If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you, son
I've got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one
As Jay-Z notes in his 2010 released autobiography, Decoded, This line refers to an incident in 1994 where he was pulled over, refused to let the cops search his car, and police dogs (literally, ‘bitches’) were called in to sniff his car for drugs but never showed up, which fits, considering that the song is about racial profiling. So he’s got hella problems, but a bitch isn’t one of them.
The line is clever on another level, though, when considering that he is paralleling the problems dudes have with women to not having a problem with a literal bitch (a police dog).
The hook itself has been profiled repeatedly over the years as an example of misogyny in hip-hop. You can see Jay decoding the song, discussing that perception, here:
While Jay has a point that the accusation, in part and in some cases, showcases a lack of ability to interface with the true nature of the lyric on the part of the listener (i.e. they do not notice that no single verse uses the epithet ‘bitch’ to refer to a woman), he also spectacularly misses the point that the bone of contention for most people who accuse the song of being misogynistic is that the hook itself refers explicitly to ‘girl problems’.
See also this interview from NPR’s Fresh Air. The discussion of “99 Problems” begins at 35:33.
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