It’s no secret that Kanye West is more than acquainted with the use of profanity in his music; his discography is a warzone of f-bombs, swarming with the sort of language that would make your grandma’s ears bleed. So when he embarked on a bizarre philosophising session via Twitter earlier this month, it provoked a collective double take from cyberspace – why was Kanye West – the man behind well-known feminist anthems such as That’s My Bitch and Perfect Bitch (his heartfelt take on the traditional love song – seriously, Kim, he’s a keeper) – suddenly questioning the use of swearing, and more specifically the word ‘bitch’, in music? This baffling and unprecedented contradiction of every single song he has ever released seemed quite simply, as Kanye himself might put it, ‘cray’.
One explanation for Kanye’s sudden change of heart could be, of course, that he has realised the error of his ways; Kim Kardashian has taught him the principles of gender equality and Kanye has found himself enlightened into a newfound respect for women. However, it would be foolish to disregard a similarly themed rant by a certain Jay-Z, who vowed to calm down on the bitch-calling following the arrival of his daughter, Blue Ivy, earlier in the year. Pair this with Kanye’s flourishing relationship with what can only be described in this context as not quite Beyonce, and it begins to look like Kanye is just trying to mark his territory in the hip-hop playground.
Of course, there will always be women, and even men, who deem the use of such language as deeply offensive. But Kanye himself said that he uses the word as a term of ‘endearment’, and for the majority, isn’t it a word used with such frequency that any offensive meaning it once held has been diminished? Someone who would probably be quick to reassure Kanye that he has no need to ‘struggle’ with this issue is Azealia Banks. The Harlem-based female rapper catapulted to international recognition, slots at some of the UK’s biggest festivals, and a headline gig at New York Fashion Week off the back of her outrageous debut single, 212, a song overflowing with so many profanities it’s a miracle there’s any words in the radio edit at all.
And Azealia is just the latest in a long line of female artists completely comfortable with the use of the word ‘bitch’ synonymously with the word ‘woman’. Take Gaga, for example, who will always be a ‘free bitch, baby’, whilst Rihanna had no problem being ‘that bitch’ for David Guetta. It would seem that the girls have taken the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach; after all, if you don’t acknowledge that the word could be derogatory, then there’s no way that it can be. And with Azealia Banks tweeting that she actually ‘wants to be the new Kanye West’, it would be fair to say he is perhaps is a bit late to the party on the debate of gender equality in music.