Pop Culture

Wait, What: Every ‘WAP’ Controversy, Explained

This is Wait, What?, a column that explains the seemingly incomprehensible.

One week ago today, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion blessed our weary nation with their video for “WAP,” a gleefully filthy sonic and visual ode to their genitalia. It features an infectious hook lifted from Frank Ski’s 1993 Baltimore club track “Whores in This House,” multiple injury-risking splits, and the greatest lyrical nod to pasta since “That’s Amore.” While “WAP”—shorthand for “wet-ass pussy”—was widely celebrated, it also served as a lightning rod for controversy, with detractors ranging from various conservative figures to a Tiger King star. Bring a bucket and a mop, because we’re about to go through them all.

The Conservative Candidate (Who Heard It Accidentally)

On Friday morning, while many of us were still serenely meditating on the phrase “punani Dasani,” James P. Bradley—a Republican running for the House in California’s 33rd District—woke up and seemingly tripped a Rube Goldberg machine in his house that ended with pressing play on “WAP.” He then proceeded to unintentionally listen to it in its entirety, inspiring the following tweet: “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure. Their new ‘song’ The #WAP (which i heard accidentally) made me want to pour holy water in my ears and I feel sorry for future girls if this is their role model!”

Another Republican hopeful in California, DeAnna Lorraine, tweeted “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion just set the entire female gender back by 100 years with their disgusting & vile ‘WAP’ song.” In a follow-up, she added, “Remember, Bernie Sanders campaigned with Cardi B.” Other conservative figures also brought up the Cardi B and Bernie Sanders connection, which admittedly does raise a compelling question: has Bernie Sanders seen the “WAP” video???

By Monday, Cardi tweeted “I can’t believe conservatives soo mad about WAP” … bringing us to the whole Ben Shapiro thing.

The Whole Ben Shapiro Thing

The Daily Wire founder and general right-wing troll dedicated a segment on his eponymous show to … dryly … reciting the lyrics to “WAP,” sardonically adding that the song is “what feminists fought for.” (Shapiro, who is 36 years old, repeatedly referred to the chorus with the phrase “wet ass p-word.”) After being thoroughly mocked online, he doubled down on the clip in a tweet that read, “As I also discussed on the show, my only real concern is that the women involved – who apparently require a ‘bucket and a mop’ — get the medical care they require. My doctor wife’s differential diagnosis: bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, or trichomonis [sic].” As you might imagine, “my wife says that having a wet vagina is a medical condition” was not the brilliant defensive play Shapiro imagined it would be.

The Kylie Jenner Change.org Petition

There are a handful of cameos in “WAP,” including Normani and Rosalía, but none have been discussed as much as the interlude of Kylie Jenner silently strutting down a hallway in the horny funhouse and opening a door. A Change.org petition titled “Remove Kylie Jenner from WAP video” (description: “The video was perfect until we saw K and I wanted to throw my phone”) has garnered nearly 70,000 signatures since it was posted on Friday. In a series of now-deleted tweets responding to a critic who compared Kylie’s appearance to Normani’s intricate dance routine and referred to it as an example of when “white women do the bare minimum to get somewhere,” Cardi wrote that “not everything is about race.”

The Unexpected CeeLo Green Resurgence

Rapper/singer CeeLo Green came out of the woodwork with an interview in the U.K. publication Far Out, in which he criticized the pair for “salacious gesturing to kinda get into position” and asked, “it comes at what cost?” After facing backlash for his comments (many pointed out that he was accused of sexual assault in 2013), he took the Notes app apology route, writing, “I acknowledge them all as powerful, beautiful and influential women…and professionals.”

In a classic case of “too much zeitgeist,” there is a Tiger King tie-in to all this. Carol Baskin, the founder of a big cat sanctuary who appeared in the sensationalist Netflix documentary hit (in which the primary subject, zookeeper and convicted felon Joe Exotic, accused Baskin of murdering her second husband), also weighed in on “WAP.” In an interview with Billboard, Baskin criticized the “lurid” video, saying that “the worst part is that it glamorizes the idea of rich people having tigers as pets.” Cardi responded in a Thursday interview with i-D, saying, “I’m not gonna engage with Carole Baskin on that. Like, that’s just ridiculous you know? Oh, Lord. Like, girl you killed your goddamn husband.”

In that same interview, the musician said that the conservative backlash made her happy because “they keep talking and the numbers keep going up”: the video has nearly 85 million views on YouTube and is closing out the week number one on iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music. Macaroni in the pot prevails.

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