I know I'm not the only one who remembers the history of modern music. People have been pissed at certain elements of "Satan's influence" in music since people had the ability to be pissed and since the invention of Satan as a catch-all for evil.
Fat, white Bill Haley scared people with rock 'n' roll. The Doors couldn't bring anyone higher on national television. In Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" they had "got him by the balls" changed to "… by the hands" in 1971. Elvis was told not to swivel. Sinead O' Connor received death threats and was ostracized after singing "War" and ripping up a picture of the Pope. NBC still won't re-air it. The Rolling Stones were only allowed to spend "some time" together on the Ed Sullivan show. There were – in the 1940s and 1950s minds of the confused and bigoted – black people forcing their unseemly passion to "the youth of America." Madonna, God help us, was pilloried for "Like a Prayer" and "Like a Virgin." Does anyone not insane really blame The Beatles for Charles Manson?
But none of that is the newest damnation, the ungodly dark-hearted hip-hop. And what makes perceived violence or disrespect towards women in music new sins? Or the only sins? People who claim to be music aficionados – and many others – suddenly can't understand this loud, obscene and disrespectful hip-hop?
A lot of music and its performers were scandalous in their day. Anyone paying attention knows this. Really wake up. What makes hip-hop such a black mark on American society? (When a lot of people use "hip-hop" they usually mean rap. Hip-hop is music but its definition goes beyond music.) Certainly a lot of it can very much be considered disrespectful, but that does not translate into damaging and influencing an imagined monolithic black culture, that is somehow spilling over to corrupt "the youth of America."
Dire Straits – ghetto rats that they are – "get away" with saying faggot on the radio to this day, every day. Don't believe me? They were all about, "money for nuthin' and chicks for free" (disrespectful?) on their most commercially successful song to date. "See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup / Yeah buddy that's his own hair / That little faggot got his own jet airplane /That little faggot he's a millionaire."
It's startling to hear; yet national radio plays it without anyone batting an eye.
Talk about your double standards. What makes Dire Straits and so many of the musicians of the past innocuous, while Tupac Shakur or Ludacris (to use just two examples) are such societal pariahs and their lyrics looked on with a jaundiced eye or outright distaste?
"You're my nigga, my best friend / Never gonna call you, a bitch again."
Got love that one, from Tupac's "Never Gonna Call U Bitch Again" because it decries the use of "bitch" while still using "nigga." Multitudes. Can the critics handle the dichotomy?
Ludacris has a song called "Move Bitch" which I wouldn't listen to loudly, because it would require explanation. Because Ludacris is still alive, it's clearly a story, not a true lifestyle. For the same reason, that the words need explanation, I wouldn't loudly play, Guns N' Roses "Back Off Bitch" (it could be guy or gal) or "I'm A Bitch" by Meredith Brooks or all-American Aerosmith's, "Bitch's Brew" or "Wonder Why They Call You Bitch?"
In fact, the last song on that list by Tupac Shakur would probably get almost unanimous support if people listened to the words and then coupled it with his "Keep Ya Head Up" song.
From "Keep Ya Head Up:" "And when he tells you you ain't nuttin don't believe him / And if he can't learn to love you you should leave him / Cause sista you don't need him /And I ain't tryin to gas ya up, I just call em how I see em" "Keep Ya Head Up" was early on in his career, on the Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z album. "Wonder Why … " was on his last double-album before he was killed, All Eyez on Me.
From "Wonder Why:" "It was said you were sleazy / even easy / sleepin' around for what / you need / See it's your thang / and you can shake it how you wanna. / Give it up free / or make your money on the corner. / But don't be bad and play the game / get mad and change. / Then you wonda why these muthafuckas call you names. / Still lookin' for a way out / and that's OK / I can see you wanna stray / there's a way out. / Keep your mind on your money, / enroll in school. / And as the years pass by / you can show them fools. / But you ain't tryin' to hear me / cuz you're stuck, / you're headin' for the bathroom / 'bout to get tossed up."
So many of the hip-hop songs are situation-specific, and are stories, just like so many of the controversial songs of the past which seem just as bad. Quite simply the argument for supporting so much of the controversial music through the ages, was that, no, it didn't influence behavior.
"Suicide Solution" wasn't going to make people kill themselves, troubled kids would do it in any case. Judas Priest – pick any song – wasn't going to make you a murderer, people had much greater influences in their life that would make them kill. The Sex Pistols', "God Save the Queen" was a brash call for overthrowing the throne, but somehow it didn't happen. Hell, just the name "Sex Pistols" was a scandal.
The Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" caused a ripple across America and was banned in Indiana. Neither Johnny Cash (Folsom Prison Blues) or Ice-T (Cop Killer) murdered anybody. Ruth Brown's "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Sit On It" from the 1950s wasn't going to make you suck a dick and fuck before marriage. And it's remembered over 50 years later.
Art may imitate life but it doesn't equal it.
This agenda outrage doesn't just include music, of course. Television shows receive the brunt of it these days. Books are banned, more in previous decades than now. Video games such as the Grand Theft Auto franchise are shouted down for promoting violence. It's outrage with an agenda; an easy way to blame without pointing to or wanting to do anything about underlying solutions, if there are any.
So, it is with hip-hop, gangsta rap, and even emo. To believe that hip-hop influences black culture (even though more whites buy rap and hip-hop these days than anyone else) to the point of blacks believing all women are bitches and ho's or that nigga is always a derogatory term is to have a convenient memory of youth that only furthers agenda outrage and an air of superiority.
It's music and these performances are not the same as real life. it's not Richard Nixon, or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railing against Jews. It's not President Bush wondering about evolution because surely monkeys can't be our antecedents. It's not Don Imus – who was always more a serious voice than Howard Stern – and his history of racial and ethnic slurs. It's not.
Again, art may imitate life but it doesn't equal it.
These music performance are not the same as using clearly offensive language casually or publicly in a crowded restaurant, in a classroom or in a packed mall. It's the same idea that people with bass-heavy, jacked-up stereos need to understand. Not everyone wants to hear the music they dislike pumped out as they wait for the red light to turn green, or parked in front of the 7-Eleven while they watch you go inside for a forty and a Slurpie.
Being the supposed mature adult who wants to appear the wiser person, who wants to shame teens for liking any music – for any reason of morality – is extremely myopic and disrespectful in and of itself. Those who say hip-hop is the latest Satan's influence aren't learning from their childhood experiences at all, so their aged wisdom is useless. The underlying problems for people who go astray go deeper. You can tell that by listening to the stories of hip-hop.
Is there a subjective point that people can criticize that music lyrics offends them? Absolutely. And they can decide not to listen and hope their kids don't listen. But past outrages have only served agendas, not intelligence nor purity of the soul, and a lot of "Satan's influence" has passed into the annals of middle American acceptability. A lot of untalented copy-and-paste hip-hop exists out there, but to believe that hip-hop is corrupting the "youth of America" is to live the credo, "We fear what we don't understand." And we've all lived that.
What are your reactions to these songs?
Guns N Roses, "Used To Love Her:" "I used to love her, but I had to kill her / I used to love her, but I had to kill her / I knew I'd miss her / So I had to keep her / She's buried right in my back yard / …. I used to love her, but I had to kill her / I used to love her, but I had to kill her / She bitched so much / She drove me nuts / And now I'm happier this way."
Guns N Roses, "One In A Million:" "Police and Niggers, that's right / Get out of my way / Don't need to buy none of your Gold chains today / I don't need no bracelets / Clamped in front of my back / Just need my ticket; 'til then / Won't you cut me some slack? … Immigrants and faggots / They make no sense to me / They come to our country / And think they'll do as they please / Like start some mini Iran / Or spread some fuckin' disease / They talk so many goddamn ways / It's all Greek to me."
How about these lyrics. Is the singer being disrespectful toward women?
"YOU KNOW WHO I AM, I'ma bitch / DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MAKE, filthy rich / DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS, gotta gat / I THOUGHT YOU WAS A FREAK, never that / You see me on the road, when I stroll / I float through the toll, like whoa (beep beep) / you just a silly ho, this I know / you be at every show, for the dough, hear me now ."
Or "UN get ur freak on / Get [scatted] Get ur freak on! / Who's that bitch? / … Me me! Nelly Nelly Nelly Furtado all in your stereo/ I'm pumpin louder please don't tell me you don't like the flow… "
The first is Missy Elliott's "Beat Biters." The second is Elliott and Nelly Furtado's "Get Your Freak On." Furtado is considered a strong woman. So is Elliott, and is even a role model for clean living and self-worth. Elliott gets pretty raw talking about the sounds and sights of having sex, but no one can mistake her for anyone's follower.
Ozzy Osbourne, "Suicide Solution": "Breaking laws, knocking doors / But theres no one at home / Made your bed, rest your head / But you lie there and moan / Where to hide, suicide is the only way out / Dont you know what its really about?" … Yep, the song is actually anti-suicide but reactionary thinking results in fear blindness.