Last week, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion made hip-hop dreams come true with the release of their new single and music video, “WAP” (or “Wet-Ass Pussy”). The long-awaited collaboration between two of the top female rappers in the industry is an unabashed celebration of female sexual pleasure.
The video dazzles with indulgent imagery as Cardi and Meg strut through the halls of a greenscreen-generated mansion trailing matching, glamorous feathered trains. They do splits decked out in animal-print leotards and writhe around covered in live snakes, all the while rapping about what turns them on. The “WAP” video has already garnered 62 million views, widespread praise, and the occasional pearl-clutching tweet of disapproval in response to women—particularly Black women—subverting the male gaze and reclaiming their sexuality.
It also, however, generated near-immediate backlash thanks to a cameo from notorious nonbillionaire and reality star Kylie Jenner. Jenner was one of several surprise guests to appear in the video, including well-known singers Normani and Rosalía, and up-and-comers Mulatto, Sukihana, and Ruby Rose. Cardi told Apple Music about her decision to spotlight these lesser-known female artists of color, explaining, “These are all the girls that I personally like, that I like their music. That I really feel they are going to go mainstream.”
Right away, fans decried Jenner’s inclusion in the group, taking to Twitter to express their disappointment and point out that her spot could have gone to another woman of color. One Twitter user said Jenner’s appearance felt like a “betrayal.” “I thought we were in a Black space,” she wrote. Others suggested that Jordyn Woods, Jenner’s former-BFF, would have been a better choice, given her scapegoating by Kardashian Inc. Even Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis got in on the drama, jokingly retweeting fan art of her face superimposed on Kylie’s leopard-print-clad body.
Journalist Danielle Young did not mince words in her reaction to the controversy. “Normani did ALL this and Kylie walked down the hall and opened a door,” Young tweeted. “If that’s not a perfect visual indication of Black women having to do the most and white women do the bare minimum to get somewhere, I don’t know what is.” The message was a retweet of a clip of the “Motivation” singer nailing mesmerizing choreography to the song’s catchy outro.
Young’s tweets appeared to be the last straw for Cardi. In a series of since-deleted tweets from Sunday evening, the rapper clapped back at Young, and by extension all of the other critics of Jenner’s cameo. “Normani is one of the best female artist that dances Like she dances her fuckin ass off!” she wrote, adding, rhetorically, “Why would she open a door? Please tell me how that would make sense?”
As for why she invited Jenner to appear in the video, it is apparently as simple as their families being friendly. The “I Like It” singer implied that fans are overthinking the decision, tweeting, “Why did I put Kylie on my music video? she treated my sister and daughter so lovely at her kid bday party.” Cardi went on to explain that her husband, the rapper Offset, is close with Jenner’s on-and-off flame Travis Scott, and she herself is tight with momager Kris Jenner.
While it may sound like a typical case of celebrity-mom playground etiquette (“you invite my kid to your kid’s birthday, I’ll put you in my highly-anticipated hit music video”), there is important context to consider. Cardi initially tried to dismiss the role of race in the debate in another reply to Young’s tweet. “Not everything is about race,” she tweeted. “There’s issues out here in the world that I preach all the time about. This is not about fuckin race.” However, this defensive (and reductive) response ignores the Kardashian-Jenner family’s lengthy history of profiting from cultural appropriation.
There are almost too many incidences of the famous family appropriating Black culture to count (the amount of times the women have worn their hair in cornrows, bantu knots, Yaki ponytails, and other traditionally Black styles alone is high enough to warrant an entirely separate article). Kim is arguably the biggest offender, accused several times of darkening her skin in magazine shoots and campaigns for her KKW Beauty line, not to mention the whole “Kimono” shapewear fiasco from last summer. Kendall will perhaps never live down her appearance in 2017’s utterly tone-deaf Pepsi commercial in which the supermodel hands a police officer a can of soda to raucous cheers at what looks to be modeled after a Black Lives Matter protest. And Kylie herself has repeatedly been accused of lifting ideas from Black designers.
Though it seems, for the time being, that Queen Cardi has spoken, a Change.com petition to “remove Kylie Jenner from the WAP video” has racked up over 66,000 signatures and counting.