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lucille-bogan-heauxin-blues

From Lucille Bogan in the 1930s to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion today, Black women have long celebrated their sexuality. Hess Love’s “Heauxin’ Blues” playlist proves this.

Black sexuality has been celebrated in song for generations. Suffice it to say, we been talking about, singing about, rapping about fucking.

However, many “respectable” Black folks insist on perpetuating the false narrative that Black women have only begun to participate in this tradition during recent years. They paint this as somehow indicative of the declining morality of Black women as a whole, and this idea is also often used as a gaslighting tool, cited as the reason why Black women deserve to be devalued and mistreated. 

They love to pit artists of today against the very Black women whose artistry laid the groundwork for today’s rappers and singers. In doing so, they not only promote the false Madonna-Whore dichotomy of womanhood, but they also attempt to erase the sexual expression of the artists they uphold as possessing the “class” that they believe more sexually explicit Black women are lacking. 

After becoming frustrated with these respectability politics and ahistorical criticisms of Black women’s music uplifting their sexual expression, writer and poet Hess Love created a Spotify playlist of sexually explicit songs by Black artists dating all the way back several decades to demonstrate that Black folks—including and especially Black women—have celebrated their sexuality through musical expression for a long time. This “Heauxin’ Blues” playlist features work from Black women and men alike, but Hess really wanted to highlight Blues singer Lucille Bogan. 

“Generations ago, many Blues artists included their anecdotal experiences with carnal pleasure into their music,” Hess explains. “One of those artists was Lucille Bogan, aka Bessie Jackson, a Blues artist best known for [her] sex-positive melodies. Her music—often thought to be scandalizing, even to today’s listeners—predates all the current day artists people claim are making people lose their ‘morality’ in the ’99 and the 2000s… None of them could beat Lucille Bogan in sexually explicit language. Don’t believe me? Go listen to her songs.”

Lucille Bogan’s “Shave ‘Em Dry”

Lucille Bogan’s catalog includes gems like “Shave ‘Em Dry“—which begins with “I got nipples on my titties/ Big as the end of my thumb/ I got somethin’ between my legs/ That’ll make a dead-man come”—and “Till The Cows Come Home,” with lyrics that leave no room for doubt about what she is singing about. Lucille is incredibly frank and unabashed about her body, her talents, and her desires. She tells us exactly what she likes to do. Fuck, and be fucked. Often and well. 

She sings

“You know both a my mens

They are tight like that

They got a great big dick just like a baseball bat

Oooooh, fuck me

Do it to me all night long

I want you to do it to me baby

Honey, till the cows come home” 

And:

“I gotta big fat belly

I gotta big broad ass

And I can fuck any man

With real good class

Talking ’bout fuckin

Talking ’bout grindin baby all night long

And I can do it to you honey

Until the cows come home

If you suck my pussy

Baby I’ll suck your dick

I’ll do it ya honey 

Till I make you shit

Oh, baby

Honey, do it all night long.”

This tune was recorded and released in 1933. Bogan began her professional singing career in the 1920s and she eventually became well known for her explicit music, with lyrics about subjects like alcoholism (“Sloppy Drunk Blues”), sex work (“Tricks ain’t Walking’ No More”), and lesbianism (“Bull Dyke Woman’s Blues”). 

“The tradition of Black raunchy music energizes me; rouged lips belt lyrical resistance to purity culture, and force people to confront their Madonna-Whore complex,” Hess says. “It’s exciting, it’s an exhibit of the power in talking about something as natural and ancient as the earth itself: sex. Some are holding fast to the colonial programming of sex being a sin. A lie that has served to fuel the phenomena of misogyny, homophobia, and even anti-Blackness. Anything created at the inspiration of sex immediately faces a morality test by the public.”

When Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion dropped “WAP,” an acronym for Wet Ass Pussy, critics were quick to shame them about the explicitness of lyrics that talk openly about the women’s sexual prowess and desires. “WAP” samples Frank Ski’s 1993 “Whores in This House.” The simple phrase that runs throughout the track—“There’s some whores in this house”—names the women in the titular house as being sexually available and it’s from the perspective of a man who is excited to engage with them. “WAP” takes the idea of a house populated with whores/hoes, celebrates them, and centers their pleasure instead—and for that, Cardi and Megan have been ostracized. 

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s “WAP”

The outrage feels very similar to the ire that was directed at Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” in 2014, which also sampled a decades-old song from a Black male rapper—Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 “Baby Got Back”—in which he states, “I like big butts and I cannot lie” and “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun.” When Nicki took this sentiment and flipped to say that she only likes, craves, and thoroughly enjoys big dicks/anacondas, it signified her as somehow morally bankrupt. 

We’re far beyond the point where the misogyny in cultural responses to women like Cardi, Megan, and Nicki’s sexual expression has become painfully obvious, especially when these artists immediately and smartly juxtapose their work with similar songs by, for, and about men. It’s a demonstration of the readily-apparent double standard. 

With the release of “WAP” and the conversation about Black women’s sexual expression in music coming up yet again, Hess has seen their “Heauxin’ Blues” playlist resurface. “When people analyze Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and other sexually expressive, Black women artists as ‘promoting whoredom,’ they also claim that Black women have lost their ‘class.’ The levels of modesty they use as [a] litmus for being ‘respectable’ were ones even women ‘back in the day’ didn’t follow all of the time,” Hess offers.

RECOMMENDED: It’s MY Pussy, I’ll Rap About It If I Want To!

“The truth is, our grandmothers, great grandmothers and foremothers have been turning people out and making songs and dances about it since… forever… Missy, Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj, Foxy Brown, Khia, Cardi B, Cupcakke, and Megan Thee Stallion are all lovely and [are] continuing the tradition of raunchy Black music.”

It’s important that we abandon the myth that class, dignity, and morality are mutually exclusive from explicit sexuality for women. Black women deserve space to talk enthusiastically about their sexual desires and escapades, to talk about what arouses them in specific, instructive ways, in a manner that centers their own pleasure and demands the attention of those who are blessed with the opportunity to lay with them. 

Listen to Hess Love’s “Heauxin’ Blues” playlist here

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Sherronda (she/they) is an essayist, editor, and storyteller writing pop culture and media analysis through a Black feminist lens with historical and cultural context. They often find themselves transfixed by Black monstrosity, survival, and resistance in the horror genre and its many fantastical narratives, especially zombie lore. Read more of their work at Black Youth Project.

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