It’s approaching the end of May, and a shittily perfect Chris Brown song that came out in December (largely neglected in the shadow of a glorious Beyonce release) is still dominating radio, club, strip club and bodega air play. I’m not going to labor over why this song is perfect: I’ve spent too many nights thrusting a glass of prosecco into the air in sync with the words “THESE HOES AIN’T LOYAL” as the DJ wound it back for a fifth time to even question the validity of this track.
There is, of course, a tension in enjoying this song as either a man who isn’t a total idiot or a woman. The elements for moral and cognitive dissonance are all there: Chris Brown’s well-documented abuse of Rihanna, a hook centered on repeatedly putting down women, reducing our needs to a base-level dependence on a man for wealth or validation. As a young woman with a long-standing fondness for R&B and DJ Mustard, the words of this track put me and many like-minded listeners in a quandary, but the rest is too infectious to resist.
Since “Loyal” hit peak saturation, it’s begged the female response. We’ve been desperately awaiting a Nicki Minaj address in the vein of her galvanizing “Lookin Ass N*ggas” or “Boss Ass Bitch,” where she famously snapped “rule #1 […] never let a clown n*gga try to play you […] if he play you then rule #2, fuck his best friend and make ‘em yes men.” Men certainly feel the need to reply to Nicki: when she dropped “Lookin Ass” and eviscerated a particular set of men, Trey Songz weighed in with his take just a day later. We’ve had East and West coast versions of “Loyal,” but only a couple of desperately inadequate female responses (let’s be real) to give us the pass we need to listen to such a trash chorus and really enjoy it.
At some point in late April, Tink slipped the perfect response to Loyal under our noses in the form of “Don’t Tell Nobody”: “Coz n*ggas aint loyal, and I knew that from the jump,” she sings. “You sorry, pathetic, you far from authentic / you liar, you fronter, you’re just like these other n*ggas..”
Sometimes you get what you need in a surprising or unassuming package. If, like me, you’ve been seeking the woman-positive palate cleanser to wash the Chris Brown lyrics out of your mouth, Tink is the perfect answer. She’s been spanning the topics of love, loyalty, ambition and money for her entire back catalog, giving these topics the due diligence that Breezy skims over. Tink’s music grabs you sweetly by the neck and reminds you of the all the terrible and disloyal men you’ve met and the complexity and culpability with which you’ve responded. Her mixtapes are a montage of modern young relationship detritus: broken promises, intoxication, instagrams and tweets that leave you seething, sus texts (from both sides), confessions and confusion.
Now, in response to “Loyal”: Tink’s work generally asserts that loyalty from women is something earned, not given immediately in a blank check format. She rebukes an idea ever-present in rap (“why give a bitch your heart when she’d rather have a purse”) that women want money in place of love, but demands that her partner be equally ambitious and about his business as she is. She’s also honest about the fact you better know how to throw down if you want to hold a woman down. Lyrically, Tink represents a sentiment my dear Twitter friend @moscaddie expressed not long ago: “why would a hoe be loyal though, like what’s the incentive.”
Tink’s not sure, either.
On the topic of love, she keeps it very real: the sex better be great, the communication needs to be on point, and if you’re not committed, then we won’t be, either. On “When I’m Lit” from her 2012 Blunts & Ballads project, she croons “most dudes can’t handle it” over and over as the song starts. She goes on to explain she’s more honest when she’s lit, and lays it down on the object of her affections:
“What if I told you you’re my main but I got other dudes
And every time I ain’t with you I’m with my other moves?
If I kept it trill and told you that i need my space
You irritate me every time you pop up at my place
What if I told you that you bore me and it's no longer fun
And while we're talking I’ve been texting three n*ggas at once?”
Tink’s honesty, and the understated value of her message, is notable here. It’s lacking the sexual drama or bombastic nature of rappers like Nicki, but it’s real about what it’s like to be generally unsatisfied by the guy you have in your life.
This is the norm with Tink: she covers the full spectrum of emotions with searing self-awareness. Tink’s love-tinged discography touches cycles of sprung and smitten, disheartened and pissed, through to melancholy. On “Treat Me Like Somebody,” she openly questions her standards and expectations: Is that too much? ‘cause I’ve been on the search and i’m losing my hope. She’s asking for someone who doesn’t try to control her, who fully supports her, forgives her past and loves everything down to her flaws. There’s one answer to why these hoes aren’t, in fact, loyal: maybe we want more than you can give.
On the topic of money, Tink is consistent: she works hard for what she has, and she can’t be bought. On “Talkin 'Bout,” she asserts she’d rather a heart than a purse:
“Man, fuck that Gucci, just look how you do me
You think that designer make up for this shit
I buy my own Prada, man, that’s not the problem
The problem is you too caught up with that bitch
I need you to come home and give me that D
I need you to not leave the crib when I’m asleep
I need you to act like a man and stay true to the plan
If you ready, I’m ready, come on"
Tink also frequently expresses her commitment to the hustle and grind before any guy she can dabble with, and ostensibly dedicated an entire tape to the theme with 2013’s Boss Up. On “Money Money,” she raps, "Rule #1 you gotta get some money, rule #2 you gotta keep it coming, rule #3 never trust a n*gga, coz n*ggas don’t be real.” On “Rarris and Rovers” she chants, "We gon’ count these millions, just don’t catch no feelings, we got time.” But Tink aspires to a union where she and her partner get to the money together: "All I wanna do is get this dough with you, lets get money babe,” she sings on “Money Ova Everything.” She has a plan in mind: “Money over everything, and then you get the wedding ring."
We reserve our loyalty for people who earn it with unqualified support and love. Tink knows this. In the meantime, her music suggests, we’ll be focusing on us: perfecting our craft, looking after ourselves and getting our finances right. So next time you’re in some dirty bar and “Loyal” comes on and the grimy douchebag who lied to you about not having a girlfriend last summer is screaming along, “these hoes ain’t loyal” with his crew of male thots and wannabes, just laugh at him. You can load up some Tink YouTubes when you get home.
Grace lives in New York where she is a marketer by day & drinks prosecco by night. Follow her on Twitter at @1800GG.