“Don’t act like you forgot / I call the shots, shots, shots,” she sings on “Bitch Better Have My Money.” Amid throaty snarls, Rihanna flashes the spoils of her fame; she sounds confident, assertive, and undeniably powerful, the inheritor of a legacy built by black female artists who make carefree magic in the margins of society and the music industry alike. She is the waist-whinin’, finger-flippin’ daughter of Kelis, Erykah Badu, Trina, and so many other black women who take no bullshit as they insist on taking up space. Kelis pioneered some of the illest Weird Black Girl aesthetics for which the aughts were famed, and taught us all “Bossy” doesn’t have to be a bad word (sorry, Sheryl Sandberg). Erykah Badu is too ethereal to be pinned down. Trina is, was, and always will be Da Baddest Bitch. What unites these trill-ass black women across time and genre is the insistence on staying in — and dominating— their own lanes, with the confidence to disregard anyone who questions their place in the driver’s seat (or how much fun they’re having with the music blaring through their speakers as they cruise). They celebrate their art, themselves, and one another on their own terms, navigating the perilous waters of visibility largely by rejecting the onerous respectability demanded of black women. In a world that tells black women we have no right to authentic joy and no purpose in the music industry beyond an ornamental backdrop for male brilliance and bravado alike, their deft maneuvering is a choreography of resistance.
Courtesy of Buzzfeeed, check out out this gem of a piece on the radical power of the carefree black girl celebrity:
Welcome to Womanist Expressions, brainchild of Caitlin Gunn and Kidiocus Carroll.