Bitches Ain't Shit
|"Bitches Ain't Shit"|
|Song by Dr. Dre featuring Jewell, Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop Doggy Dogg|
|from the album The Chronic|
"Bitches Ain't Shit" is an American rap song, never issued as a single, that closes Dr. Dre's debut solo album, The Chronic, released in December 1992. The next year, in discussing some deeds, debate, and protest that the song had sparked, Dream Hampton incidentally called it, in the rap genre, "the best song on the best album of a pretty slow year". Billboard notes, however, "the misogyny is ugly and thick, even for a rap record". Beyond his own verse on it, guest rapper Snoop Dogg performs its hook, which, stereotyping women, "captures pimps' fundamental attitude".
Although the song's opening verse, the only performed by Dr. Dre himself, calls "bitch" two men specifically—his former N.W.A bandmate Eazy-E, whom Dr. Dre maligns throughout the verse, and Eazy-E's manager Jerry Heller—the song denigrates women generically. Of the four guest vocalists, who include rapper Daz and rapper Kurupt as well as R&B singer Jewell—she being the only woman featured on the song—the most prominent is Snoop. Although the song would be "notorious", helping to establish Snoop's persona, "Bitches Ain't Shit" was a hidden track, excluded from the track list until the album's reissue in 2001.
For its blunt depiction of women as only either indulgences or liabilities, "Bitches Ain't Shit" has been repeatedly invoked by social critics who argue from gansta rap's popularization to adverse cultural effects. By now, many artists have sampled or recycled the song's hook, if sometimes altering it to Niggas ain't shit, generically denigrating men, rather. And in 2005, rock artist Ben Folds released a shortened cover version—only Dre's and Snoop's lyrics, including the infamous, vulgar hook—that Folds sung verbatim but finessed, rendering it ironically sentimental. This cover would reach number 71 on the Billboard Hot 100, and become a fixture of the singer's live sets.
From 1992 to 1993, Dr. Dre's music production, perhaps soon aided by Daz's, shaped a new rap subgenre, G-funk. Borrowing from funk music and paired with Snoop Dogg's rapping—on Dre's debut solo album The Chronic in December 1992 and on Snoop's debut solo album Doggystyle in November 1993—it was a gangsta rap that, unlike N.W.A's, made popular radio hits.
Several years later, in 2001, The Chronic's reissue added "Bitches Ain't Shit", after all, to the album's track list. Originally, although present, playable as track #16, the song was hidden, omitted from the revealed track list. Merely, after the final stated track, "Outro", had finished, a briefly extended silence terminated with Snoop's intoning, a capella, "Bitches ain't shit but hos and tricks"—the first line of the chorus or hook—followed by a breakbeat, whereupon the rhythm begins and then establishes while Snoop, atop the looping rhythm, raps the hook's first line again and then raps the hook's remainder.
Dre's verse, the song's first, had lyrics written by The D.O.C., who had moved with Dre from N.W.A's Ruthless Records to Death Row Records, its first album being The Chronic. Dre brought four vocalists, rather, to "Bitches Ain't Shit". All then signed to Death Row, they are rapper Daz and rapper Kurupt—who would later form a duo, Tha Dogg Pound—and R&B singer Jewell, the only woman, whereas the most prominent is Snoop. In April 1992, Dre's debut solo single, "Deep Cover", on the movie Deep Cover's soundtrack, had introduced Snoop. But recording of Snoop's debut solo album would begin the month after release of The Chronic, which, heavily featuring Snoop, was effectively a Snoop debut album, too.
Opening the song, Dr. Dre's verse, motivated by an early rap feud, maligns his former N.W.A bandmate Eazy-E, who had both founded the group and owned its record label, Ruthless Records. Dr. Dre's lyrics identify him by his legal name, Eric Wright, but otherwise call him "bitch" and "she" while glossing their friendship, rap partnership, fallout over money, and Wright's lawsuit against him allegedly since, Dr. Dre raps, "bitch can't hang with the street". Tracing the turning point to Wright, more specifically, "hanging with a white bitch"—who remains unnamed in the song's lyrics—Dr. Dre thus alludes to music manager Jerry Heller, one of his client's being Wright, running N.W.A.
(In real life, Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, feeling underpaid as both an N.W.A member and its label's prime music producer, left to start a solo career, as Ice Cube had done in 1989 to swift success as a solo rapper. Dre teamed with manager Suge Knight, forming a new record label, Death Row Records. But Wright sued Death Row and other parties by alleging that Knight had coerced him in 1991 to sign the release of three artists: Young, his then girlfriend Michel'le, and The D.O.C. Under Wright's heavy litigation, eventually reaching federal racketeering law, Young was stonewalled, unable to interest record companies in The Chronic, until Jimmy Iovine, excited by its sound, accepted the legal baggage and got Death Row a distribution deal under Interscope Records. Wright would share profits from The Chronic sales.)
In the next two verses, first Daz and then Kurupt boast of wholesale hedonism and avarice, mainly by exploiting women described alike a faceless breed of traitorous nymphomaniacs who, if given leeway, promptly become the exploiters. Snoop's verse then skims a saga of finding himself "on sprung" and "in love", leading to his debacle with her, "a bitch named Mandy May". Retrieving Snoop from a jail stint, his "nigga D.O.C." and "homie Dr. Dre" report her recent "tricking", why Snoop barges into her house with "the Glock". But his stun by the sight—his "ho" amid sex with his "little cousin Daz"—prompts him to "uncock" it. Before swearing her off, "Man, f—a bitch!", Snoop affirms, "I'm heart-broke, but I'm still loc'd". The final verse, Jewell's, both rapped and sung, effects the smug, callous boasts of "a bitch that's real", who, proud of her selfishness and carnal appetite, chimes, "And I don't give a f—".
