Is the “WAP” hubbub over yet?
As culture-war gasoline goes, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s duet, a seamless union that has topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the last two weeks, is high octane. It will be remembered for its fount of collar-dampening metaphors, for its David LaChappelle meets M.C. Escher video, and also for the enemies it made — the video of the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro doing a dramatically nasal lyric reading may well be studied for generations.
Yes, sure, “WAP” is salacious, bawdy, unerringly humid, vividly detailed. Perhaps distractingly sordid, if you’re unfamiliar with the work of, say, Trina, or Madonna, or Philip Roth, or Jeanette Winterson, or Egon Schiele, or Bernardo Bertolucci, or Dr. Ruth Westheimer, or Call Her Daddy.
But it is also emblematic: Sexual confidence and forthrightness are now the norm. Men rap and sing about sex in preposterous and sometimes awkward detail all the time, and rarely does anyone blink. It’s beyond time that the same courtesy is extended to women.
The conflagration over “WAP” has been predictable and fatiguing — the morality police working overtime against the sexual agency of Black women, a resurgence of shaming and grievance that felt like a relic of an earlier time.
Over on TikTok, though, “WAP” is experienced as what it truly is: blue humor, feel-good titillation, something to giggle along to with your friends, something to tease your parents with. The theater of raunch is part of the app’s lingua franca, as central to it as tightly coiled dance routines.
The million-plus clips made to snippets of “WAP” are just a drop in a very large bucket of playful lasciviousness that includes videos made to songs by established artists like City Girls; to one-off random finds with provocative lyrics; and maybe most excitingly, to the small but quickly spreading catalog of the young rapper ppcocaine.
In this ecosystem, “WAP” is a neutered provocation, a soundtrack for teen (and teen-adjacent) mischief and a light jab to their parents. Most vividly, this family-friendly tug of war played out between the wildly popular influencer Addison Rae and her mother, Sheri.
First, Sheri posted a video threatening to release her version of the floor-caressing “WAP” dance that’s been going around the app. Not long after, Addison released one of herself doing the dance, captioning it, “I had to do it before my mom did.” Her mother, not to be outdone, released hers soon after, with the note, “hope this teaches you to be nice to your mama.” (Her father did one, too, for … good measure? Revenge?)
Loads of the clips made to “WAP” revolve around family in some way: young people trying to make their parents blush, parents trying to make their kids blush, or in some cases, doing the dance alongside them. There are amusing videos of parents reminding their children, tweaking the song’s frisky sample, “There’s some chores in this house.” These clips portray “WAP” not as a line in the sand for explicitness in pop culture, but as an in-joke for people who don’t question what women are allowed to talk about.
The dynamic is similar in videos set to some particularly ribald lyrics by Yung Miami of City Girls, from “Leave Em Alone,” a song by the R&B singer Layton Greene. In the verse, Yung Miami is exasperated at a partner’s dismal sexual performance. On TikTok, young people rap the words to their elders, waiting to see how wide their eyes get.
When sexual frankness is viewed through the lens of piety, it gets flattened. TikTok’s vignettes are a far more forgiving and creative playing field — a place for self-exploration, comedy, and learning on the sly. Sometimes, kids just like saying words they’ve been told not to, hence the thousands of videos set to snippets from YSL Jalen’s “We All Tryna ____ (I Got My Lil Homie Right Here)” and YN Jay and Louie Ray’s “Coochie.”
But TikTok is an emulative medium, which means that the artists who truly thrive there — who gain traction for more than just an offhand thing they might say — are full-service heroes that fans and creators can embody, absorb and then recirculate.
Right now, that hero is ppcocaine, the brat laureate of the current era of TikTok. A 19-year-old former adult dancer, ppcocaine (formerly Trap Bunnie Bubbles) raps like a boisterous, animated, cheeky toddler. “3 Musketeers,” recorded with her friend NextYoungin, has become one of the definitive songs of this summer, owing to its absurdist flirtations — “Tell lil shorty come here, I’m tryna blow her back out, walking funny for the year” — and ppcocaine’s rowdy chirps, which suggest Kidz Bop Kids covering 6ix9ine.
ppcocaine is gay, and “3 Musketeers” has become something of a lesbian anthem on TikTok. When Charli D’Amelio, the most followed person on TikTok, posted a video dancing to it, she was received rapturously. (One comment noted she was “dressing alt and dancing to a lesbian song. Shes on our side.”)
“3 Musketeers” is one of a handful of playfully lewd ppcocaine songs that have become TikTok grammar in the last two months: the lullabyish “DDLG” has been used for videos where people break down the types of people they’re attracted to (or not), and “PJ,” with its midsong hard reset and its encouragement to dance, has been used for countless comedic clips.
With its rascally joy and bad-kid energy, ppcocaine’s music is optimal for the moment. While Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s built-in fame placed “WAP” at the center of a culture-war debate that has in truth been long settled, ppcocaine gets to operate outside of that bad-faith scrutiny. But probably not for long: A few days ago on TikTok, ppcocaine did her own version of the “WAP” dance. She posted the video on Instagram, too, asking people to tag Cardi and Megan — a wayward child who can’t wait to be adopted.