Could Be Talking About Me: Why Trap Queen is Different
At parties, it’s always fun to watch the guys crowd around and rap along to Niggas in Paris (for example). For those three minutes they get to be Kanye or Jay-Z, or at least someone vaguely similar. You get the sense that the music is made for them in that moment. Sometimes the girls will join in - I wanna be Kanye too, who doesn’t? But to do so, we might feel like we have to remove our gender - our selves - from the fun. For those few minutes, we have to place ourselves in the rapper’s position. And that often requires denigrating other, usually black, women - telling some anonymous, imaginary girl that she needs to “crawl 'fore you ball.” The other option - putting ourselves in her position - holds little appeal. We can never fully enjoy the experience because in the back of our heads we’re battling some amount of dissonance. Chris Rock addressed it in an amusing bit - when a woman’s questioned on the particularly vulgar song she’s dancing to, she replies confidently, “he ain’t talking about me!” And that’s generally the attitude we have to take, in so many words. The only thing he gets wrong, by the way, is the nonchalance - we do care, we just have to ignore.
And so, it’s important for women to have music they can actually, comfortably, place themselves into. That’s why we love Beyoncé. But Beyoncé, Rihanna, and all of the Pop/R&B divas, they’re not enough. Some of us prefer booming bass and clever rhymes. A lot of us love hip hop, and yet to love hip hop we sometimes feel we must shed our womanhood, at least for a moment, sometimes longer. Our appreciation of a rap song often requires that we can’t and don’t put ourselves in the place of the bitch, ho, side chick. We therefore find ourselves relating to the man in the song, a man who does not relate to us, who at worst sees us objects, and at best as a distracting temptation. The hip hop artists who do let us retain our selves in their songs - Drake has built a career on this, Nicki, of course - we latch onto them and don’t let go, even if they’re far from perfect.
And that’s where Trap Queen comes in, why it has had such a hold on many of us, why it’s the song me and my girlfriends crowd together and rap along to (as the guys largely fall back), why it’s probably the song of the summer, or at least my summer. We can rather effortlessly identify ourselves as Trap Queens, even if we're never going to set foot in the trap. Though I might still be putting on a persona for those four minutes, I’m not losing myself. And, though some might disagree, Trap Queen is a love song. It’s not one we’re used to, it’s not pretty around the edges. But drug dealers love girls and have girls who love them back, as much as we might want to deny them that little bit of humanity. And Fetty Wap loves his Trap Queen, he wants to share his work and his leisure with her. He buys things for her but also shows her how to make money for herself. And in doing so he chooses to elevate her, at least somewhat, from what the usual rapper allows for the women in his songs. Now, of course, this isn’t uncomplicated - Fetty Wap isn't rap’s new feminist prophet. But at least she’s his queen and not his bitch, and maybe, unfortunately, that’s more than we can expect most of the time. (And she seems to be the only woman who’s his queen, no side chicks in sight, which these days is also an accomplishment.) And of course, the last few lines of the song ruin the pretty picture. But for the moment she’s really his queen and they’re riding around together and getting high and going to the mall. And pretty much every girl can put herself in that position and feel good - maybe for the moment, he could be talking about me.
Nafisa Eltahir graduated from Harvard in 2015 with a degree in Sociology. She is always ready to give a detailed defense of Kanye West, and very much believes in the need to take rap, rappers, and black art in general, seriously. She's an appreciator of many things deemed "ratchet", and very much a child of the 2000s who thinks we need to spend more time appreciating the now. Follow her @nafufa.