Let’s talk about our bodies. For the first time since the ninth grade, I purchased a bikini. Now I’m not talking about something high-waisted. I’m talking Victoria’s Secret, end of the season, cheeky, itty bitty, bikinis. And the best part? I didn’t cry once when putting it on! I hated going to pool parties or beach days. I would even end up in tears before events that required me to dress up like Prom and Homecoming because I looked bigger than I envisioned myself looking. But, swimsuits particularly have always been grueling, and I usually find myself in my cover-up the whole time. I remember seeing myself in photos in high school after purchasing my first bikini, and I was scarred ever since. It disgusted me to know that that was what I actually looked like versus how I imagined it. But over time, that fear has subsided a bit. Now, this isn’t to say I’ve finally learned to love my body. I’ll be honest. I’m not entirely sure if this is considered body positivity because it took me changing to be happy rather than loving myself for what it was. I lost a bit of weight, and I find myself even more paranoid now than ever that I’ll gain back each pound one by one, and that’s terrifying to me. But I have learned to be a bit more compassionate with myself. It’s okay to enjoy that bag of chips or to indulge in dessert. It’s fine if I don’t have time to work out. Most of the time, it’s because I’m out making memories with my friends anyway, and I think that’s a much more enjoyable use of my time. With that being said, I wanted to make this post about the pressures that women face to fit a certain look. In a world of plastic surgery and Instagram likes, women are expected to look a certain way. As we’re learning to accept all body types, there are still external pressures that negate that and make us feel as though maybe there is still an ideal. One of those external forces is the entertainment industry. Not just seeing different celebrities with their bodies that have been altered and Photoshopped, but also how we talk about women and their bodies in music. In Hip-Hop, songs idolize women with small waists and fat asses. With enough repetition, it’s become the universal standard. But not everyone is built like that. So, how does that impact girls who don’t fit that image?
Growing up, my parents used to always sing Drake’s “Fancy” to me. I can see why. But there was always one line in there that I felt more than the others, although I think I may have interpreted it differently than what was originally intended. In singing his muse’s praise, Drake raps, “hit the gym, step on the scale, stare at the number. You say you droppin’ 10 pounds preparin’ for summer. And you don’t do it for the man, men never notice. You just do it for youself, you the fuckin’ coldest.” I think from his perspective, that’s romantic, and in some sense, it is. It’s nice to do things like getting dressed up and taking care of yourself for the sole purpose of making yourself happy rather than impressing others and worrying about what they think. But from the perspective of the woman, sometimes that motivation isn’t always a positive one. I always saw him telling the girl that she’s the fucking coldest, not to say that she’s dope, but to say that she’s her own harshest critic. Because sometimes you’re staring at the number out of obsession and fixation. While others may admire you for your dedication, the reality of the situation can often be a lot sadder.
Cupcakke approaches this conversation in her song, “Biggie Smalls,” which addresses some of the societal expectations for women. However, she celebrates her own body to show that these feelings can be overcome. She starts the song off by rapping, “Instagram hoes shouldn’t be y’all goals, look past the post, she photoshopped her rolls. Filter so bright she don’t think Black glows. That 30-inch weave is to cover her back rolls.” I always say that I don’t know how younger generations have grown up with the toxicity of Instagram. Frankly, if it weren’t for this blog and my career, I would love to delete my account. I know so many people, myself included, who get so anxious to post to Instagram, simply because they don’t know if their content is on par. Whether it’s because they think it won’t get enough likes, or it doesn’t look like someone professionally photographed it, it’s an app that makes it way too easy to compare yourself to others. And unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine what is real and what’s good angles, lighting, and edits. VIC MENSA actually put his two cents in on this conversation in his track, “You Mad.” I’ll be honest now, I hate this line. It pisses me off. He raps, “she ain’t really bad, she a photo thot. I should hire this bitch, she so damn good at Photoshop.” Trust me, I know plenty of people on Instagram that don’t look like themselves. I look worse on the gram than in real life, so I really couldn’t give a fuck. But why not give some thought as to why a woman would feel that she needs to alter her photos? It’s not something she should be insulted for. If anything, we need to evaluate what makes people feel pressured to do so and condemn that. If celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Beyonce feel the need to edit their pictures, then, can you really blame me, or a young, impressionable girl, for feeling the need to? And if I don’t, then I won’t receive enough likes. And we all know that likes equal validation. And validation equals confidence. But back to “Biggie Smalls,” Cupcakke then continues to rap, “shorty put her finger down her mouth she tryna throw up, so she won’t gain weight from listening to the hate. Can’t give her food for thought, she’ll think her brain gaining weight. Eating disorders, scarier than horrors. She in a buffet and only order a water.” I never suffered from bulimia or anorexia, but I do remember in high school when I would go out to eat and only order salads. Now, I’m the one ordering burgers while my friends do the same, and it makes me sad. I’m sure my friends felt that way for me. Even now, I tend to count out my snacks to make sure it’s one proper serving size (until I smoke a bit of weed and my munchies throw that out the window.) It’s upsetting how easy it is to feel guilty about something as essential as food, but I get it. As someone who loves food but deprived herself of enjoying it for far too long, I understand how much one meal can alter your mood. The conflict that it can stir from within. But I can finally say, enjoy it. Order what you want from the menu. Someone has created it for a reason, and you deserve to relish it.
