Last night I was thinking, as one does, about Positive K’s “I Got a Man” and Sami Ali & Sahar Hamdy’s “Elli Shatrit ‘Enhaa Tgannen.”
Here’s the Egyptian song:
And here’s “I Got a Man:”
Both songs are duets between a sexually eager man and an independent, tough-talking woman. In “Elli Shatrit ‘Enhaa Tgannen,” or “A Cut From Her Eye Drives Me Wild,” the woman initially flirts back with the man, but the song’s last quarter swells with her realizing he’s just a sweet-talker, and the song ends with her loudly and dramatically rejecting him. In “I Got a Man,” the woman sometimes flirts back with the man– afterall, she does spend almost four minutes talking to him, when she could just walk away. It’s a combative conversation, the man’s sexual longing battling it out with the woman’s insistence on her unavailability.
I’ve always been drawn and excited by the female vocals on both songs. When I first heard the ’90s classic, “I Got a Man,” it was the woman rapper I admired most, her voice and accent sharp and funny. In the ’80s, when I first heard Sahar Hamdy’s voice, I could picture her belly-dancing and gyrating her way across an Alexandria beach, because I’d once seen her do that very thing on television. In “Elli Shatrit ‘Enhaa Tgannen,” Sahar Hamdy’s angry voice is incredibly powerful, a woman roaring out her boundaries, and, before she turns to outrage, her flirtatious baby-voice sometimes sounds sugar-honeyed, like the succar some women use to pull hair off their bodies, a vision when you’re a young queer girl who doesn’t quite know what it means to be attracted to all genders.
That’s what I love about these two duets- or what I loved about them when my sexuality was still forming and I had no idea what to name it. When I heard these two songs, I could pretend to be both the man and the woman. When I was the man, I could come onto the woman. And when I was the woman, I could flirt with, or reject, the man. Duality of the self was never so much fun, or easy to dance to.
But I didn’t know who the woman was, rapping on “I Got a Man.” And I loved her voice. So, I began to look around online. Two minutes into my research I found out that the female vocals on “I Got a Man” were done by Positive K himself.
It took me a while to let this information sink in, because my mind was blown.
This voice, this sassy voice I had been so enamored with in high school– where I didn’t yet know the difference between sexual harassment and love, but I did know that this woman was a badass who wasn’t going to allow this sweet-talking, insincere playa win– that badass voice was the same voice as the voice of the sweet-talking, insincere playa. Whoa.
But then, it all made sense. If my attraction to these songs, which were duets, double-talking pairs of hot-and-cold voices, afterall, was about how they expressed both sides of my sexual longing, then it makes perfect sense that “I Got a Man” should exemplify that so perfectly; the entire song, with its dual voices, emitting from the same, singular body.