Six months ago, Future was on the top of the world: a son on the way with fiancée Ciara, sophomore album Honest garnering critical praise, and a new song with Kanye in which he brags about both. “I Won (Trophy)” positioned Ciara and Mrs. West herself, Kim Kardashian, as trophy wives to be shown off for their physical assets, rather than their numerous professional or personal accomplishments. It was gross, though the fuckboys I saw praising it on Twitter didn’t seem to think so. Flash forward to last week, when Future emerged with an even grosser ode to female anatomy, “Pussy Overrated.”
On the surface, the new song is about groupies, but in the context of Future’s personal life over the last few months, it seems like a pointed Ciara subtweet, following their split in August. To make matters worse, the Atlanta rapper teamed up with Wiz Khalifa, who recently went through a public breakup with Amber Rose, his wife and the mother of his newborn son. Revenge is best served by those who were wronged, and in the case of Future and Wiz, the Mike WiLL Made-It-produced diss track was a head-scratcher (the reliably impartial Entertainment Weekly called them “petulant man-babies”… in the headline). Only the parties involved can comment on the validity of the infidelity rumors that surround both Wiz and Future, but #honest or not, teaming up with a guy accused of the same questionable behavior as yourself, for a song called “Pussy Overrated,” is the opposite of a good look. If Wiz and Future didn’t know better, how did someone in their respective camps not? (If you must listen to “Pussy Overrated,” it’s below.)
But Future and Wiz weren’t the only music stars who made themselves look like misogynistic assholes last week. It was full of them, actually. There was a stench of men shitting on prominent women in order to generate publicity for themselves. Last week, the mainstream music industry did not feel like a safe space for women. I found myself questioning what year we were in, and if perhaps all this talk of Beyoncé feminism and self-love on the charts was nothing more than a money-making trend to the music industry forces that be.
Apart from Future and Wiz, there was Snoop Dogg lashing out at Iggy Azalea on Instagram over relevant issues of gender and beauty, race and hip-hop authenticity with — of all things — a White Chicks joke. When Snoop brought the C-word into the conversation (with a now-deleted Instagram video in which he insults her appearance and accuses her of using ghostwriters), the tides turned distinctly sexist. Azalea commented on the feud’s gendered dynamic, writing on Twitter: “Women are supposed to sit back and let men shit on them. If we question it, we are ’emotional’, ‘butt hurt’, or just a BITCH. Nothing new tho.” In the end, Snoop did not back off until Azalea’s male mentor, T.I., told him to sit down. Furthermore, Snoop directed his video apology towards T.I. in his Instagram caption, as if T.I. is Azalea’s keeper; a “Control Your Bitches” subtweet Insta from Friday seems to suggest as much.
Meanwhile, Ariel Pink — of Haunted Graffiti and “I-was-maced-by-a-feminist” fame — popped up again last week, claiming that Madonna wanted to work with him, but he turned her down. Pink’s comments, which also made nasty reference to Madonna’s artistic decline (and, surprise surprise, were confirmed by her manager as untrue), represented a Venn Diagram of rockism, ageism, and sexism. “Interscope are calling me to help write Madonna’s record,” he told FasterLouder. “They need something edgy. They need songwriting. She can’t just have her Avicii, her producers or whatever, come up with a new techno jam for her to gyrate to and pretend that she’s 20 years old. They actually need songs. I’m partly responsible for that return-to-values thing.”
(On top of all this, there were the horrifying legal charges of rape and emotional warfare Kesha brought against her longtime mentor, arguably the music industry’s most powerful producer and songwriter, Dr. Luke. The validity of these highly specific claims has been fiercely debated in such a short amount of time, with Luke countersuing for defamation, claiming that Kesha’s civil suit is part of a so-called extortion effort that would subsequently release her from multiple recording and songwriting contracts with him and his business ventures. It’s all too much to even make sense of at this time, and certainly transcends the mere online shit-talking outlined above. But it’s sad and disturbing any way you slice it, in part because — as one industry insider told Billboard — “It’s not good for Kesha,” business-wise. I have chills thinking about the inherent victim-shaming that would make that statement true.)
Overall, it was a very bad, no-good week that delivered blow after blow to those of us who had looked to the Hot 100’s recent string of empowered, female-driven No. 1 hits as more than mere coincidence. “For the first time in the 56-year history of the Billboard Hot 100, solo female artists have occupied the top five positions on the chart for six consecutive weeks,” a recent Billboard analysis by industry vet Melinda Newman declares. Throughout the piece, male industry executives sound off on the “uptempo, assertive nature” of recent female hits from Taylor Swift (“Shake It Off”), Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass”), and various girl-gangs including Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande (“Bang Bang”). “When this happens en masse, it’s not just a song or two. There’s something going on culturally,” said one such exec, Universal Music Publishing Group’s North American president Evan Lamberg, who added that these hits “reflect today’s culture of women being more outwardly confident and more self-empowering.”
I’m left to wonder if any of the recent verbal abuse lodged at Ciara, Madonna and, in particular, Iggy has correlation to the immense success seen by female solo stars in the industry this past year. Allow me to take a minute to remind you that Ciara is, by commercial standards, far more successful than her ex-beau. Future’s never had one Top 10 single, let alone five. On top of that, he’s got something of a PR problem on his hands, thanks to his cheating allegations. It’s not even a fair fight to compare Ariel Pink’s meager commercial success with the body of hits amassed by Madonna. They’re just trying to do completely different things, but is there any reason — besides entitlement —for him to feel the need to flippantly judge her artistic merits and her age (this is more about her age) in a public space? And as Iggy pointed out in her level-headed (though since-deleted) questioning of Snoop’s motives, “Why would you post such a mean pic on Insta when you send your bodyguards to ask me for pictures every time we are at shows together?” Why hate when you’re clearly a fan who’s been “nice as hell” to Azalea in the past? Why cut down those who have power?
It’s easy to pick on those who are winning. In a broader sense, that’s what these situations with Iggy, Ciara, and Madonna are about — and also about male artists using unbidden criticism of female artists as a way to generate cheap publicity for themselves. Does that mean women should be immune from public criticism? Absolutely not. But to be so thoroughly disrespected on the basis of their appearance, their age, their credibility, and — I can’t believe I actually have to type this — their vagina in the year 2014 is absurd. We’re better than this. The female empowerment anthems all say so.