Ain’t No Fun If A Girl Can’t Have None
by Marie Lodi
In the beginning of the year I made a list of goals. At the top of the list: learn the choreography from one of Aaliyah’s music videos — either More Than a Woman or the baby cackle-sampled, Are You That Somebody.
When I was teenager I used to choreograph routines for my high school dance team using Aaliyah’s videos as “inspiration,” i.e. sometimes copying exact moves. As I compiled my goals I thought, what’s the harm in seeing if I can still do these moves seventeen years later? Unless I sprain something.
When I tuned in to watch Lifetime’s Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B;, the latest notch on the channel’s belt of disappointing biopics, I realized I hadn’t yet made good on that particular goal. The movie was as weak-ass as I expected, but it made all the nostalgic feelings I’ve been carrying around for that era come bubbling to the surface.
I got into Aaliyah when she made her first debut with Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. She had that perfect balance of being a sweet, seductive R&B; singer with hip-hop swagger. But it wasn’t until she teamed up with Missy Elliott and Timbaland for her sophomore album, One in a Million, that things got really crazy. Her sultry voice floating over Timb’s beats while reciting Missy’s lyrics were a true game-changer in hip-hop and R&B.;
Just a few years earlier, the Brooklyn-raised, Biggie Smalls co-signed Lil’ Kim debuted with Hard Core. The 1997 video for the single “Crush on You” featured the Queen Bee in Skittles-colored wigs with matching fur coats, rapping about her “throwing shade if she can’t get paid,” which would later become my motto as an adult. The album was filled with clever, sex-positive lyrics and Kim proudly exclaiming how she’s “got buffoons eating my pussy while I watch cartoons.” Can you imagine hearing those brilliant words when you were sixteen? My high school yearbook came with an optional embossment and I was so inspired by Kim at this point that I had my own book stamped with “Queen Rie.”
It wasn’t like Lil Kim was the first female rapper that came into my orbit. My junior high experience had been heavily soundtracked by talented ladies like MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Queen Latifah, Salt N’ Pepa, and Left Eye. But Lil’ Kim’s effect on me was different. For a teenager who had recently given up her ol’ V-card and was rollerblading down the street of sexual discovery, Kim was like my sexually-empowered messiah. She confidently showed off her body in bikinis and furs, and at the same time her rhymes were way more relatable than her male counterparts. How do you not want to kick down a door after hearing her spit, “I am a diamond cluster hustler, queen bitch, supreme bitch?”
The following year, Missy Elliott broke through with her own album, Supa Dupa Fly. Already known as a gifted lyricist and producer on other people’s records, it was time for Missy to have some solo time in the spotlight. She did not disappoint. When the Hype Williams-directed video for The Rain came out, my mind was beyond blown. Kim had come out in those technicolor outfits, but here comes Missy in an inflatable Hefty bag. This was some straight-up performance art.
Some of my favorite moments of this era where whenever the ladies collaborated together, especially during the video for the song Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix). The track featured Lil’ Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Left Eye, and Angie Martinez, while the video included cameos from Queen Latifah, SWV, Xscape, Mary J. Blige, T-Boz, Total, and more. The ladies are seen riding on a speedboat, dancing in a jungle, and getting massaged by bare-chested hunks. I ended up choreographing a dance to this song too.
In the past few years, it’s become difficult for me to enjoy a lot of my favorite songs performed by male rappers of the same era. I’ve started paying attention to the lyrics. Before, I’d blindly rap along to Snoop Dogg’s Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None.) The lyrics are chock-full of slut-shaming lyrics like, When I met you last night baby/Before you opened up your gap/I had respect for ya lady/But now I take it all back. Won’t lie, it sucks not to be able to sing along to some good ol’ Snoop, but how can I ignore all of the misogynistic lyrics, the allusions to rape or sexual harassment, and the general shitty treatment of women in these songs? I even got annoyed the other day listening to the song Too Close by Next, which I used to think was funny because it was basically about a dude getting a boner, but now I play close attention to how the female vocals in the song are telling him to step back because he’s dancing too close. I used to love this song and now I’m like, “GET AWAY FROM HER.”
I’ll never feel disgusted by my 90s hip-hop ladies. Da Brat and Missy actually ended up kind of saving “Ain’t No Fun” for me, when they rapped on Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” remix. They flipped the switch on all the misogyny and broke down the walls of the boy’s clubhouse. Especially when Da Brat came through singing: Guess who’s back in the motherfucking house/With two big old titties for your mouth.
In the August 1999 issue of Elle magazine, Missy said, “Instead of competing, we help out and enhance each other. When I see another female artist, we always show each other love–we just so happy that we broke that barrier down of us not bein’ able to do as much as the men.” Full disclosure: as a teen I was scared, or at least intimidated, of riot grrrl and hadn’t read any bell hooks or Gloria Steinem for that matter. But I learned about female empowerment and how to be a badass bitch. I have Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, and the other female rappers of the nineties to thank for that.