Shabazz Palaces releases “Bad Bitch Walking”, the third official single from The Don of Diamond Dreams. In this case, a “bad bitch” is a “bad ass” and, as all parties involved will attest, the term in hip-hop now exists in a different vernacular altogether. The phrase has undergone a slow transformation ever since Queen Latifah first gave the word some pushback on her hit “U.N.I.T.Y”. Shabazz Palaces, Ishmael Butler’s band of experimental hip-hop, presents “Bad Bitch Walking”, a video where the male gaze is ultimately superseded by one that is decisively female. It isn’t the work of irony but a perspective curiously explored by the musician’s longtime friend, filmmaker Amhalise Morgan, who directed the video.
“I think if you look at hip-hop, you know when the word ‘bitch’ is being used in a negative or an empowering way,” Morgan explains. “Wonderland Magazine did an article in 2012 on this very subject as did Ranker in March of this year. This is not a new commentary. Within hip-hop, you can always find examples of both. One of my personal favorites is [all-female hip-hop trio] PTAF’s ‘Boss Ass Bitch’. A negative example is in a song where a rapper says ‘Grab her hand, f*ck that bitch, she don’t want to dance’, which is a commentary on his insecurity and ego, versus ‘Bad Bitch Walking’, which is seemingly content on appreciating her beauty, her power and merely being a witness, a spectator to that power and beauty, calling her a ‘Bad Bitch Walking’.”
Stas Thee Boss / Photo: Courtesy of Sub Pop Records
A sultry, locomotive shuffle of hip-hop and blue funk, “Bad Bitch Walking” features Butler as a susurrating lover whose languid gaze of a woman is slowly supplanted by the erotic ellipses of female motion. Morgan frames the images through an Afrosensualist eye, which proudly demonstrates the various colors and movements of Black beauty. At times, her camera inverts the male gaze so that Butler is often the desired object in view. “Bad Bitch Walking” also features a rhyme by Stas Thee Boss that further explores the use of the word “bitch” in hip-hop lexicon.
“I’ve had my journey with the word “bitch”, and the word has had its own journey,” Stas says. “I’ve used it, and it’s been used on me. I love how it changes someone into a boss, a friend, a life partner, a coward, or a meanie. I brought in the spirit of Trina, Lil Kim, and Missy Elliott with my evocation. Ishmael told me to think of a ‘baddie’ and carry the thought of her with me throughout the song. So, I thought of my girlfriend Kia Damon, and how I’ve seen her walk on water.”
Morgan further explains her views on the video’s involvement of the three women. “The song is simple and sensual,” she offers. “So, I decided to focus on tight shots to really have the intimacy take center stage and the focus be the women and the performers. We are living in such precarious times, and beautiful Black imagery is very necessary and needed. At times, it feels like we can’t change the violence in this country nor the victims and the perpetrators. But what we can do is contribute imagery that is beautiful, strong, yet soft; not brutalized, marginalized, and disposable. I wanted all those in front of the camera to be timeless and regal, so I gave both Ishmael and Stas the direction to wear white. It was also important for me that Shernita and Tanisha be the personification of beauty that was void of objectification.”