What to do about ‘WAP’

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion dropped the biggest song of the summer, and in a COVID season devoid of blockbuster movie releases, the song doubled as a horror flick for every dad with a daughter.

“WAP” is the name, an acronym for … well, let’s just say the song is about women feeling good about sex and letting everybody know.

Even as someone who is old enough to remember 2 Live Crew being censored for “Nasty As They Wanna Be,” Ice-T being threatened for “Cop Killa,” and the entire gangsta rap genre being slammed by politicians and parents alike, I was not expecting the backlash Cardi and Meg would get for “WAP.”

What struck me right away was the utter and blatant hypocrisy.

We live in a world where male rappers drop songs every day talking about sex in the most raunchy, inappropriate ways you can imagine. In the post-2 Live Crew era, do any of those songs cause an uproar?

It’s not just rap, either. R&B lost a lot of its lyrical subtlety years ago, to where today the male singers can be just as vulgar as male rappers. And again, nobody seems bothered by their material.

But “WAP” comes out and everyone loses their minds, bemoaning this harmless Friday night banger as the downfall of the Black woman and an embarrassment for the hip-hop community.

This song is being accused of teaching young girls how to be prostitutes. It’s being accused of setting women back decades. It’s being accused of exploiting Black bodies. It’s being accused of symbolizing all that is wrong with Black women and Black families and Black music.

(I saw some Twitter twit even try to argue that the song title is racist toward Italians and compared it to a White artist dropping a song called “NIGGER.” Apparently they didn’t realize that “WAP” isn’t spelled like the similar-sounding racial slur. I suspect this White person just really wanted to say the n-word and get away with it. Anyway…)

Never mind that we’ve heard this kind of song before, many times over, from the likes of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown and Trina. That was about 20 years ago. Lil Kim is actually old enough to be Cardi B’s mother. And musically, that’s pretty much what she is.

So the #WAPaintnew hashtag is 100 percent true. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before from female rappers and singers, and it’s nothing we don’t constantly hear today from male rappers and singers.

That said, I understand a parent’s consternation over this song.

My kids are only two months old, so I have a lot of time before I need to worry about what kind of music they listen to. And I have two boys, who will have different challenges to face when digesting media compared to the challenges girls face.

When the time comes that my boys can understand the words coming out of the speaker, I hope to get the same message across to them that my father got across to me: It’s just entertainment.

Music is not always a teaching tool. I grew up listening to Too Short, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and all kinds of stuff that wasn’t meant for ears so young. Their music didn’t teach me how to be a pimp, a gang member or a drug dealer — even though I can still recite every word to Ice Cube’s “Summer Vacation,” which could be an instruction booklet on criminal activity.

Listening to that music, I never felt compelled to try any of the illegal or immoral things those artists were rapping about. I mean, I listened to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album more times than I can count, and I’ve still never smoked weed in my life.

Even as an impressionable kid, I looked at rappers the same way I looked at pro wrestlers.

I knew that Todd Shaw was a man playing a pimp character on record that he called Too Short; just like Mark Callaway was a man playing a zombie character in the WWF that he called The Undertaker. Just like Steve Austin’s Stone Cold Stunner didn’t really knock anyone out, Snoop’s drive-by shootings he bragged about in a song didn’t really happen.

Rap albums didn’t come with the same “Please Don’t Try This At Home” disclaimer that preceded pro wrestling shows, but I didn’t need them to.

For that knowledge and awareness, I can thank my dad.

He was the one playing the gangsta rap in his car as he drove around with me in the passenger seat. (It was a different time, but that’s another story.) He didn’t censor anything that me or my sister listened to, and we both grew into perfectly well-adjusted adults with college degrees and families of our own, with no criminal records or teen pregnancies.

I understand why parents won’t want their children of a certain age to listen to a song like “WAP.”

I understand why parents worry about their children repeating what they hear — or worse, mimicking the acts they hear about — in a song like “WAP.”

But let’s all calm down, people. If you do a decent job of parenting your children, they can listen to “WAP” and it won’t lead to them becoming the characters that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion play in the video. Just talk to them about what they’re hearing like a reasonable person.

And give the kids some credit, too. You’ve probably been letting them watch The Avengers and Justice League — because our society seems way more concerned with shielding kids from sex than shielding them from violence — but they’re not trying to fly off buildings or lift up trucks like Wonder Woman.

They’re more likely going to repeat and mimic would you do in real life, because as their parents, you are the character they view as a role model.

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