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.
6 thoughts on “Thursday Thoughts: Do You Listen To The Lyrics?”
I get what you’re saying Coco, I do. But, just to be devil’s advocate here…those songs are entertainment and artists are artists, they are not meant to be role models, so why do we (as a society) put them in a pedestal and expect them to raise our children? We have to start at home, teaching kids proper values. At the end of the day these people are entertainers. Nothing less, nothing more. Now, I am not saying I agree with these lyrics. I do not condone the degradation and violence against women, but the bigger questions is, if we are entertained by them, what does it say about society?
I do think that hip-hop is the voice of the silenced, and while I might get uncomfortable by the issues exposed (such as our apathy for women’s rights) I appreciate the genre’s honesty. And myself, being a minority and a lyrics listener, found great comfort and inspiration in the hip-hop artists I chose to which to listen.
You’ve brought up a lot of good points; entertainers are in fact, just that, entertainment. Unfortunately, our society as a whole does celebrate entertainers to such an extent that they become role models almost by default. And although it isn’t their role to raise our children, I just think it would be interesting to see more artists take a step outside of what’s somehow become an acceptable norm within these genres. Or maybe see more female artists really represent some kind of true female story. But then again, it is a business and like you said, ‘if we are entertained by them, what does that say about society?’
I do realize that finding hope in Top 40 Hip Hop/RnB isn’t the best place to start looking, I just know that it’s what’s getting the most play and therefore reaching the most ears. And unfortunate as it is, many times it’s the TV, the radio, and (now more than ever) the internet that is raising far too many of our youth….
It’s a far bigger problem than just music, and I wasn’t trying to solve it or make it a smaller issue than it is but was just interested to know if I was alone with these thoughts.
Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your insight.
You are not alone, Coco. I love how insightful YOU are.
Thanks Patricia 🙂
Can’t say I disagree with ya!
Hi this is a great post
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