Unpacking The Online Noise Around Cardi B And Megan Thee Stallion's 'WAP' NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with cultural critic Taylor Crumpton about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's new song, "WAP," which celebrates women's sexual pleasure.

Hip-Hop That Made The Grown-Ups Uncomfortable: The 'Controversy' Around 'WAP'

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to spend some time now talking about a piece of music so monumental The New York Times called it an event record that transcends the event itself. I'm talking about a song and video that have broken streaming records. It is so explicitly sexual we can't even tell you what the name W-A-P, "WAP," stands for.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAP")

CARDI B: (Singing) I'm talking WAP, WAP, WAP. That's some wet - that's some wet. Macaroni in a pot. That's some wet - that's some wet, huh.

SHAPIRO: This is the cleaned-up radio version of a collaboration between two of the biggest rappers in the business, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. The track is a vivid celebration of women's sexual pleasure, and the reaction to it has been so huge we had to bring in cultural critic Taylor Crumpton to talk with us about it. Hey, Taylor.

TAYLOR CRUMPTON, BYLINE: Hey, y'all.

SHAPIRO: It feels like this track is a perfect convergence of a lot of ingredients that make a monster hit. First, you got the artists - Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.

CRUMPTON: So Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B are two of the world's most-known rappers, right? They are cultural ambassadors of this genre that is visible to the whole entire world because it is an authentically Black genre. And we have these women who are leading the genre into this new era of unification between women rappers, of innovation through the selecting of a Baltimore club record and to making a iconic song already about women, sexuality and empowerment, as the genre is being called out for its long-held beliefs of misogynistic values.

SHAPIRO: You mentioned this Baltimore club record. That is this loop that we hear sampled throughout the whole track, beginning to end.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAP")

AL MCLARAN: (Singing) There's some [expletive] in this house. There's some [expletive] in this house. There's some [expletive] in this house.

SHAPIRO: And then the lyrics of the song - it's not just explicitly sexual; it is, like, all about women's enjoyment. It does not seem to care about the man's pleasure at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAP")

MEGAN THEE STALLION: (Singing) Your honor, I'm a freak - handcuffs, leashes. Switch my wig, make him feel like he cheating. Put him on his knees, give him something to believe in. Never lost a fight, but I'm looking for a beating.

CRUMPTON: Meg Thee Stallion and Cardi B are so iconic in this sense because we're doing this gender-flip where, in lieu of rappers talking about how they're being pleasured by all of these various women, we're hearing these women rappers saying, we are women rappers, and if you need to come, you know, step to me, you have to be able to fill my sexual needs, and these are what they are.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAP")

CARDI B: (Singing) I want you to park that big Mack truck right in this little garage. Make me dream...

SHAPIRO: The reaction to this and then the counterreaction that I've seen is, like, oh, it's kind of reassuring to know that hip-hop can still make the grown-ups uncomfortable. I think that puritanical strain was perhaps best captured by the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro - no relation - who read some of the song lyrics in a clip that went viral.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN SHAPIRO: Beat it up, N-word. Catch a charge. Extra large and extra hard. Put this P-word right in your face. Swipe your nose like a credit card.

SHAPIRO: Taylor, is this one of those situations where there's no such thing as bad publicity, like the outrage has actually given the artists a boost?

CRUMPTON: With Cardi B and Megan, there's this element of misogynoir because they are Black women, and we're seeing yet again this kind of historical cycle where this cis-gender heterosexual white man is getting clicks, which will accumulate to revenue to his site, for making a mockery of Black women's sexuality. It's not even press; it's that it's, in fact, a mockery and a violence because he's dehumanizing Megan and Cardi, who have already been subjugated to this for the remainder of their career.

SHAPIRO: You know, one question that we haven't answered yet is, is it a good track? Like, apart from the cultural critique, do you like the song?

CRUMPTON: It's a song that we need while we're in the house, right? We need to have...

SHAPIRO: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUMPTON: We need to have some resilience of a club while we're, like, confined in our apartment. I'm in a little studio in Oakland.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAP")

CARDI B: (Singing) From the top, make it drop. That's some wet - that's some wet. Now get a bucket and a mop. That's some wet - that's some wet.

CRUMPTON: Maybe this is time for y'all to be some blanks in the house.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

CRUMPTON: And Megan and Cardi are just giving you the co-sign to be a blank in the house, you know? (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Good way to kick off the weekend. Cultural critic Taylor Crumpton, thank you so much for joining us.

CRUMPTON: Thank y'all so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: She's talking with us about the new Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion track "WAP."

(SOUNDBITE OF CARDI B AND MEGAN THEE STALLION SONG, "WAP")

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