The Feminist “Hotline Bling” Translation You Didn’t Know You Were Searching For

Unless you’ve been stranded on an icy island somewhere in the Arctic this year, chances are you have heard Drake’s newest hit song, “Hotline Bling.” With its strangely addictive elevator-music-meets-Drizzy-beat—reminiscent of D.R.A.M.’s “Cha Cha”—the song quickly became a hit.

While the tune is undoubtedly catchy—and the video wonderfully meme-worthy—the lyrics of “Hotline Bling” are decidedly un-feminist. Crooning to an unnamed woman, Drake describes a lover whose focus was once solely on him, and who now has a life of her own, including new friends, fun nights out on the town, trips around the world—and less Drake. Bemoaning the loss of his “good girl,” “Hotline Bling” is an ode to a once-infantilized woman who broke free, and Drake doesn’t like it.

Of course, feminist artists have responded brilliantly to the hit song’s less-than-stellar message. In musical renditions from a female perspective, (check out this one by Ceresia), many feminists have called out the ridiculous lyrics of the song. But one outcry in particular stands out from the rest: Javetta Laster’s feminist “translation.” Laster posted “Hotline Bling. Drake. *Initiate What You Rele Sayin Translation” on her Facebook page in October, in which, line by line, she dismantles the misogynistic undercurrent of the rapper’s Billboard sensation.

Let’s juxtapose some of our favorite moments from Drake’s lyrics with Laster’s feminist translation:

Drake: “These days, all I do is wonder if you’re bendin’ over backwards for someone else.”

Laster translation
: “These days, all I do is wonder if you are in a consensual relationship with someone who is still here in the city where I left you.”

Drake: “(You) used to always stay at home, be a good girl. You was in the zone, yeah. You should just be yourself. Right now, you’re someone else.”

Laster translation: “You used to stay at home and be someone I saw fitting into the patriarchal expectations of women to be infantilized good ‘girls,’ which is some bizarre father/daughter husband/wife dynamic left over from women being considered adult children and property.”

This moment in “Hotline Bling,” where Drake declares that “good girls” stay at home while he pursues a career, became the centerpiece of Laster’s feminist critique of the song.

“It just reminded me of some paternal shit that you would expect your parents to say except that it’s coming from your partner, someone who is supposed to view you as an equal. Ain’t that a mess? I really wanted to draw out that part because it’s the basis of the whole piece. Women aren’t property and they can do whatever they want to do—from popping bottles to having new partners—and they don’t need anyone’s approval to do it.”

Laster, creator of AfriKweer and a planner of intersectional events in Tucson for queer communities of color, says she didn’t initially notice a problem with the lyrics to “Hotline Bling.”

“It was catchy with a dope groove. I didn’t really listen to the lyrics,” Laster explained to the Ms. Blog. “[But] then I heard Erykah Badu’s version … and when I heard Drake’s lyrics contrasted against Erykah’s, it made me really pay attention to what he was saying.”

Laster’s original Facebook post went viral in early October and has been featured on The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, but Laster doesn’t seem phased by the visibility, and her feminism remains strongly rooted in her own community.

“The feedback has been overall really positive, so that’s empowering in its own way; it gives me a push to take my writing and perspective more seriously,” she says. “For now though, me and my friends are grinding through it together to make our events happen in the communities we live in.”

In the meantime, Laster encourages everyone to jump in on the feminist “Hotline Bling” conversations.

“Go. In. I love it! There are a lot of different discussions happening, from the lyrics themselves to body representation to colorism and more … Why not have an opinion about what is happening around us? … If you experience something and it moves you a certain way, dive into that feeling and explore it.”

Photos of Drake via Tumblr

Photos of Javetta Laster via AfriKeer Tumblr shot by Bev Tumelo. 

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Vienna Urias is an editorial intern at Ms.