I had an argument with a substitute English teacher when I was in grade 11. Up until that point I had yet to argue with any teacher, it was a respect thing (or a fear thing), but something must have been in the air that day, or maybe he just pushed a button that put me over the edge. He argued that Hip Hop or Rap or, I quote “Whatever the hell you want to call it; isn’t music, it’s garbage.” Horrified at the time, I gave my best rebuttals; it’s a form of poetry, it’s a voice of the silenced, it’s the Rock and Roll of the ’90’s. He went on to say it was a lazy genre of rip off artists who ‘talk’ over beats that they steal from other actual artists. That it degrades women and glorifies violence and drugs and that listening to it just feeds the cycle.
I didn’t have the clarity at the time to see any of his perspective. Growing up in a place where I was one of the very few minorities, I felt for some reason that I had to be THE defender of this genre that, even though I was so socioeconomically far away from its realities, I was somehow made to feel included. In that world I was pretty, my curves were glorified and my shade was welcomed (or so I assumed by watching Rap City and BET – naïveté? ).
Now as I get older I find myself slightly at odds. Although the fight for this genre’s legitimacy isn’t my focus, it’s the lyrics.
Some of the things that I hear being said/sung are blowing my mind! Maybe it’s the fact that music isn’t being made the same way it used to be. With the internet being THE force in music and entertainment, everyone has the chance to be a musical star (or porn star) but lyrics that I used to brush off while dancing in ‘the club’ have either gotten worse or I’ve just become more aware. And I’m not even talking about so called ‘hard core Hip Hop’ I’m talking regular Billboard Top 40 Hip Hop and Rap charts.
Lyrics from Up! AKA Beat The Pussy UP! by Loverance ft 50 Cent via
From a recent listen to Billboard’s Top 10 Hip Hop/ RnB I’ve learned that strippers are awesome (yet somehow worthless at the same time), that an important goal of men should be to be able to ‘beat a pussy up’, ‘Bitch’ is a perfectly acceptable way to refer to a woman (nothing new here) and love? Not so much. Sex, yes (except other words are used to describe the act). In fact many songs even put the onus back on women to make them feel empowered by only expecting one night stands. The Bad Bitch syndrome, which at first blush seems to just mean an empowered woman, but when put in lyrical context, the primary focus lies heavily with the ability simply shrug off poor behaviour. Reverse psychology anyone? Not to say in anyway that owning your sexuality is at all wrong, but being told repeatedly that in order to be cool or desired you must toss any expectation of love from your mind, has to be problematic. Especially when you’re in your mid teens- around the time most girls lose their virginity.
Lyrics from Drank In My Cup by Kirko Bangs via
I’ve always been a lyrics girl. I love songs that can do things to you the same way that good literature can. Ones that can reach into your soul and explain right back to you exactly how you feel. Being a lover of all types of music, I have been able to be lyrically satisfied in other genres, but as I get older I worry about the girls who are growing up today and can’t help but wonder how they feel? Popular music and culture is saturated with poor examples of who they should aspire to be and I wonder how they are navigating through it. And the same can be said for the ill focused macho bravado hoisted upon boys….
So what do you think? When I asked ‘Do You Listen To The Lyrics? on Twitter, the responses were mostly yes, but interestingly enough, many people categorized their music saying things like; they can stand ridiculous lyrics at a club but not at their home. Do you listen to the lyrics? And as a man or a woman, do they effect you or do you take them with a grain of salt?
No judgement here, I am admittedly guilty of knowing lyrics of far too many outrageously indecent songs, I’m just wondering how it effects you? If at all.