In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: A stonefaced comic who frequently gets compared to the late Patrice O’Neal, Sam Jay has drawn acclaim from acts like Hannibal Buress and Rhea Butcher. She has appeared on podcasts like 2 Dope Queens, and is known for her candid jokes about race, sexuality, and stereotypes. The A.V. Club talked to her backstage at Riot L.A.
The hated: Da Brat, “What’chu Like” (2000)
The A.V. Club: Why did you pick this song?
Sam Jay: As a person that grew up not understanding their sexuality, she was a thing that I could understand. I wasn’t sure if I was gay or straight. She was a tomboy, and I was like, “I get that.” That’s what I thought I was at that time, and she was a person I could truly relate to. So she was the artist I attached myself to. That’s why I picked her as an artist to focus this whole thing around.
AVC: But you don’t like that song?
SJ: I hate that song.
SJ: Because they made her be someone she wasn’t. If you watch the video, they made her wear a bikini, they made her rub up on Tyrese… everything about it was awkward. Brat wore baggy jeans and rapped like the guys, but I feel like she got to a point in her career where they were like, “No one wants to see you do that anymore. You have to be sexy.” And instead of finding a way to just be her, she just assimilated. It was awkward. It was like the first time I slept with my boyfriend. It was just weird. There was no reason for it.
AVC: It was 2000, and she’d had her big singles before that, so the label was probably like, “This is it for you. Make or break.”
SJ: Yeah, that’s what I felt like. I felt like they were like, “Hey Brat, there’s nothing else left. Either you’re going to pretend you like penis, or this career is at a halt.”
AVC: The song even talks about that, too. She says, “I’m making dicks hard,” or whatever. She still might be, even if she’s a lesbian, but…
SJ: But she didn’t mean it! And that’s what I didn’t like about it. I was like, “Aw, they’re making her be something.” Even at a young age, I had an understanding of the machine making you be something, and that bothered me.
Is this not light enough?
AVC: No. It’s totally fine. There’s been some pretty dark stories.
Da Brat never found superstar success, but now she’s able to do what she wants, 15 years later, and be who she wants to be.
SJ: Now she’s not relevant, in a sense. I don’t mean that in a knock way, because it’s unfortunate, but the industry wasn’t able to grow with her. I feel like she tried to be something she wasn’t, and she couldn’t do it, and so she just chose to not do it.
AVC: There are very few 45-year-old rappers that are still relevant, though.
SJ: But there are way more straight guys.
I feel like being a woman already, being a lesbian already, she was like, “This career can’t last.” But it’s also because she wasn’t honest initially. I feel like her honesty would’ve propelled it.
AVC: Queen Latifah is relevant, maybe, but not as a rapper—
SJ: She’s not out, either. She’s not out! It’s so annoying, because there’s no reason for her not to be out. There’s nothing she would lose from being out.
AVC: Do you think she would lose the support of the black community or the hip-hop community if she came out?
SJ: Not anymore! Because we all know. There’s no mystery to it. If it was Sanaa Lathan, we’d be like, “Oh…” Queen Latifah, we’d be like, “Duh.” It’s like when I came out to my parents. They were like, “Oh, yeah? No shit. You’ve been wearing baggy pants since you were 10,” you know what I mean? We wouldn’t be shocked as a group if Queen Latifah—we know she’s gay. It’s more frustrating that she won’t just be gay.
AVC: Well, there’s the question of whether it’s her responsibility to come out.
SJ: I’ve thought hard about that, because I feel like it is and it isn’t. Some people, you get tapped and you’re willing and you are. But some people just aren’t. And I hate to put that on any particular group, but at the same time I do feel like, to a degree, yeah, she is. Because it would push things forward.
I think people think, “Once I say ‘I’m gay,’ I have to do gay shit. I have to be gay all the time.” And it’s like, nah. You can still make what you make. It’s just saying that there are different people out here. Everybody’s not the same. That’s all it’s saying. You can do different shit, be different shit. You don’t have to assign yourself to something after you come out. And people feel like they do. They feel like once they say they’re gay, they’re going to be defined as that. You will only be defined as that if you define yourself as that.
AVC: Well, you might, if you’re a football player, because then you become the gay football player. Unless you are the best football player, maybe. But, for instance, Michael Sam came out, and he became the gay football player.
SJ: But that’s every first gay person, right? It’s like Ellen. Someone has to run the territory or you know go out and be the trailblazer. But where Queen Latifah is, you’re not that anymore. You’re not the first gay person. You’re not the first gay black woman. You’re not the first gay anything. So if you just said, “Yeah, I’m gay,” and kept making the things you’re making, and doing the things you’re doing, it can only help lesbians, and black women, and black lesbians!
AVC: Do you think Da Brat helped?
SJ: No. Because she hid. I think it’s hard to come out in the black community, though.
AVC: And it was probably really hard in 1996 or whenever she first hit.
SJ: It’s way more liberal now.
I think it was hard. I think what Da Brat did that helped was she presented her true self enough for me to know that was an option, to where I got it. But I feel like she had to fight for that, though. I feel like she had to fight to be that authentically her. And it got to a point where she got tired of fighting.