Thursday, November 10, 2011
(And no I’m not necessarily good, it’s just an assumption I ask the reader to make for this essay to work.)
I was listening to a song, which shall reman nameless lest i contaminate those who are for more decent than myself, and I found myself singing the most obscene lyrics along with the performer. And not only was i singing them while driving in my car (with the windows up), i was singing them with gusto and fervor. There were lyrics that involved ball-licking, beating up a “pus”, various drug using and dealing, and bites on a wall.
Now I’m a grown ass woman and here I am grooving to what, by any measure, would be lyrics i would never allow my imaginary children to listen to, and frankly, would be absolutely annoyed if i heard them blasting from a car next to me. I would point to songs like this and their ilk as the beginning of the end for hip-hop and the civilized world in general. And I’d point with purpose and passion with a really straight pointy finger, that would occasionally wag.
But how can i judge others, artists and listeners alike, for promulgating and supporting the worst depictions of urban life, if I, the judger, cant even resist the pulsing bass and clever lyricism, albeit insulting and counter to everything i believe? Am I a hoochie, but just don’t know it? As a woman, how can I possibly like these songs? Am I just some dickless man ? And I not only like them, but I “that’s my shit” like them.
And this isn’t an isolated incident.There are plenty of instances like this in my life, beginning with the golden age of hip-hop. “Put It In Your Mouth” was a party favorite. I went to the West Coast and “Bitch Betta Have My Money” always got me out on the floor, and I won’t even go into the “Skeet Skeet” song. From the windows to the wall, indeed.
However, if someone were to print out the lyrics of these songs, I would probably go to jail or catch an STD just by reading them. The depiction of women and urban life is just so distorted and tragic, particularly for a community that has come so far. They are sad and maddening. But if this is true, why is it so darn easy for me to sing along?
I’m a well-adjusted woman from a good home. My student loan bills tell me i have a bunch of degrees. I wasn’t molested by some creepy family friend. So what gives? Why am I not horrifed and appalled at such demeaning songs. Songs that demean me and my mama and every woman i know. Why don’t my grown woman sensibilities kick in and I turn the song off when I hear such lyrics?
It’s interesting, growing up listening to hip hop, you generally had to be a pretty bad girl to be insulted in a song i.e Brand Nubians’ “Slow Down” or Oran Juice Jones’ “Walkin in the Rain” (ok, i know he’s not hip-hop but i couldn’t resist) . Most women-hating songs were reserved for crack whores or gold diggers or indiscriminate dangerous freaks. But nowadays “bitch” is the default and women must prove themselves otherwise.
In the realm of hip-hop, shouldn’t I be most enthralled with softer little diddies like “I Need Love” or “Bonita Applebaum” or “Make the Song Cry” or “I Got You” or “Make Me Better”? Songs that reflect the ideas of romance and the positive man-woman relationships of yesteryear (ok 15 years ago). But as much as I love these songs, just like those poison poppies that temporarily fell the strongest of lions, if im not careful, the ignorant shit just drags me in.
But I have realized, I am of two minds. Sometimes I hear this profanity-laden music blasting out of cars at gas stations assaulting all within earshot. Niggas, bitches, dick, this. Niggas, bitches, dick, that. It drives me crazy. I roll my eyes at the driver and shake my head at the lost art of hip-hop and romance and fun. At the same time, working out at a gym across town, my earbuds are hypocritically blasting some pretty ill shit.
Is it really as easy as, it has a good beat and you can dance to it? Or is there something else in these gutter lyrics that appeals to a “normal” woman like me? I’ve tried to figure this out.
I’ve rationalized: well, its just that they put together those degrading gutter lyrics in a clever way. I’ve minimized: well, its just that the beat is so hot and they play it so much, you can’t help but like it. I’ve intellectualized: it’s a just another form of the willing suspension of disbelief convention where you can be fully entertained by something while knowing it has no basis in reality, a la Harry Potter or the X-Men or a Herman Cain candidacy. At times, I’ve even given up and surrendered: I guess I’m just a nihilistic undercover hood rat ho at heart.
Is what appeals to me in some of these songs, which are admittedly in the minority on my playlists, the same things that appeal to this millennial generation upon which I look with disdain because they’ll never know when hip hop was great? Maybe the difference is that, those songs aren’t all i know and thus don’t shape my world view. Is the difference that I would never blast these songs from my car in public and therefore, they’re my own little guilty pleasure? Like eating cereal out of the box with my hands or leaving underwear on the bathroom floor for three days. I know it’s wrong but…
I know, I know. It’s not a lifestyle, it’s just lyrics. Fantasies of the rapper for the listener. But is this fantasy life rappers speak of appealing in some sort of madonna-whore way? I mean, you live right 99% of the time, so maybe sometimes, just sometimes, during that other 1%, you just want to hear someone tell you to bend over and lets fuck, for a change? For some of us YOU, doesn’t that make it tingle just a little?
Maybe that’s it, it’s like the music version of porn. Harmless fantasy? You can listen occasionally, but its only problematic when it gets you fired from work.
I honestly don’t know. I wish some prominent sociologist would do a study of this phenomenon. Because I know by the number of ladies on the dance floor when “From the Windows to the Wall” comes on, I’m not alone in this. And I need answers.
So per usual, I have no solutions, but I thought I’d share my struggles with PIIYMP in hopes that someone smarter than myself could shed some light on this issue and assuage my guilt. But maybe there is no answer, maybe it’s the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Or maybe it’s that all women have a nasty freak in them just waiting for an opening.
Or maybe, just maybe, as Big Boi says, “bitch that’s just the way it goes….” (I love that song!)
Please somebody stop me, before I bob my head again.