question out on Twitter last night and expected to be stoned got the following thoughtful responses:
[Bey’s] no bird, but she is their patron saint! The next tour should be called "Beyonce Live: Where Chickenheads Come Home To Roost"
She has better marketing, and a good team behind her
She has a "voice" that will always get her a pass
I think Bey is a little more subtle in her lyrics than Kim/Trina. No vulgarity. But she is def suggestive.
think bc Bey has other stuff goin on, she's got fierce mgmt & she works that 'shy & so blessed' routine well in interviews. plus every1 knows the whole fam she comes from whereas kim and trina come off as hood chicks.
Actually, she does more poppin than all combined, but she also doesn't talk about f'ing "while her period on" (Trina) or blowjobs
Ok. But like how do you get away with lyrics like:
you like it when i shake it
shawty on a mission
wat yo name is
what you want me naked
if you liking this position
you can tape it
on yo video phone
and not be called a bird. Trina and Kim would be torn to bits for rapping about sex on tape, and they were hardly held up as role models. Let’s also keep in mind that 9/10 of Bey songs about men are for “soliders” ie, dudes with their pants sagging low and in white tees. Picture Wayne (who was in the "Solider"video), or better, Jay… but in his dealing days, ‘cause 9/10 when you see him now he’s in thong sandals on the beach or grown man sweaters around New York or Londontown. What kind of occupations to dudes you know have if they still wear white tees and sagging pants post-college?
And Bey’s just as materialistic as Kim and Trina as we can see from the “Upgrade You Lyrics”
Audemars Piguet watch
Dimples in ya necktie
Cartier top clips
Silk lined blazers
Diamond creamed facials
VVS cuff links
6 star pent suites
And while she may not curse, she’s just as raunchy. Recite any double entendre on “Ego” and get back to me.
Maybe it’s because she started out pretty wholesome—despite the barely-there bedazzled “costumes.” I mean there was “Independent Women,” “Survivor,” “Me Myself and I” (I’m just gonna overlook “Bills, Bills, Bills,” an entire song about a man picking up the tab, for the sake of my argument.) There was also that song that I can’t remember the title to, but with lyrics, “girl, go put some clothes on, you nasty…” (Oh, the irony!)
But that’s evolved, into every other single being say... “ Freakum Dress” where women are encouraged to “spin it all around and then take it to the ground.” Or maybe we can refer to, “Ring the Alarm,” where instead of leaving a cheating lover, Bey decides to stay, referencing and recounting all the expensive and name-brand gifts she’ll be missing out on if she bounces. If that doesn’t sound like a bird anthem or the blueprint to a Kim or Trina verse or two, I don’t know what does.
Maybe it’s that she caters to the fellas. Let’s face it, a lot of backlash to Kim and Trina was because they cared too much about getting theirs. And they did it with a bravado that mirrored a man’s. Trina’s openeing verse on “Da Baddest Bitch” lays it all out:
All eyes on your riches
No time for the little dicks
You see the bigger the dick
The bigger the bank, the bigger the Benz
The better the chance to get close to his rich friends
Same goes for Kim’s explicit expectation on “Big Momma”:
that's how many times I wanna cum, twenty-one
and another one, and another one, and another one
24 karats nigga, that's when I'm fuckin wit' the average nigga
Both of these women have a high expectation in exchange for their services— money, an orgasm, something. Neither of these women have a “do your business and be done” situation like Mister and Ceilie in The Color Purple, or say Beyonce in “Cater to You” when she croons:
When you come home late tap me on my shoulder, I'll roll over
Baby I heard you, I'm here to serve you
If it's love you need to give it is my joy
All I want to do, is cater to you boy
Bar after bar she goes on and on about what she’s willing to do for her man (“because what she won’t “another woman is willing…”) and never, not once, asks for anything in return.
Is that it? Men are on board with her, so women fall in line?
I really don’t get it. I mean Kim wore next to nothing on stage, and was damn near stoned. Like Amber Rose, Trina got called all manner of “sluts” and “whores” for her all –Spandex, all the time get ups. But Bey shows up to sing Ava Maria, the “Hail Mary” of Catholic songs, in a leotard and veil and it’s like *crickets” from everyone, including the Catholic church. She shows up at the European Music Awards wearing red lingerie and matching garters on stage and no one bats an eye. A few years back, she gave Terrance Howard a lap dance on the stage for the BET Awards and barely a peep from anyone.
Is Bey benefitting from our relatively high shock-value, a bar raised by the antics of Lil Kim and Trina, so that she can do exactly what they did and not inspire the same level of outrage? Or is there something more to it than that?
I’m honestly confused.