Commentary: Rihanna's 'BBHMM' Is Fantastically Ignorant, Not Subversively Political

Rihanna

Commentary: Rihanna's 'BBHMM' Is Fantastically Ignorant, Not Subversively Political

Yet one argument says it is this year's protest anthem.

Published April 8, 2015

The question, according to the title of a new HuffPo article: Is “B***h Better Have My Money” a song about reparations?

The answer, which should be shouted from every rooftop and made into billboards to litter every single highway with: NO! No, no, no.

And that is perfectly OK, because what Rihanna has in fact done, yet again, is release a song that is insanely catchy and popular. However, what it is not is a political takedown.

Yet, to hear the author of the HuffPo piece tell it, Rihanna is up to something. “I think this song is a powerful and politically charged anthem calling for reparations owed by white America for the wrongs and the legacy of slavery,” writes Barbara Sostaita, a masters candidate in religion at Yale. Later she adds, “By demanding accountability for 400 years of racism and the afterlife of slavery, Rihanna is calling white America's bluff. “

No, she is not.

To say she is demanding government payback instead of taking a line popularized by pimps in '70s Blaxploitation films would only be true if so many other factors existed. One — and a major one — is that to say this is a song aimed at the American government ignores that Rihanna is not American.

The singer is proudly Bajan. Yes, while the island of Barbados also had slavery — meaning the people of African descent there could be looking for reparations — the HuffPo article centers a lot of its argument on the American-ness of this song and never once acknowledges that the singer is not.

Also, a lot of the song is concerned with kamikaze shots. They are mentioned multiple times. What never comes up are words like “slavery” or “oppression” or, even, “Black people.” Rihanna is, it seems, concerned with b*****s and her money. And for a pop song in 2015, that seems to be sufficient. 

Finally, America has a rich history of Black protest music. There is no need to add songs that are not protesting anything except non-paying b*****s to it. From Billie Holiday to Nina Simone to Chuck D to the Freedom Singers of the civil rights movement to so many more, Black people have been performing intelligent, intentional songs about discrimination, institutional racism, white supremacist hate and societal collusion. Sostaita does a disservice to these musicians — as well as to Rihanna, who seems to be enjoying herself with “BBHMM” — to imply that the best Black singers can do to protest slavery is to release a song about foreign cars and shots at the bar. This is not subversion. It is s**t-talking.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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 (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Turner)

Written by BET-Staff

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