Bhad Bhabie is back in the news. You know, the “Cash Me Ousside” girl? Danielle Bregoli? Yeah, we have to call her Bhad Bhabie now. It’s her rap name. She’s a rapper. She’s gonna do a concert at the Hangar May 4. Anyway, she’s back in the news for several reasons. One is that Hot 97 host Ebro called her out for cultural appropriation, saying she was symptomatic of "white kids wanting to mimic the worst aspects of black culture for fun" (fair enough), to which she responded, "Bich don't act like u know where I’m from. If u can’t appreciate turning nothin into sumthin then u need to get a new fuckin job.” (To be clear, she's from Boynton Beach, Florida.)
She’s also in the news for, believe it or not, an even more ridiculous reason. She nearly got into a physical altercation with another teen social media star named “WoahhVicky,” who has 1.4 million Instagram followers, has claimed she’s black when she is clearly white, and made a racist dis track directed toward an Asian YouTuber called "Ricegum." Supporting Vicky from the side was Lil Tay, another web personality who is also, apparently, 9 years old and also, apparently, hangs out with Chief Keef and also, where the fuck are her parents? What kind of whacked-out version of The Florida Project is this?
This is all so stupid, but it would not have been reported if Bhad Bhabie were not actually, unbelievably, a successful rapper. She had a single called “Hi Bich” that went gold. She had another single, “These Heaux,” that debuted at 77 on the Billboard Hot 100. Because she was 14 at the time, she was the youngest female artist to debut on the chart, a major milestone (though Lil Tay might beat that record in a few months).
All things considered, she’s doing pretty well for herself. Her latest single, “Gucci Flip Flops,” came with a Lil Yachty feature, and his career is in such bad shape it seems like she’s helping him out. At this point, it would be reasonable to say Danielle Bregoli is, for better or worse, a player in the rap game.
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Now, we can take on the question of whether she should be a player. There are grounds to support her on the basis of sex: She is one of a few successful female artists in an especially misogynistic sector of the music industry. Then again, it isn’t wise to blindly support a woman in the name of feminism while ignoring her other faults. This was, after all, the platform Hillary Clinton ran on in 2016, and we all know how that ended. Likewise, there are grounds to refute her on the basis of race: Ebro’s point about her mimicking black culture for fun has merit. But there are problems with the argument. One is that hip-hop has grown beyond the bounds of black culture. It is globalized, and plenty of artists have adopted its aesthetic to present their own views and cultures through the prism of rap music.
The other reason is that Bregoli isn’t imitating black culture merely for fun: She’s doing it for profit, and it’s working. The very fact that Bhad Bhabie has appeal, that she is a legitimate artist in today’s music landscape, points to both the dearth of female talent in rap and the way in which idiocy and outrage dominate our culture. We live in an era that is at once highly moralistic and deeply cynical, where we allow figures — from Bregoli to Kanye West to the American president — to stoke our rage, which we answer with the attention they deeply desire. It is the easiest grift in the world to say something shocking or problematic and let the clicks of anger and outrage propel one into a position of even greater influence. People seem to be getting wise to these tactics when used by fascist figures such as Richard Spencer, but for an ultimately harmless hot mess such as Bregoli, it still works. And it will keep working for as long as she desires.
Not even Andy Warhol could’ve predicted the depths to which our celebrity-obsessed culture has sunk. In his day, it was the entertainment industry and the fawning masses that used up briefly shining stars and threw them away like yesterday’s trash. The dynamic has shifted now: By keeping us enraged, by sucking up all of our attention on useless drivel, the celebs are using us.