In E-40’s “Baddest In The Building,” he raps that the woman of his affection has a “pretty face, small waist, big tits, dumb cake.” I could probably write a whole article just on how many times this particular body type has been rapped about. And I get it, that’s the body that I want! But, similar to eyebrows, body types go in and out of fashion. In the 2000s, it was all about being skinny. Looking like a supermodel. That’s not the standard right now. But as a result, it makes people think it’s okay to openly insult other body types without understanding the lasting impacts of those lyrics. For instance, in 21 Savage’s “Red Opps,” he raps that “you can keep the skinny bitch ’cause I like a fat ass and thighs.” Now that doesn’t seem too bad. We’re all entitled to what we like. But then, you have women being condemned for fitting what’s popular, like in Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s “Familiar.” Chance the Rapper claims that a woman is a “cardboard cutout, sharp teeth, smart mouth. Smile big, small waist, big hips, cut paste. Forgive me, but you look familiar.” Wait wait wait! Let’s get this straight. So, you guys want a girl with a big ass and a small waist, correct? But then, if she does have it, she’s a basic bitch? So what happens if you don’t have an ass?! Oh, don’t worry. Toosii weighs in on that too in his track, “In My Eyes.” To perfectly encapsulate the idea that women can’t win, he raps, “hate fake asses but we would trip if it wasn’t cake no more.” And there you have it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you don’t have the ass that makes you what they want, then they don’t want you. But if you decide to go out and get it, they still don’t want you.
I was talking to this one guy who told me that men don’t care if women get fake asses or boobs. To be honest, it shook my world. I was always under the assumption that guys found it unattractive, but it turns out they don’t care? Not that I have a problem with it. I celebrate women doing whatever the fuck they want, although I personally wouldn’t do it. I was more frustrated in this situation because then my guy would be holding me to unrealistic expectations. But this guy couldn’t give a fuck about substance. He follows 3,000 people on IG, and they’re all women who range from fitness models to bottle girls. He was even more focused on my weight loss than I was! When I lost a bit of weight, he asked me to send him pictures of my new body as if I went to Dr. Miami. Whether I’m 20 pounds more or 5 pounds less, this is still my body. I’m still Shaana. And that’s when I realized just how much people focus on the changes that our bodies go through. This story reminds me of Dave East’s “Type of Time.” He raps that his girl “got that waist trainer on her waist, told that bitch go get a tummy tuck.” Can we just take a second to imagine the murder scene that would take place if a man ever said that to me? It makes my blood boil. But frankly, I could see this asshole saying that to me. He liked to make sure I got my workouts in. Those lyrics are extremely frustrating because the waist trainer implies that she’s in the gym doing the work, and he’s still like… Nah. That’s not enough. You’re not enough the way you are. Flatbush Zombies criticize this mindset in their track, “Facts.” They lay out the idea that women only get plastic surgery because their lazy, completely ignoring the possibility of health issues and body types when they rap, “bitches tryna get real love with fake asses, chase assets, mind and your body gotta equal/lazy bitches screaming, ‘where the surgeons at?'” So, we’re held to these unrealistic expectations that may be beyond our bodies’ capabilities, but if we make the alterations, we’re still at fault. Also, for some reason, if women decide to go out and get surgical changes to their bodies, people seem to think that the procedure causes their brains to shrink in size as well. Having implants doesn’t make you a fake person. It also doesn’t make you stupid. It means you got implants. To no surprise, Joe Budden had to put women down for plastic surgery in his song, “Playing Our Part,” which is extremely ironic if you’ve ever seen his dating history on Love and Hip-Hop. He takes on a condescending tone as he raps, “nowadays they all the same, enhanced body parts, smaller brains.” As I said, I’m not exactly the biggest advocate for plastic surgery. But how does that relate to a woman’s IQ? And for someone who wants to talk all this shit, I literally cannot tell Joe Budden’s ex-girlfriends apart. This is hilarious to me. There’s one more song that I HAVE to mention, and that’s Anderson .Paak’s “Silicon Valley.” It’s just the best song to ever be written about fake titties. In the song, Anderson seems to think that he won’t get an authentic and genuine connection with someone who has a boob job as he sings, “all that body that you came with, but where are you mentally?” Anderson, mentally, she’s right there. It would be alarming if she wasn’t. Why can’t a girl have some tig ol’ biddies and still be smart as hell? Look at Mia Khalifa. She’s basically solving all of the world’s foreign affairs right now.
