Over the last month, the people of this great nation have found themselves looking in the mirror and asking themselves one thing: am I basic?
“Basic” and its more aggressive equivalent, “basic bitch”, have been used for years, but recently there has been a surge in popularity of the slang term. Rihanna declared the season open on basics, saying the set of her “pour it up” video was a “non-basic zone”; men’s websites have been instructed not to go out with a basic; And recently, she embarrassed Coachella’s musical lineup by hinting that the music festival could be a playground for basics.
You may have questions. in particular, you may be wondering what the heck the slur means. so here’s a short guide that will hopefully calm your fears while also helping you understand today’s pop culture fascination with the term.
I think it could be “basic”. I’m scared.
Step away from the ledge. being basic is not that serious, nor should it paralyze, disable or paralyze your life.
but am I basic?
well, it depends on who you ask. if someone doesn’t like you, they’ve probably already commented and laughed at your basic condition. but the joke may be on them. they may not even be using it correctly.
okay, what is the correct usage?
There’s a video of college humor that distills the current meaning of “basic”:
refers to many things like having a penchant for friends, sentimental picture frames, “sexy” sweatpants, ugg boots, and —
stop describing my life.
That video, thanks to the power of sharing (it has over 2.8 million views on youtube), has crystallized the term “basic” and “basic bitch” into these possessions and cultural touchstones.
and the video also represents the peak in popular awareness of a slang term whose use has grown dramatically in the past year. here’s google’s analysis of “basic bitch” and look how it’s skyrocketed dramatically since 2013:
So there’s a lot of interest right now, and that’s part of the reason College Humor and a few think pieces capitalized on that and this image of being basic. But what you’ll notice is that “basic bitch” actually had a small peak in 2009 and another in 2011. Basic Bitch Today, a tumblr dispensing some crucial basic information, began in 2011.
correct. that was when krea… kreaz… that young lady came out with that song.
kreashawn. and you’re right, his song “gucci gucci” came out in 2011, which probably explains that problem on google’s trending radar. that song used the lyrics: “gucci gucci, louis louis, fendi, fendi prada… basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother”:
kreayshawn defined basic as unoriginal. the brands he mentioned are very popular designers, but they are also known for their trademarked logos. this was also an implied dig at people with money. in a sense, kreayshawn was saying you could have all the money in the world and still be a little terrible and not as great, or not as great as kreayshawn.
and the current permutation of “basic” seems like an extension of that. but instead of hitting, it’s more hitting people (but women in particular) who like certain brands or enjoy a certain kind of lifestyle.
Am I being sexist if I call someone a “basic bitch?”
let’s be clear: you’re not calling someone a “basic bitch” because you’re paying them a compliment. you are insulting someone, and also adding gender to that insult.
“bitch” has had a long and twisted history of humiliating women. Recently, there has been more acceptance of the term and revival of the word (thanks to influences like bitchmagazine, tina fey, and amy poehler) to refer to a cool, powerful woman who gets things done.
but calling someone a “basic bitch” whether that is your intention or not and whether you think the word “bitch” is a slur or not is based on the idea that there are certain “bitches” that are inferior to others. non-basic “bitches”.
you keep saying things like “current” or “right now”, what’s wrong?
Think about street slang and jargon for a second. While the web has been responsible for creating different dialects and languages, and as much as we like to say that the internet is our virtual meeting place, it’s still not the same as talking to someone face-to-face.
and when someone searches for a term on google, that term has generally reached some kind of general saturation point far from where it started. and people who use “basic” in real life are already evolving the term beyond the college humor video definition.
“basic” and “basic bitch” existed long before kreayshawn popularized the terms in 2011, and even before people started googling them in 2009. back then, and even before, it existed in the culture black and hip-hop
so there is a feeling that whites have changed the meaning?
yes. “white people: where does this sudden obsession with being ‘basics’ come from? who hurt you (this time)?” saeed jones of buzzfeed wrote on twitter, noting the rise of “basics” and its new mainstream and popularity among whites.
Jones points out that the word has become more or less a cousin of “first world problems” or “white girl problems”: popular memes and Internet terms for minor frustrations that provoke the anger and complaints of the rich and, yes, white. people. And Jones’s dismay at what has become “basic” raises the question of what its original meaning is or was.
Jones and others point out that “basic” had already lived a full life in hip-hop parlance long before this current wave of people using it.
so what did “basic” mean before?
It’s not entirely clear because the language and words aren’t simple (that’s why if you ever use a thesaurus, you’ll hate 82 percent of the suggestions it gives you). Basic, in its early days, was more or less a way of saying someone wasn’t sophisticated. and when we’re run through kreayshawn, college humor and all that, that meaning somehow becomes “use a lot of north face”.
It might be helpful to think of slang (in this case, black or hip-hop) becoming popular (or white) in the same way as any language a translator uses; loses a bit of nuance no matter what. good your translation could be. that’s one of the main reasons why google translate can be a ridiculous experience and why no one has perfected (but many have tried) a translation app yet.
let me get this straight: we’re using an outdated slur that barely means what it was supposed to mean to put people down and think we’re being cool.
in short: yes.
but, you must live your life. just be you but also keep in mind that this is not the first time that slang (from hip-hop culture, black/white/asian/latino/lgbt/etc.) has gone mainstream and undergoes change
“cast shadow”. the term was used in the south and in the (drag) ball culture and—
does that mean a nasty look, like when michelle obama “threw shade” at john boehner?
not. But that is the point. “cast shadow” was originally meant to be a clever, subtle and thoughtful sneer. but that eventually evolved into what might otherwise be called a “sideways eye”, and rolling eyes or a dirty look. and although it maintains some postulates of what its original meaning was (a way of showing your discontent with someone), it can convey something different.
so the person calling me basic could be even more basic than me?
yes. basically. they can be as unoriginal as the kind of “basics” kreayshawn rapped about, as conventional as college humor, and as unsophisticated as early observers of the basics realized.
that makes me feel better. one last question.
Am I normal?