[[Sound off]] “Is Beyoncé the most contradictory feminist of the 21st century?”

by Paige Lockwell

“Is Beyoncé the most contradictory feminist of the 21st century?”

Beyoncé! One of our most iconic artists of female empowerment right?! Wrong.

The ‘Who Run the World’ star discusses her feminist essay “Gender Equality is a Myth!” by preaching that “unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change”, but does she really know what she’s talking about?

Many have been sceptical after her British Vogue interview in 2013, after defining the word feminist to “be very extreme”, and stating she was “a modern-day feminist” instead.

Yet three years later during her ‘Flawless’ tour in 2016 she states this ‘iconic’ feminist sign was “not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I’m a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning”, but does she really know the true meaning herself?

Beyoncé has been repeatedly vocal on her views through her co-funded campaign ‘Chime for Change’, and her clothing brand ‘Ivy Park’ as she states that, “I am mentally strong, and I wanted to create a brand that made other women feel the same way”. 

Although not everyone is feeling these ‘amazing’ effects of the brand, including the young girls being exploited in Sri Lanka, who are treated like slaves earning only 44p an hour to create the clothing brand in a sweatshop.  

The worker . . . machinist we spoke to said there was little opportunity to escape poverty

Beyoncé’s spokesperson stated– “Ivy Park has a rigorous ethical trading programme” and they are “proud of our efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits”. 

So maybe not empowerment for ‘all’ women then. But can her music be any better? 

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In her earlier works, the notorious “B-Day” (2006) album didn’t really reveal this hyper ‘feminist’ message either. Upgrade U was an iconic hit but didn’t display the most pleasing lyrics, “You need a real woman in your life/Taking care home and still fly” doesn’t really scream independent female more like domesticated housewife. 

The lyrics don’t seem to get any better “When you in the big meetings for the mills/Take me just to compliment the deals”, completely objectifies women, but then attempts to reel it back by saying she’ll “split the bill” so I guess that makes it all ok! 

The final lyric “Ladies that’s a good luck believe me” acts as this odd message of guidance for women, when really it sounds like more repression than empowerment. But the past is in the past right? Well… 

Her ‘Beyoncé’ (2013) album is another whirlwind of conflicting messages. Her third track ‘Drunk in Love’ refences the distressing scene from Tina Turner’s biopic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ (1993), through the lyrics “I’m Ike, Turner, turn up…Now eat the cake, Anna Mae/I said eat the cake”, which shows Anne Mae (Tina Turner) being brutally force-fed cake by her abusive husband Ike Turner. So why on earth would you ‘claim’ you’re a feminist yet glamourise and celebrate such an awful man? 

It gets worse, her track “Partition” is the most contradictory and confusing song yet. The obscure seedy video basically shows Beyoncé as a stripper wearing nothing but her underwear performing in-front of Jay Z for his entertainment, with multiple women. If that doesn’t scream objectification I don’t know what does.

The repetitive chorus “I just want to be the girl you like”, referring to Jay Z as “daddy” accompanied with her odd sexual ‘performance’ acts as this sort of weird desperation for Jay Z’s attention which just looks and sounds bizarre. 

To make it worse the ending lyrics spoken in French “Men think that feminists hate sex but it’s an exciting and natural activity that women love”, is just the weirdest part of it all, she claims she is a feminist yet is nothing more than a sex object having to seductively perform for a man’s entertainment, doesn’t really scream feminist to me.

To top it all off the repetitive derogatory chant “bow-down bitches” on iconic song ‘Flawless’ is just the icing on the cake, is this really as Jon Pareles calls it a “pro-feminist” album or just a mixture of really confusing messages? 

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Maybe 2016 was a bit better? Think again. Visual album ‘Lemonade’ might have been the worst out of all 3. Her hate fuelled album revealed some pretty vicious lyrics like “Today I regret the night I put that ring on”, as well as instructing her “ladies” to put their “middle fingers up…wave it in his face tell him, boy bye” on iconic hit ‘Sorry’ with reference to the Jay Z cheating scandal which happened a few years back.

Her third track “Don’t Hurt Yourself” refers to how she’d “Bounce to the next d***” if it ever happened again, as well as stating “Tonight I’m fucking up all your shit boy”, and “keep your money/I got my own”. Here, you would think this represents Beyoncé as this self-reliant, liberated female who isn’t controlled by any man, right? 

Well the album was exclusively only pre-released on Jay Z’s music streaming site “Tidal” which earned him over 1.2 million user sign-ups, earning him roughly 12 million US Dollars within the first week, but remember she’s still an independent female!

Even Consequence of Sound fell for this hyper-feminist nonsense by branding the album as “Beyoncé fully coming into her own: wise, accomplished, and in defence of herself” even though she is completely controlled by her husband, even when releasing an album about how much she despises him. The irony…  

The only celebrity to realise this feminist propaganda was ‘212’ singer Azealia Banks, as she called her out for her ‘poacher’ like behaviour towards women. Savage!

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To make things even more bizarre her most recent album reverted to this strange cultivated image of a maternal housewife, as she changes her name to ‘Mrs Carter’ in her “Everything is Love” album in 2018, accompanied with Jay Z. 

