Monday, June 28, 2004

I don't listen to it for the lyrics

You've heard it before: vulgar, lewd music gets a pass because the buyer doesn't “really listen to the lyrics,” he just digs the music. What rubbish. Before you tell me lyrics are not what you're buying on a CD, remind the artist not to bother recording them in the first place. How many times have I caught myself singing along to a song I thought I didn't know, much less like? Words are an inextricable part of most musical experience and whether we think we can tune them out or not, they influence us. This, the verbal nature of music, is especially true with rap music (not to mention Gregorian chant).

Now, I'm all about the beats and mixes of rap and R&B. But I have some serious reservations about a lot of what passes for rap lyrics. Call me a cracker with a prudish stick up my rear – go ahead, I’ve had worse – but I simply refuse to endure some of the vitriol that is spewed forth by many rappers. Not that I blame them. Life in the ghetto, as my limited and eager experience has shown me, is tough. The sad and humorous part of it, though, is that a lot of thug rappers are straight-up frontin, for the simple fact that they're not mixing in the ghetto anymore. They got paid; life is no longer what they're singing about; it’s time to quit frontin. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to De La Soul, Jurassic 5 or Del The Funky Homosapien about these celebrity thug rappers and how they've sold their dignity and sold out their roots. They not only know better, but sound a lot better than me, too.

I generally appreciate rap because it tells it like it is; it shows us, especially us "non-minority" folks, what life on “the other side” is about. In fact, if you know me, you know I have a decent, albeit usually old school, hip-hop and rap selection. (What's more – don't laugh – I've been deigned “an honorary black” before. Just goes to show race is about love and truth, not melatonin.) But there's a line. There’s a line between telling it like it is and telling how it should be. It’s one thing to set life in the ghetto to a beat; it’s quite another to encourage violent or lascivious behavior with your music. It’s one thing to rap about the poison in the ghetto; it’s quite another to poison the ghetto by rapping. It's one thing to rap prophetically against the corruption of the ghetto; it's quite another to rap the ghetto into a deeper coma of infantilization. And I refuse to endorse music that poisons urban USAmerica any more than it’s already suffered.

The following article (“Song Encourages Violence Towards Pregnant Women, Group Says,” News, Melanie Hunter) highlights what I mean.

A pro-life group is warning that a popular song advocates violence against pregnant women.

Black Americans for Life, an outreach of the National Right to Life Committee, said the remixed version of singer Usher's song "Confessions," featuring rapper Joe Budden, suggests violent action against a mother when she is unwilling to abort her child. …

The song includes lyrics such as:

"....Pray that she abort that,
If she's talkin' 'bout keeping' it,
One hit to the stomach,
She's leakin' it

Gardner said the lyrics illustrate the need for legislation like the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as Laci and Connor's law, which makes it a federal crime to harm or kill an unborn child when committing an act of violence against the mother.

"What is tragic is that these suggestive lyrics often become a reality. This is why legislation like the Unborn Victims of Violence Act is crucial in protecting the lives of pregnant women and their unborn children," Gardner added.

The pro-life group is urging African-Americans to call BMG Entertainment, the parent group of Usher's record label LaFace/Zomba, to request that they pull support of the remixed version of the song.

The group is also urging blacks to call their local radio stations that play RB and hip hop music to request that "Confessions (remix)" be pulled from their playlists and from the air.

O, how backward those sandheaded ancient Israelites were, what with their petty, tribal penalties for injuring a fetus (cf. Exd 21:22-25).

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