Unlike rapper Too Short's controversial lyrics about women since the 1980s, "Bitches Ain't Shit", apparently, "scorned all women", but, meanwhile, "presented misogyny with an explanation". Several months after its release, writer Dream Hampton, whose niche was social critique, including feminist issues, within hip hop, noted the thematic controversy, but, momentarily setting that aside, praised "Bitches Ain't Shit" as a song. In New York City's Harlem section, during the summer of 1993, amid widespread tolerance of young males casually wearing T-shirts emblazoned, after the hook, Bitches ain't shit but hos and tricks, some two dozen women organized to protest, demanding that the street vendors on Harlem's main thoroughfare, 125th Street, stop selling the shirts. During that year, Snoop was indicted for involvement in a homicide, but, becoming one of America's biggest superstars, anyway, grew in popular appeal, whereas this song became "notorious". For years to come, its hook would fuel debate about the word bitches applied as a synonym for women and about gansta rap's depictions of them.
"Bitches Ain't Shit" encapsulates the themes and values that overtook hip hop via the breakthrough, crossover success of Snoop's initial rap brand—drunk on gin, high on weed, debonair and mellow, but gunhappy and misogynistic—which, amid corporate consolidation of the rap genre, triggered massive commercialization of rap during the 1990s. Yet even at the 20th anniversary of The Chronic, going through its tracks, Billboard finds, at this one, "an elephant in the room here: the misogyny is ugly and thick, even for a rap record", as "women are treated like disposable sperm receptacles". In 2005, however, singer Ben Folds had released, for his rock audience, an abbreviated cover version—using only Dre's and Snoop's verses plus the infamous hook—that Folds finessed into an ironical, sentimental rendition, which would reach number 71 on the Billboard Hot 100, and become a fixture of his live sets. "A misogynistic hip-hop masterpiece and relic of the past", one music writer, at its 25th anniversary, calls The Chronic. By now, if sometimes revising it to target males generically—hence, Niggas ain't shit—numerous music artists have sampled or borrowed its notorious hook.
- Dream Hampton, "Dreaming America—hip hop culture", Spin, 1993 Oct;9(7):111.
- Thomas Golianopoulous, "Dr. Dre, 'The Chronic' at 20: Classic track-by-track review", Billboard.com, 15 Dec 2012.
- Tricia Rose, "There are bitches and hoes", in Gail Dines & Jean M. Humez, eds., Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader, 3rd edn. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2011), p 321.
- Stereo Williams, "When Snoop Dogg became the most wanted man in America", Daily Beast, 18 Nov 2018.
- EAM, "Dr. Dre: 'Bitches Ain't Shit' from The Chronic", HiddenSongs.com, visited 16 Jan 2020.
- Travis L. Gosa, "The fifth element: Knowledge", in Justin A. Williams, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p 56.
- Mitchell S. Jackson, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (New York: Scribner, 2019), pp 124–125.
- For example, in 2000, Trina's debut album Da Baddest Bitch offered a "Niggaz Ain't Shit". In 2001, Cam'ron's album Diplomats Volume 1 offered a "Bitches Ain't Shit (Remix)". In 2004, Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz' album Crunk Juice offered a "Bitches Ain't Shit", featuring, among others, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg. In 2010, Boosie's mixtape Gone Til' December offered a "Niggas Ain't Shit". In 2011, YG's mixtape Just Re Up'd offered a "Bitches Ain't Shit", featuring Tyga and Nipsey Hussle, that samples Dr. Dre's version and reached 90 on the Billboard Hot 100. By 2020, over 40 songs had sampled the original ["Samples of Bitches Ain't Shit by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg feat. Daz Dillinger, Kurupt and Jewell", WhoSampled.com, visited 16 Jan 2020].
- Maddie Crum, "How NOT to perform a cover song", Huff Post, 18 Nov 2015.
- Brandon Stosuy, "Ben Folds reveals album details, unretires 'Bitches Ain't Shit' ", Stereogum, 8 Jul 2008.
- According to Suge Knight, who, as the CEO of Death Row Records, was the executive producer of both Dre's The Chronic and Snoop's Doggystyle, "Daz pretty much did the whole album”, that is, Doggystyle [Paul Cantor, "Suge Knight reflects on 'Doggystyle' 20 years later", Rolling Stone, 25 Nov 2013].
- Marcus Reeves, Somebody Scream!: Rap Music's Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power (New York: Faber and Faber, Inc., 2008), p 142.
- Stereo Williams, "Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic' at 25: A misogynistic hip-hop masterpiece and relic of the past", Daily Beast, 16 Dec 2017.
- DJ Vlad, interviewing The D.O.C., "The D.O.C. on co-writing Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic' & paperwork not being right", Vlad TV @ YouTube, 10 Jan 2016.
- Elka Worner, "Rapper sues Sony Music", UPI, 15 Oct 1992.
- Allen Hughes, director, The Defiant Ones (HBO, 2017), excerpted as "Jimmy Iovine discusses the first time meeting Dr. Dre and hearing The Chronic album", Dr. Dre @ YouTube, 27 Jul 2017.
- Al Shipley, "Dr. Dre's The Chronic: 10 things you didn't know", Rolling Stone, 15 Dec 2017.
- According to Dictionary.com, hedonism means "devotion to pleasure as a way of life", and avarice means "inordinate, miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth".
- Marcus Reeves, Somebody Scream!: Rap Music's Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power (New York: Faber and Faber, Inc., 2008), p 148.