Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” and its impact on popular culture

WAP Official Music Video by Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion (Photo by Jessica Silva)

On Aug. 7, the earth shook when Atlantic Records released Cardi B’s “WAP” featuring Megan Thee Stallion. The track is filled to the brim with catchy verses and sexual innuendos; however, the music video takes it to the next level. In the first 24 hours, there were 26 million YouTube views. Now, three weeks later there are 147 million views. 

By Aug. 13, “WAP” had drawn in 93 million U.S. streams, which is the most streams for any song in their first week. Among female artists, it is the first song to lead the Hot 100 for several weeks, with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” during the winter months and “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo for seven weeks last fall.

Michell Chresfield, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, writes, “Complete with sexy costumes, fantastical set pieces, exotic animals, and updo hairstyles reminiscent of the very best of the 1990s, the WAP video is nothing short of a visual feast.”

Emma Johnson, a Senior at the University of Denver, said in an in-person interview, “The traditional symbols of wealth in the video-the big cats, the big house, the opulent dresses- point out those status symbols as being used and owned by black women. I think that’s a really powerful message.”

On top of the cinematography, there is a 20-second cameo made by Kylie Jenner wearing a leopard print bodysuit, as well as clips of Normani, Rosalía, Mulatto, Rubi Rose, and Sukihana dancing in their own latex fits.

Scrolling through social media, there are countless memes referencing the song and even a dance challenge circuiting TikTok with audiences attempting to recreate some of the choreography from the four-minute-long official music video.

Among the responses, Jen Gunter, a gynecologist, praises Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion in a New York Times article for their, “...homage to female sexuality and vaginal, shall we say, lubrication.”

She finds the dialogue on sexual freedom and vaginal lubrication refreshing amongst the many pressures to use products that change the odor of vaginas, limit vaginal discharge, as well as false reports stating that eating certain foods will “make oral sex sweeter.”

However, WAP has not been welcomed as an anthem for sexual empowerment by everyone. The inclusion of Kylie Jenner has caused a backlash and even a petition asking for her cameo to be removed from the video. In addition, there have been negative comments by conservatives, such as Ben Shapiro, and Carole Baskin from Netflix’s “Tiger King.” 

Cardi B tells Roisin Lanigan from i-D that she, “...didn’t know it [the release of WAP] was going to be so controversial. I never expected that, you know, conservatives and Republicans were going to be talking about the song.”

In response to the track, House candidate for California, James P. Bradley, tweeted, “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure. Their new ‘song’ The #WAP (which I heard accidentally) made me want to pour holy water in my ears and I feel sorry for future girls if this is their role model!”

Furthermore, male hip-hop artist, Ce-Lo Green, said the release of WAP and other “salacious” lyrics come at a cost to the genre. The negative response from both conservatives and this male hip-hop artist begs the question, is there more to what is bothering them than the explicit lyrics?

Emelia Kamadulski, Senior at the University of Denver, said in a phone call, “There’s an idea that hot black women can only be that, which is just not true. Society is more comfortable with women being objectified in music than being empowered. The reaction has been one of the best things about it.”

Similarly, Chresfield, writes that the reaction comes from a “historical trend that holds women to the double standard of appearing sexually demure and respectable while men are celebrated for owning their sexual prowess.”

Time will tell how long “WAP” will dominate the top charts, but for the time being, Kamadulski said, “I think that it’s a really great thing. The year 2020 needed some good, and they gave it to us.”

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion have undoubtedly made waves with the release of “WAP” and the various reactions praising and critiquing the track and video are a huge part of the impact it has made on popular culture over the past three weeks.

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