I dated another guy who wasn’t quite as terrible but always took his jokes too far. One time, I was wearing a crop top. He decided to point out my stretch marks on my stomach and ask something along the lines of, “why do you have so many stretch marks, did you get pregnant or something?” I wonder if he understands why I ghosted him. Stretch marks are a beautiful sign of resilience, and I love mine. They’ve symbolized the weight that I’ve lost and gained over the years, and are an accurate representation of my journey to loving my body. And yet, rappers tend to associate them with having children as well, and even use it as an insult to imply that a woman is a hoe or baby momma. In Hopsin’s “Babys Daddy,” he raps out a conversation between a woman and him, asking, “Even though I got stretch marks, would you still be down to get nasty? Hoe, hell no!” I know it’s a bit taken out of context because the woman is trying to have a child with him, but the implication is that stretch marks are nasty and ugly. Similarly, in Tyler, The Creator’s “Blow,” he says, “she’s cute, but her forehead’s big, got stretch marks like she got four kids.” The but implies that she’s cute besides all of her flaws, with one of them being her stretch marks. Also, why do we just keep assuming pregnancy is the only thing to cause stretch marks!! Good lord! RZA’s may be the worst line out of the bunch in his track, “Domestic Violence.” He rhymes, “cellulite and gargoyle feet, I’d rather beat my meat. Turn your fat ass sideways, your stretch marks look like the US highways.” How is cellulite even comparable to an insult like gargoyle feet? I don’t understand the correlation. It makes it sound as if she looks like a damn monster. Also, I thought we were loving fat asses? I thought we were no longer invested in skinny women?
But not everyone is disgusted by stretch marks. Some celebrate the beauty that stretch marks represent, and it always makes for a beautiful ode to our god-given bodies. Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” is an anthem for loving women as they are. His line, “show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks,” made it so that women could wear their stripes with pride rather than shy away from showing them off. Tech N9ne also celebrates cellulite in his song, “Jumpin’ Jax.” He raps, “I like ’em with so many stretch marks like she wearing some corduroy pants.” I’m not gonna lie, it takes a lot of envisioning to put that line together, but I appreciate the sentiment. I guess it kind of makes sense. I just haven’t seen corduroy pants in too long, I suppose. Additionally, Tyga makes it known that his girl puts in work in “Money Mouf.” He exclaims that she “got a natural lil’ thang and she bad as fuck, she gon’ hit the gym, fuck a tummy tuck.” I think that line feels endearing because it’s just real. It’s not super specific and the juxtaposition of natural and tummy conveys the image of such a wide variety of bodies. She could be super buff, she could be average, she could be toned, she could be thick. Either way, she puts in work, and it shows.
With that being said, there are a lot of Hip-Hop songs that celebrate all body types, and it’s refreshing to listen to. Pleasure P and Tyga make it known that just about every girl is their type in the straightforward track, “I Like Girls.” They elaborate on the idea that all women are beautiful when they rap, “I like a thick girl with a big booty, small waist and the face, she a cutie. I like skinny girls with them A cups, long legs with them little bitty butts. Yeah I like a big girl that can cook like my mama.” No one’s ugly here!!! Rapsody and Queen Latifah encourage the female empowerment that all women need in the song “Hatshepsut,” when they rap, “queens come in all shapes and colors, though we sit on thrones we don’t look down on each other.” Yes! We need more of this! There are so many tracks where women uplift themselves by putting others down and that just feeds into the narrative that women must compete rather than co-exist. Your body is natural? Beautiful! You wanted to change a few things about yourself to feel more confident? Totally fine! It’s YOUR temple. Who am I to say what you should do with it? And lastly, we’re gonna wrap it up with some Outkast. “The Way You Move” is the perfect way to embrace body positivity while having fun and dancing. As they’re seducing the women around them, they make sure to include “the big girl. Big girls need love too, no discrimination here, squirrel. So keep your hands off my cheeks, let me study how you ride the beat, you big freak. Skinny-slim women got the cameltoe within them, you can hump them, lift them, bend them. Give them something to remember.” Okay, maybe it’s not the most romantic, but the idea is there and we love it! It’s all about finding beauty in everyone around us.
I try to consciously remind myself not to comment on my friends’ weight, even if it is meant to be praise. Our bodies are just that. They’re ours. They belong to the beholder and no one else, so who are we to make someone feel bad for theirs? They’re sacred and beautiful. They’re not just for losing weight and looking their best and going about the daily motions of life. They do incredible things, and they deserve to be treated as such. Take the time to look in the mirror and find things that you love rather than flaws. Compliment yourself and enjoy the body that you live in.
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Hip-Hop with an Unlikely Perspective