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Did Ta-Nehisi Coates's Demand for Reparations Inspire Rihanna's New Music Video "Bitch Better Have My Money?"
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July 05, 2015, 04:46 AM
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I didn’t actually make it all the way through Barbadian pop queen Rihanna’s new music video “Bitch Better Have My Money,” which is presumably inspired by the tinny-voiced singer’s lawsuit against her accountant for telling her in 2009 that buying a house in the Hollywood Hills ought to be a good investment and other complaints. In the video Rihanna takes vengeance for all the subprofessional advice she endured by kidnapping an accountant’s blonde wife, stuffing her in a box, then hanging the terrified chained-up woman upside down from a hook, at which point I stopped watching.

You can watch it there if you want.

This video has led to much online celebration of how empowering it is to see a strong woman torturing people. The Guardian explicated:

In an America seething over endemic racism, the presentation of a black woman exacting revenge on a white exploiter has been less controversial than the nudity. Vogue.com columnist Karley Sciortino said: “It’s good to normalise the female body. In so many music videos where you see nudity, it’s framed in these really specific ways: abstract female body parts just looking hot. When Rihanna’s naked she isn’t posing in a hyper-sexual way, she’s covered in blood and she’ll cut your dick off. She looks powerful, but it’s almost casual, normalised. It’s about showing a powerful representation of the female body, where women are in charge of the way that they’re being viewed.”
Anyway, the Huffington Post content aggregation turbines recycled this essay originally penned when only the audio was available:
Is ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ a Song About Reparations?

by Barbara Sostaita Masters Candidate in Religion, Yale University Posted: 04/05/2015 5:48 pm EDT Updated: 06/05/2015 5:59 am EDT

This week, Bad Gal Ri Ri returned with the second single from her upcoming album, Bitch Better Have My Money. Vulture called the song “a slice of ratchet heaven,” and Billboard exalted Rihanna as a “trap queen” who has taken claim to her throne with this single. While I agree with both of these assertions, I also think this song is a powerful and politically charged anthem calling for reparations owed by white America for the wrongs and the legacy of slavery.

After getting this text message from a close friend and hip hop scholar:

I haven’t been able to listen to the track without considering the powerful implications it has for this particular moment in popular culture. We are living in a time where it is impossible to dismiss the legacies of colonialism, slavery and violence, which shape lives and worlds in the present. As rapper Azealia Banks said in a recent Playboy interview, “The generational effects of Jim Crow and poverty linger on.” When asked why she always brings up the topic of race in interviews and Twitter, Banks replied: “Because y’all motherf—ers still owe me reparations! That’s why it’s all about race… As long as I have my money, I’m getting the f— out of here, and I’m gonna leave y’all to your own devices.” Rihanna and Azealia Banks seem to be on the same page with this one.

Rihanna is haughty and unapologetic in this song, evocative of Beyonce’s no-holds-barred, “bow down bitches,” persona in “***Flawless.” Shouting out, “Where y’all at? Where y’all at? Where y’all at?” she demands accountability from white America for the “two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal, and 35 years of racist housing policy,” that Ta-Nehisi Coates elaborates on in a powerful treatise on the importance for reparations.

As Rihanna articulates:
Bitch better have my money! Bitch better have my money! Pay me what you owe me Bitch better have my (bitch better have my) Bitch better have my (bitch better have my) Bitch better have my money!
By the way, why does Rihanna’s voice always sound both nasal, strangely like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, and robotic, but in a low-tech 8-bit sort of way? I presume the studio wizards do some of their digital magic to it, but is there some sort of retro reason for why Rihanna songs usually sound like they processed her vocal track using a Kay-Pro computer and a 5.25? floppy disk drive? Is she actually a good singer whom the highest paid studio masters are making sound soulless and inept for reasons I’m far too old to understand?

Or is she just a mediocre singer?