Li’l Wayne and the new politics of cunnilingus in hip hop

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A SYTYCB entry

When I was growing up, I remember receiving strong messages from hip hop that black men do not, for any reason, eat pussy.  One of the most famous examples has to be “Can I Eat It?” (1995) by DJ Quik.  Over a funk-laden sample of One Way’s “Don’t Fight the Feeling,” Quik declares, “You can keep that salmon sandwich to yourself!”  The chorus, heavily auto-tuned in the vein of Roger Troutman, more pointedly instructs, “Don’t eat eat the cooch!  Don’t eat the coochie!”  Well, okay, then.  Duly noted.

To be clear, DJ Quik is far from being the only rapper to declare a disdain for eating pussy.  On “I Need to Be” (1997), Mase raps, “And I never eat pussy, ‘cause I’m too stubborn in my ways.”  On “Freek-A-Leek” (2004), Petey Pablo raps, “And [she] love to get her pussy licked…by another bitch, ‘cause I ain’t drunk enough to that.”  More recently, on “Royal Flush” (2009) J. Cole raps, “So that must mean you want a nigga to eat that seafood.  Baby, don’t be foolish, but call her.  I’ll watch her do it.”

It’s not a surprise, then, that a lot of women were jumping for joy when Li’l Kim burst on the scene with “Not Tonight” (1996), on which she and a chorus of women sing, “I don’t want dick tonight!  Eat my pussy right!”  In 2001, Foxy Brown gets help from Kelis on “Candy” when she raps, “Let me know when you ready to eat!”  A year later, on “Work It,” Missy Elliott raps, “Go downtown, eat it like a vulture.”  In 2006, Khia also rocked the hip hop world when she released “My Neck, My Back,” rapping, “Lick my pussy and my crack!”  As you can see, female rappers have been outright rejecting the “don’t eat pussy” narrative in hip hop for some time.

The anti-cunnilingus stance in hip hop can most definitely be attributed to heterosexual black male politics.  In short, black men who claim they don’t eat pussy do so because it’s not “manly” to do anything sexual that is not pleasurable for the man, even though you know that’s not true if you’re a grown up.  This is why a lot of mainstream male rappers are lyrically all about getting their dick sucked, running trains, participating in threesomes or various other kinds of sexual orgies, and so on.  For those guys, it’s all about busting a nut, not making sure the woman they’re fucking gets hers.  You might be tempted to counter that these politics are not exclusive to black communities or even hip hop.  Well, you’d be right, but these issues do manifest themselves uniquely in black communities for several reasons.  For brevity’s sake, I’ll just suggest that you read up on the Buck and Jezebel stereotypes for more context.

So, what does this have to do with Li’l Wayne?  Intellectuals—academic or otherwise—have too easily dismissed Li’l Wayne as problematic along many lines.  We’ve heard and/or read it all before.  He’s an admitted drug addict.  He’s said terrible things about dark-skinned black women.  He arguably does not have any talent, even though it’s also been claimed that he doesn’t even write his own raps.  He’s a misogynist, sexist.  There’s enough of this floating in the air that I won’t spend a lot of time detailing those arguments here.  I’m more interested in nuancing existing conversations about Li’l Wayne, becausesomeone needs to recognize the fact that Tunechi has recently, in some ways, begun to redefine hip hop masculinity by taking a stance that is extremely pro-cunnilingus.

Let me give you some examples that are sure to have you clutching your pearls. On “Upgrade” (2007), he raps “Let me just taste you.  We can fuck later.”  On “Time for Us to Fuck” (2007), he raps, “I’m on a strict diet.  I can only eat you.” On “Pussy Monster” (2007), he raps, “When I lift my top lip, I could still smell you.  When I swallow my spit, I could still taste you.  Put that pussy in my face every time I face you.”  On the “Lollipop” remix (2008), he raps, “That pussy in my mouth had me loss for words.”  On “Mr. Carter” (2008), he raps, “I suck a pussy, fuck a pussy, leave it there.  Long hair don’t even care.”  On “She Will” (2011), he raps, “I like my girl thick, not just kind of fine.  Eat her ‘til she cry.  Call that wine and dine.”  On “So Special” (2011), he raps, “Just sit on my grill. That’s that tailgate for ya.”  I’m wiping the sweat beads from my forehead as I type.

Let me simmer down so I can get back to the point.  To be fair, not all male rappers before or after Wayne have been unequivocally anti-cunnilingus.  On “If You Believe in Having Sex” (1989), 2 Live Crew chants, “All hoes suck dick!  All niggas eat pussy!”  On “Put It in Your Mouth” (1996), Akinyele features Crystal Johnson singing, “You can just eat me out!”  On “I’m Not a Player” (1998), Big Pun raps, “’Scuse me for being blunt, but I been eatin’ cunts since pimps was pushin’ Caddies with the fish tank pumps.”  On “What Means the World to You?” (2000), Cam’Ron features Keema rapping, “Sex is sweet with a cat who eat!”  On “Eat Pussy” (2007), N.O.R.E. raps, “I eat the pussy.  I’m a man about it.”  On “Prostitute” (2008), Juelz Santana raps, alongside Li’l Wayne, “I’ll eat that pussy up like a plate of food, and baby you make me wanna lick my fingers after.”

So what’s different about Wayne?  Well, eating pussy has become like a calling card for him, part of his signature style.  If you listen to an entire Li’l Wayne album released in the past 5 years, official or mixtape, you will hear references to eating pussy at least 5 times, probably more.  If not, I’d be willing to give you at least some of my next paycheck.  Some.  I still got bills, you know.

To be serious for a minute, though, the raps in which we can find these lines from Wayne are still chock full of traditional hip hop masculinity.  Even the pussy-eating lines are, a lot of times, linked to hypermasculine bravado, braggadocio, and ego. For example, on “Ain’t I?” (2008), he raps, “But I don’t pizza.  I eat pussy when he wouldn’t.”  Here, the woman’s pleasure is still tied up in competition between men—I eat her pussy when you won’t, and I do it better than you.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of mutual satisfaction going on in Li’l Wayne raps that we’d be remiss to ignore.  On “My Birthday” (2011), he raps, “I gotta wipe my diamond grill with a tissue.  I talk too much shit.  I eat pussy, and you suck dick.”  On the “Lollipop” remix, he also raps, “The middle of the bed…givin’, gettin’ head.”  On “Wayne on Me” (2009), he raps, “She kiss me mine.  I kiss hers back.  If she a bad bitch, she deserve that.”  Now, yes, there’s that whole thing about what kind of woman does and doesn’t deserve to “get head” from Wayne—again with the policing of women’s sexuality.  Still, it’s especially interesting that, at least for Li’l Wayne, it’s no longer just about having the biggest dick or best stroke.  It’s also about being able to serve your woman up with fierce tongue action.  Huh?  Tell me that’s not different.

So, what do we do now?  I’m not asking that we slap a feminist label on Li’l Wayne, even if we only slap it on his willingness to pleasure a woman sexually. Throwing around the feminist label is not the best use of my intellectual time and energy—at least not right now.  However, recognizing the ways in which Li’l Wayne challenges hegemonic black masculinity is just as important as thrashing his ass when he subscribes to and reinforces those very ideals.  And don’t come for me with that, “It’s just sex!” line.  Patricia Hill Collins already schooled us on the importance of examining, challenging, and revising black sexual politics. Along those lines, Li’l Wayne is openly calling out his hip hop brothers out on their sexual immaturity.  Eating pussy may not be for every brother, but if that’s the case only because you think it makes you less of man, you need to grow up and take a cue from the President of YMCMB.

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