On the surface, pop-rap duo Rich White Ladies (made up of Bronx natives Scotty Rebel and Tokyo Diiva) may seem like, well, surface-level music; something to dance, get dressed or swish around the contents of a red solo cup to. As it turns out, that is too basic a conclusion to come to. And it wasn’t until I read one quote from Tokyo Diiva that I realized:
“Our music is pop, hip-hop, dance, and rock. It’s everything. On first listen, it’s fun. If you really vibe though, it’s some smart shit. It’s not just about smacking asses. You can say something and have a good time.”
So maybe you’re reading this and thinking “pfft, yeah right,” as I did, admittedly, before I did a little more investigating. It is tempting to resist the urge to vibe with pop disguised as mindlessness. Is it really “smart shit?” Or is that just what you say when you’re an up-and-coming pop star living in the same world as Black Twitter in 2015? More digging reveals answers to that question (and raises 20 more).
First off, we have to acknowledge the choice to associate your black self with the name “Rich White Ladies.” That term drums up the images of golf carts, country clubs, and perhaps the woman that Octavia Spencer’s character worked for in “The Help“– the elitist, exclusive whiteness that has also traditionally meant “no negroes allowed.” But by naming your black selves “Rich White Ladies” and unleashing an endless parade of endless carefree-black-girl images under that pseudonym, it is inherently an attack on the traditional symbols that those words represented. It demolishes the imagery that is built into our psyche when we hear the words “Rich White Ladies,” and begins to replace them with entirely different ones. It is, plain and simple, a challenge to white supremacy.
But the brilliant irony of the name Rich White Ladies is more than the fact that they are two black chicks. It also has to do with the fact that they’re sneakily doing something clever with what the general public is sure to initially perceive as just a good ole’ ratchet time.
Take their song, “One Percent,” for example.
The video features the Rich duo treading on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with Tokyo donning a blonde wig with a bow fascinated into it- a signature style from the Hollywood’s Golden Age, which was focused entirely on its white actors and filmmakers and largely rejected even the idea that black could ever be beautiful. But Tokyo paired this historical artifact with some of today’s most popular “urban” fashion choices, and rocks it. Subtle, but pointed.
It’s undoubtedly a challenge to the status quo. “I said I’m number one, but what I meant is ‘bye bye, 99,’ I’m the one percent.” It’s so easy to brush this hook off as another materialistic declaration of general elitism and fabulousness. But then imagine an entire audience of young black fans screaming “I’m the one percent!” It’s a statement: We are royalty too. How powerful is that?
Now, can we talk about “Wimbledon“?
“Wimbledon,” the lead single off the EP, is one of those songs that will have you gyrating before you understand with the heck they’re even talking about. But, in your defense, we may not ever understand what they’re talking about. The hook, “you are so bull-bull-sh*t, we are so Wimbledon,” is at first listen one of the most arbitrary statements you’ve ever heard. But let’s think about “Wimbledon” and what it means. Again, it’s elite. Wimbledon is the oldest, most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. And it wasn’t until the 1950s that a black woman won at Wimbledon for the first time. Prior to that, a black person playing Tennis at Wimbledon was pretty much unheard of. Is it a nod black prestigiousness? Probably. And we’re so down.
Placing the references from the music of Rich White Ladies into historical context sheds a lot of light on the actual intentions of these lyrics and reveals some of that “smart sh*t” Tokyo was talking about. Who’da thunk it?
But not everything is that deep. The hard-hitting duo is also has songs on the lighter and wilder side. Check out “Ransom.”
In the badass video for “Random,” our Ladies rap, from what seems to be a tricked out safe full of cash, about holding everyone from Santa Claus to Dolly Parton’s famous bosom for ransom. Could there be a slick political statement buried in this song too? Possibly, but given the fact that the Ladies seem to be quite equal opportunity with their wealthy hostages, it seems more like a general “gimme all the money!” type of pop song, and, well, we welcome that, too… just ask Rihanna.
“No Bad Vibez” is simple. A breezy summer beach or beer & BBQ song. It makes you want to lay back, relax, and appreciate the little things. Thanks for the reminder, Ladies.
The weirdest video of them all (despite the fact that it really was inevitable), is definitely “White Powder Perm.” While I spent a large portion of this video wondering if Tokyo Diiva and Scotty Rebel would suddenly materialize at some point from the two white ladies at tea, it’s pretty much undeniable how catchy the songs’ quirkiness is, and how well enhanced it is by its equally (if not more) quirky video.
In short, Rich White Ladies definitely won’t leave you hanging when you’re looking for new songs to add to the summer BBQ playlist you’ll be using for the next few months. Whether you’re a fan of Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks, Rihanna or just pop and/or rap in general, you will find things to love about the duo and their EP, available now on iTunes.
Beyond a good time, Rich White Ladies can also provide us some substance wrapped in an infectiously good beat. Amidst a time of inescapable and explicit racial discourse–with the events of cities like Ferguson and Baltimore laid out all over social media to see; and in a highly technological world that sees fashion platforms like Cosmopolitan and Marc Jacobs immediately get called out for their blatant appropriation of black culture, Rich White Ladies is rising to prominence just as the public seems to be aching for their presence.