They're More than Lyrics: Why I Hate Chris Brown's "Loyal"

by Stephanie Gates

“These hoes ain’t loyal.” I wake up too many mornings with the hook playing in my head. Here’s the kicker: I hate this song! And yet I can’t get it out of my head right now because it’s stuck on repeat. This happens every time I’m somewhere the song plays. I like the beat and I don’t want to because I can’t stand songs with misogynistic lyrics. So, the fact that this song won’t leave me alone, means that I need to write about it. I need to explain why I detest this and similar songs that treat women as things. A hoe is a thing; it’s an object. It is a tool to be used. It is easily discarded and replaced. So, when we sing along to the catchy beat, we subconsciously accept that women and girls are things. We accept that they are disposable.  And we don’t recognize their humanity.

When we sing along, we can go along with Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, MD who was speaking to his congregation back in June about cheating men, and talked about the other woman by referring to these lyrics: “These hoes ain’t loyal.” His sexist, homophobic, misogynistic sermon made references to “sanctified sissies” and “baby mamas”, too. So the song lyrics fit right in with the rest of the foolishness.

When we sing along, we are not offended by the pastor’s remarks. We are members of the congregation clapping and standing up in agreement. We are mostly African-American women being bamboozled and hoodwinked by the words of a charismatic preacher who is once again blaming women for the downfall of men. What’s even more interesting in this scenario is Bryant chose to use this particular song to chastise women for not being loyal when his marriage ended due to his infidelity in 2013. He was calling women out in the sermon when he was the one who stepped out on his wife.

When we sing along, we can accept that three professional African-American women hanging out at a hotel in Manhattan couldn’t have been anything other than professional hookers. On August 28, three friends: Kanataki Washington, Cydney Madlock and J. Lyn Thomas were seated in a restaurant in the Standard Hotel in Manhattan when an African-American man introduced himself and offered to buy the women drinks. But before they could take him up on his offer, a security guard whispered in the man’s ear and ushered him away. Washington said the security guard told them, “Come on ladies. You can buy a drink, but you can’t be soliciting.”

The security guard insisted that the women were soliciting sex. And when the women reported the security officer, they were met with indifference, and told that security personnel were hired through an outside agency. But a few weeks later, Washington says she received an email from a staff member of the hotel inviting Washington and her friends back for a dinner (valued at $400) and a bottle of champagne. None of the emails addressed the women’s prostitution claim, but the hotel was willing to pay them to come back which was a slap in the face. The hotel was okay with paying the women for being insulted, but wouldn’t acknowledge the insult.

When we sing along, we accept two teens found dead and bound together along a road in Duval County, Florida as par for the course. Angela Mangum and Tjhisha Ball were best friends according to their family members, and both the girls had been working as strippers at the time of their deaths. Law enforcement officers in Jacksonville, Florida are looking for tips, but the story has gotten little media attention. In the few news outlets that I’ve seen the story reported, the pictures that are shown are mug shots of the women who were arrested but never convicted of any crime.

When we sing along, we accept these pictures as confirmation that “these hoes ain’t loyal” and deserved to die. We don’t see them as victims because we like our victims clean; we like them White; we like them right according to a strict code of conduct that says bad girls can’t do good, and good girls aren’t bad. So, that there is a killer(s) on the loose, does not hold our attention. We flip the page or scroll onto the next news story if we have even seen this news story at all.

When we sing along, we don’t raise an eyebrow when we learn that a police officer targeted African-American women and sexually assaulted them. Daniel Holtzclaw, a 27 year-old officer with the Oklahoma police department preyed on middle-aged Black women. Eight women have come forth since February of this year complaining that they were pulled over during traffic stops and fondled, ordered to perform oral sex and even one women accused Holtzclaw of rape. He was arrested August 20. His bond, originally set at $5 million dollars was reduced to $500,000 and Holtzclaw has been released from jail and placed under house arrest. Across the nation we are protesting police brutality and excessive force. And yet we are quiet around this decades old issue of police officers abusing their power and assaulting Black women.

When we sing along, we are not outraged that a mother of three lost her life just this month for not responding to a man trying to get her phone number. Mary “Unique” Spears was leaving the repast of a family member, when a man started harassing her. He wanted to know if she was single, and if he could get her number. He was persistent, and when Spears’ boyfriend tried to intercede on her behalf, the man took out a gun and began shooting. He shot Spears once, and when she tried to run he shot her twice more.

When we sing along, the seeds of misogyny take root in our mind and become entangled with rational thought. So even when we clean up the lyrics and sing, “these girls ain’t loyal”, we know that the girls in this and songs like it are still tools of a trade designed to degrade and devalue females in general, but African-American women and girls in particular, as society consistently classifies us as hoes and treats us accordingly.

We should think about all of these women the next time we find ourselves bobbing and singing along to “Loyal.”

Stephanie Gates is an educator and freelance writer in Chicago. She uses writing to seek her truth and understanding of the ways of the world. You can read more of her work at

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