“I put an angel in your ultrasound,” Kanye West brags in one of his verses on “I Won,” a new collaboration with Future that hit the web late last night. ‘Ye quickly follows up that bold claim with a pick-up line that should get some mileage this spring: “I want to dip that ass in gold.” It’s a visceral line, but then again, so is the one that came before: seemingly loving but still sort of problematic, much like “I Won” itself. Future and West spend the song declaring their love and adoration for their fiancées — R&B star Ciara and living brand/legitimate businesswoman Kim Kardashian — by referring to them as trophies they won.
Future has built his reputation on being #honest (not honest), so much so that he gave his album, out later this month (April 22), that name. It’s his special sauce: not quite as sad and searching-for-answers-in-sexts as Drake, about as romantic as Ja Rule in his J.Lo duets but far edgier, with a touch of Southern rap gentleman tossed in.
To the public, Future’s rep benefits from his public relationship with Ciara, who is pregnant with their child and by all accounts has seen more success in her ten-year career as an R&B innovator than Future has in his brief albeit exciting tenure. Despite Ciara’s fame eclipsing Future’s, he’s never exhibited insecurity over this — only love (as heard on his “Real and True” and their “Anytime”) and support (as heard on her “Body Party”). They’re a true partnership, a modern super-couple reigning over the Atlanta hip hop scene. But all of that is undercut by Future’s characterization of Ciara as his trophy wife. She’s better than that, even if Future meant it in a complimentary way, because of all that the term “trophy wife” means in modern society. It’s the stuff of Real Housewives, not “I believe in you” and “when I’m with you, I feel like a champion” — two beautiful sentiments Future expresses in “I Won.”
As for Kanye’s involvement, it seems a bit hypocritical that he gets to break his own rules after demanding Kim be taken seriously, particularly in the fashion world. Does he not see how referring to his wife-to-be and the mother of his child as a prize would reaffirm her status as one of hip hop’s most coveted women?
“I just want to take you out and show you off,” as they sing, can mean, “I’m proud of you and I want the world to know.” But in the context of hip hop — a culture where, in the most basic summation, the casual objectification of women is still socially acceptable — it could be perceived more along status lines. Like, “I snagged a girl this hot, that’s how good I am.” We code a song like “I Won” as sweet instead of problematic from a gender perspective because it’s the lesser of evils in rap. Look, two successful rappers settling down and starting families with career women. It’s part of why Jay Z is no longer vilified for his past. Not using the word “bitch” does not give rappers a free pass.