The “b word” has been a staple of hip-hop for decades, although there’s some linguistic shading as far as its use: women that aren’t particularly awesome are called “bitches”; really awesome women are “bad bitches”; respected dignitaries like moms are “ladies” and “females”—unless they’re the mother of a foe, in which case they’re back to being a a “bitch.” (Got it?)
In the last few months, though, a few MCs have begun to question if using such a term is the best way to go about things. Lupe Fiasco’s “Bad Bitch” shook up the hip-hop world with its analysis of negative portrayals of women in the black community; this prompted Kanye West to contemplate his own use of the word on Twitter over the weekend.
This fraught relationship is evident in the six songs listed below: We have collaborations between men and women, the grimiest song about stripper sex, and a track from a few MCs that have catalogues full of music praising women in their lives. There is also a Shyne song.
1. Rihanna feat. A$AP Rocky, “Cockiness (Love It)”
Do you need to be reminded that A$AP Rocky is going to be a household name by this time next year? This remix with Rihanna will remind you. Rocky’s “Goldie” remains one of the best songs of the year, and now he has a song with Rihanna to broaden his fanbase. While he likes to rap to syrupy-slow beats, his double-timed flow is his best approach. If you’re tired of Rihanna’s schtick, you can hear Rocky tear the beat apart then hit “skip.”
2. Lil Wayne feat. Nicki Minaj, “Mercy”
Believe it or not, there was a time—from 2006 to around 2008—when Lil Wayne was the best, most prolific rapper in the world. A jail stint, sobriety, and plain old burnout has led him to drop one disappointing project after another, with Tha Carter IV serving as the cellar of his musical capabilities. While his skill has deteriorated, his protégé has taken his spot as the go-to featured rapper with zany delivery. Here, half a decade after making her debut on a Lil Wayne project, Nicki Minaj returns to absolutely overshadow the release of Dedication 4. She’s not the greatest rapper when asked to carry a song, but Nicki knows how to captivate when given a verse.
3. Mr. Muthafukin eXquire, “Position Of Passion”
Be warned: This video is not safe for work, or even safe to watch while filling out a job application. eXquire is one of the most entertaining acts out, at once a throwback to the gaudiness of Slick Rick and the raunchiness of Akinyele. His latest ode to strippers has him waxing poetic over a beat popularized by 50 Cent. You won’t get any sonnets or heartwarming bars, but “Position of Power” taps into hip-hop’s long history of strip club anthems.
4. Denzil Porter, “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
Denzil Porter deserves way more attention for his ability to compose fleshed-out hits that lodge themselves in your brain like those little bombs that went in Tom Cruise’s head in Mission Impossible: III. “Kanye West,” which he dropped earlier this year, is criminally underrated, and this salute to the best method for settling life’s most troubling disagreements is just as catchy. Even if Porter couldn’t handle the workload of awesome hooks, he would still get respect for making his tales of conquering the fairer sex, which blend comedy with gory detail, seem so easy.
5. Talib Kweli Feat. Black Thought And Ab-Soul, “Congregation”
These three have penned some of my favorite songs for women, but “Congregation” isn’t one of those tracks. Two of rap’s greatest lyricists unite with one of the West Coast’s strongest ambassadors link up to just frop atomic bombs over a J. Rhodes beat. Ab-Soul has been clawing himself out from under Kendrick Lamar’s shadow, and here he arguably steals the show from Black Thought and Talib Kweli. This dream collaboration is the most purely hip-hop song of the week, and Kweli’s whole Attack The Block tape is a thing of beauty.
5.33. Shyne feat. Pusha T, “Meyer Lansky”
Pusha T hasn’t recorded a subpar verse in years. The beat sounds like the opening credits to a shoot-’em-up video game, the perfect canvas for Pusha to take you through the darkest corners of his psyche. But ever since Shyne got out of jail, he’s been on a personal crusade to rap worse than anyone else who has ever held a microphone. Ever. I’d rather hear Clint Eastwood and Invisible Obama on this track, Shyne’s bars are so brutal.