Kanye West’s garbage-spewing deluge of PR tweets continued overnight and into the early morning, when he decided to defend calling Taylor Swift a “bitch” on his upcoming The Life of Pablo album. Among other arguments — including the claim that he ran the lyrics by both his wife and Taylor Swift — Kanye made the following assertion regarding the word “bitch” as it’s typically used in hip-hop.
It would be unrealistic to analyze the entire hip-hop lexicon in one morning, but we can start with taking a look at how Kanye, himself, has said “bitch” on his studio albums. We can also listen to preachy-but-on-point Lupe Fiasco’s comment on the matter, while we take a look at Kanye’s discography.
On his first three studio albums, The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), and Graduation (2007), Kanye almost never uses the term “bitch,” opting instead to say “girl.” Whether he’s rapping about a woman he wants to have sex with, or referring to a group of women as a waste of his time, the term used is always “girl.” In one particular instance on Dropout, Kanye raps, “Bend over, bitch, I’m here for a reason,” which is more about threatening violence to everybody, rather than insulting women specifically, but somehow he manages to do both.
On “Roses”, on Late Registration, Kanye reserves the term “bitch” for a careless nurse who keeps ignoring his questions about his grandmother’s health. In “Bring Me Down,” he says “hater n*ggas marry hater bitches and have hater kids,” specifying that bitches are the women who ally themselves with his male enemies.
It’s also rare, during these first three albums, for Kanye to describe women at all; this omission helped him stand apart from other popular rappers in the mid-2000s, and it also fueled rumors about his sexuality.
Notably, Donald Glover mentioned Kanye’s early public character in his 2010 standup set, in which he likened Kanye’s “black nerd” persona to Barack Obama’s. Rather than rap about “bitches,” Glover noted, Kanye was more likely to write songs about “robots and teddy bears.”
In a rare use of the word “bitch” on Graduation, Kanye raps, “And you can get buried, suck my bat bitch,” using the term as it is arguably most popular in-hip hop: as a demeaning insult with a misogynistic flair. He also uses “bitch” in this manner in “The Glory” (“That’s Louis Vuitton, bitch”) and Japanese bonus track “Bittersweet Poetry” (“She said, ‘Motherfucker, your momma’s a bitch’”).
On his 2008 experimental album 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye used the word bitch a grand total of one time, on “RoboCop.” When the female character he’s been rapping about denies him sex, he says “Bitch, I’m cold … I / Ain’t used to being told … stop.” It’s also notable that 808s was the album on which Kanye was most likely to use a “term of endearment,” as it remains his most sentimental project.
So when did Kanye get really angry about bitches? My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) saw a huge uptick in Kanye’s use of the word “bitch” and his description of women in his music. Kanye’s fifth album was more lyrical, more musically complex, and much, much more sexist. On “So Appalled”, Kanye raps lyrics that would have seemed out of character in the mid-2000s, including “champagne wishes / 30 white bitches,” “I never met a bitch that didn’t need a little guidance,” and Cyhi the Prynce’s “I keep bitches by the twos, n*gga / Noah’s Ark.”
Still, Twisted Fantasy had a ton of subtext on the nature of performance and truth, and on several tracks Kanye sounded self-loathing and disassociated from his own rapper persona, citing a masculine lack of control regarding his use of the word “bitch.” On Runaway, he says:
“She find pictures in my email / I sent this bitch a picture of my dick / I don’t know what it is with females, but I’m not too good with that shit / See, I could have me a good girl / And still be addicted to them hood rats / And I just blame everything on you / At least you know that’s what I’m good at.”
Although Kanye’s use of the word “bitch” in “Runaway* is certainly more complicated than the average rapper’s, he’s still trying to pull apart what makes him want to use the term at all. He doesn’t try to argue that “bitch” is a term of endearment, but tries to separate “bitches” from “good girls” by calling them hood rats. It’s implied, through visual rhetoric that the (notably all white) ballerinas around Kanye are “good girls.”
Dark Fantasy also marked the first time Kanye began referring to his own girlfriend, whom he distrusts and resents, as his “bitch.” On “Monster,” he says, “Arguing with my older bitch / Acting like I owe her shit,” and in “Devil in a New Dress,” featured artist Rick Ross raps, “Lookin’ at my bitch, I bet she give your ass a bone.” In his song about the decay of a relationship, “Blame Game,” Kanye (through John Legend) tells the difficult-girlfriend character, “I’ll call you bitch for short”.
Overall, Kanye uses “bitch” in a lazy, misogynistic way on Yeezus. He also, for the first time, begins saying “this bitch” in reference to a location. In “On Sight,” he says, “We get this bitch shaking like Parkinson’s.” On “I Am a God,” he says “Monop’ in this bitch again, changed the climate / Hop in this bitch again,” and in “Black Skinhead” he uses “bitch” as an expletive or a non-gendered insult.
In “Bound 2,” Kanye uses bitch the way he did in “Runaway,” specifying that Kim Kardashian West, his wife, is a “good girl,” and is thus worth “a thousand bitches.” He later, in reference to asking Kim for a threesome, says, “Have you ever asked your bitch for other bitches?” When she’s a sex object, Kim is a bitch. When she’s standing next to him, she’s a “good girl.”
On his new album, The Life of Pablo, Kanye is at his laziest regarding the word “bitch,” using it the way rappers like Ludacris and Lil Jon did in 2006. He raps, “bitch n*gga pull up ya panties,” “big booty bitch for you,” “you’re my freak dreams, bad bitch,” and “it’s corny bitches you wish you could unfollow.” Yes, he calls Taylor Swift a bitch whom he “might still” fuck, but he also raps the following line regarding his wife, Kim:
“I bet me and Ray J would be friends, if we ain’t love the same bitch. Yeah, he might have hit it first, only problem is I’m rich.”
We may never be sure exactly how Kanye regards the women in his life, but it’s clear that he has never, not even once, used “bitch” as an “endearing term” in his music. Kanye’s use of the word “bitch” has absolutely evolved over time, but it’s never been that.