My guess is that you don't listen to rap music, primarily because you consider it awful noise, not music. Bully for you (and for me). But here's the thing. If you have children - teens and even pre-teens - they do listen to this junk, or at the very least are regularly exposed to it, no matter how much they might deny an interest in it.
Care to know what's hot in this genre these days? Just turn on the radio, and surf a bit. You'll find it. The "feel good" lyric of the spring belonged to the rapper 50 Cent in his song "Candy Shop," in which he invited the flower of American womanhood: "I'll let you lick the lollipop." The orally fixated half-dollar gangster also worked in the M&M jingle: "I melt in your mouth girl, not in your hand."
Another hot raunchy radio and video smash this summer has been "Wait (The Whisper Song)," by the appropriately categorized "Dirty South" rappers known as the Ying Yang Twins. It's so popular, the duo's full album, "United State of Atlanta," debuted on the Billboard magazine sales charts at number two.
These "twins" first hit the big time last year, backing up Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz as they rapped about "getting low" with women, with crude lyrics like "skeet skeet skeet motherf-----, skeet skeet skeet g-damn." ("Skeet" is slang for ejaculate, something else you didn't know - but your children probably do.)
But "The Whisper Song" tops that. The rappers may whisper throughout the "song" (go looking for a melody, and you may never find one), but the message is clear: These boys like to talk dirty about the sex they like rough. The "chorus," as you might try to describe it, is "Ay b---h! wait til you see my d--k / I'm-a beat dat p---y up." In case the woman-beating metaphor isn't strong enough for you, they repeat it about eight times before the next verse begins.
The video on MTV had the most offensive language sanitized - it's "wait til you see my Oh!" The "Oh!" is sometimes male, and sometimes, a moaning female. In some shots, the Twins lay on the floor in a mob of writhing, scantily clad women. The supermodel-type women who hear their "whispers" on camera look delighted, as if they'd like nothing better than being brutalized a little. (MTV is owned by Viacom, whose then-boss Karmazin pledged before Congress that his company would have a "zero tolerance" policy toward indecency. How he kept a straight face when he said that is a mystery to me.)
There are music critics who don't like this garbage but are equally uncomfortable condemning it. Rene Spencer Saller writes for the alternative weekly The Illinois Times and complains that "like many overeducated liberals, I've made countless excuses for the Twins and their crunk brethren, contorted all the rules of logic and common sense in an attempt to find irony and meta-commentary and linguistic appropriation in every dehumanizing slur. After all, preaching the dangers of popular culture feels so square, so sanctimonious, so Tipper Gore."
Some critics, on the other hand, do like it and are pushing it. Saller also noted that big-time music critics like to make excuses for misogynistic rappers. In the supposedly feminist New York Times, critic Kelefa Sanneh called the song one of the year's "best and weirdest hits" in which the rappers were "hissing sexual promises so explicit they almost sounded like threats." Almost? But it gets worse: back in February, Sanneh praised the song in advance as "crude, gimmicky, unnerving and strange -- which is to say, perfect." That plug appears on Amazon.com as part of the sales package.
The counter-cultural Village Voice also came to the Twins' defense with this Orwellian twist: the song is merely "a crass flirt mistaken for a date-rape anthem by people who have no sympathy for lechers."
Anyone who thinks these rappers aren't serious about roughing women up should jump over to their track titled "Pull My Hair" whose message is that women who tease deserve pain, and yes, I'll spare you the explicit lyrics there. Any doubt about their anger dissipates when you hear them pledge to "make nut come out yo' nose." Critics have also noticed explicit violence on a previous track titled "Georgia Dome," when they promise "I'll punch a b---h in the breast."
Who puts out this filth for the amoral echo chambers at radio stations and BET and MTV? It's TVT Records, one of the nation's largest independent record labels, founded by Steve Gottlieb in his New York apartment in 1985. The label's web site notes Gottlieb's Yale and Harvard Law degrees and that "He is married and is the proud father of two children."
And they must be so proud of Dad, too.
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