Beyoncé’s lyrics on their track ‘Heard About Us’– “why these bitches so mad for/They don’t want Yoncé on their door” and the repetitive chorus “put your hoes in their place/Bitch stay in your lane doesn’t really reinforce this ‘women supporting women’ idea she attempted to ram down our throat in her previous album. 

Rolling Stone branded the album by saying it “splendidly celebrates their family dynasty”, yet Jay Z’s lyrics on track ‘Apes***’- “you need me, I don’t need you”, sounds more like a family affair than a ‘dynasty’. Ironically this probably the only lyric out of all her albums that spoke some home truths.  

Who runs the world? Girls! Men according to Beyoncé.

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[[Sound off]] J. Cole – Biblical, boring, or both?

by Khairul Raimi Hamzah

Not too long ago, anyone associating themselves with rap or hip hop in general was seen as rebellious, without morals, black, or trying to be black. However, times have changed and what used to be considered a “subculture” or “counterculture” is now, popular mainstream music. And like every era of hip hop, there are always MC’s who reign over the rest.

This particular generation of rappers has (debatably) 3 kings of rap. Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and J. Cole. While the other two artists are practically loved by most hip hop fans, not many are fond of J. Cole’s music, including his newly released album titled K.O.D.

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Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born on January 28th 1985 and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina. While he grew up lacking a lot of things, two things he didn’t lack were talent and hardship, which most of us know, are recipes for a great MC. He’s regarded as the Nas of this generation. ​Nick Genovese of America Magazine went as far as to call him the “Modern-day St. Augustine“​. Now, we know he’s got what it takes to be at the top but he just raps about women, money, and drugs like everybody else in the rap game, right? Not quite.

Most rappers early in their careers (Cole included) rap about these things in a derogatory term. It’s just how it’s been for so long with people being less sensitive towards certain social issues. Social justice warriors, the feminist movement and gender equality weren’t a big thing at the time.

When it comes to women, Cole talks about finding “the one” or first loves and staying faithful. He also talks quite a bit about his experiences growing up with a single mother in tracks like “​Apparently​” from his 3rd album and “​Once an Addict (Interlude)​” from the latest one.

He doesn’t flaunt his own cash either. Instead, he talks about black people unable to earn a living or reach their highest potential due to the education system. In his track “​BRACKETS​”, he touches on how we don’t know if money donated these days actually reach their intended destination. And in “​ATM​”, he says

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“Count it up, count it. Can’t take it when you die, but you can’t live without it”​​.

Paired with the visuals of his video, he claims that people are willing to sacrifice anything in return for bigger cheques. The majority of his music speaks about the experiences in his life be it with relationships, the black community or drugs. He’s known for being the rapper to go “multi-platinum without any features”. So why then, do people still not pick up what he’s putting down?

If you scroll through social media, online threads and the like, you’d see that the most common critique he gets is that he’s “boring”. But how can that be? A multi-platinum album selling artist… boring? If you’ve ever listened to a J. Cole song (subjectively), you’d know why people say that.

Unlike Kung Fu Kenny (Kendrick) and Drizzy (Drake) who have distinct voices, Cole has a more laid back and chill tone. He’s not as lyrically skilled as Kendrick, nor does he have catchy punchlines like Drake. But does that mean he’s not as good? Well, to be frank, every king has his own way of ruling over the rap game.

Murs from HipHopDX came up with a theory called the “​3 Lane Theory​”. In contemporary hip hop, there is the “Pop” lane, dominated by Drake, the “Hip pop” lane, dominated by Kendrick, and finally the “Hip hop” lane by the man in question, J. Cole.

He explains that the “Pop” lane is for selling records targeted to the mass where it’s catchy and people will bump in the clubs. The “Hip pop” lane has the same intent as the “Pop” lane but also has a message the MC’s trying to push out. Lastly, the “Hip hop” lane is for MC’s trying to deliver a message without caring whether it sells. And that’s exactly what Cole does.

Yes, his voice may not be the most recognized, yes maybe his beats aren’t the most iconic, and yes maybe his lyrics aren’t as deep as Kendrick’s but what he excels at is storytelling. He even said on “​False Prophets​”

“My highest moments come from tellin’ all the saddest stories I’ve seen in my life, I be fiendin’ to write Songs that raise the hair on my arms.​​”

Essentially, what he’s doing is weaving truth into his music. Those who’ve been through the same struggles will resonate with his music. With his immaculate songwriting, he’s able to paint a picture with sound and still be capable of writing “fire” lines like

“so ahead of my time, even when I rhyme about the future I be reminiscing”
“The problem with this game is this weak sea of rappers. I’m the answer on the low, I’m a cheat sheet for rappers.”
“​​I recognize that life is a dream, and I dream lucid.”

In his song “​1985 (Intro to “The Fall Off”)​”, he targets the younger generation of rappers typically known as “Mumble Rappers”. He gives them advice from the standpoint of someone who’s considered one of the greats. However, these “Mumble Rappers” didn’t like what he had to say. So, in line with Cole’s message of spreading positivity and love, he sat down with Lil Pump, one of the “Mumblers” who had beef with him, to talk it out. At the end of it all, both rappers had a mutual respect for each other.

The main objective of this album is to break the “small town mentality” and to bring to light certain issues he sees in the community. Sure, a lot of the things Cole says may be considered preachy, but love him or hate him, you can’t deny that he stands atop this current generation of rappers. One thing’s for certain, Cole looks hungry for more and this album, is only the beginning.