Are you a despondent rapper, sick of horrified gasps and scandalized swooning over your evocative vernacular? Are you tired of prudish outcry against your self-expression? Well hold onto your grills, because you’ve just been given a mandate to degrade, disgust and demean to your heart’s content, free from public censure. And for every profanity you throw in, you’ll even be awarded a few extra IQ points.
It’s called “irony”. In a recent interview on US radio NPR’s Fresh Air, Jay Z boasted that the joke was in fact on his bra-burning critics; while the seemingly derogatory lyrics of his ‘Ninety-Nine Problems’ had feminists preparing picket lines and protest marches, his repetition of that b word was actually ironically-intended. The buzz word was strategically placed there to lead subscribers of the “offensive rapper” stereotype “down the wrong path”, scoffed Jay. If only they were a little more open-minded, they would recognise that his use of the term “bitch” is not denoting a woman at all, but rather a drug-sniffing canine. And if you play the track backwards in slow motion, you can actually hear Jay Z yelling a triumphant, “gotcha, girls!”
Well, call me egotistical, but I still can’t shake the feeling that the lyrics were on some level directed at my species. It could have something to do with the line “if you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son, I got ninety-nine problems but a bitch ain’t one.” Jay Z’s brand of irony seems to me the most negligent excuse for anti-social behaviour since some psychologist hoping to get millions out of Russell Brand decided sex-addiction could be classified as mental illness. The star is setting a dangerous precedent for the free articulation of prejudice under the guise of heightened social awareness; “I don’t really believe owning a Lexus makes me a better person, I bought it out of irony. Didn’t you know I grew up in the Western suburbs?”; “I don’t genuinely think there are too many foreigners in Sydney, I was being ironic. I actually eat at Chinese restaurants all the time,” and so on and so forth. Next thing we know, Rihanna will be claiming irony to excuse condoning female objectification in her latest single, ‘S & M’ - oh wait, she’s already used the “metaphor” line.
Sorry Jay, but this girl problem just ain’t buying your “irony” claim. And since as an English major, I’ll be lucky to wind up in a loft above some dingy pub, while you sip champagne in a Hollywood mansion without so much as a high school certificate, you’ve at least got to let me lay claim to a better grasp of language techniques as my consolation prize.