Apparently the BET Awards aired tonight. I wasn’t at all surprised by the number of tweets that showed up on my twitter timeline criticizing today’s music for not being lyrical enough, for being too violent, or otherwise not up to par. To that I say:
F*** OUTTA HERE!
If you believe that, most likely you are 25 and above. In fact, you might even be 21 and above. And, if that’s the case, current music is not for you to like. It’s not created for you, and really, it shouldn’t be created by people much older than you. Music has always been driven by young people. Young people are the ones who have hours to spend in their rooms listening to music. They also have parents who give them allowances with which to buy music. Young people have been responsible for almost every major music movement in this country from rock n roll to hip hop.
But what happens when a generation of people refuses to grow up? When 30 year old dads are wearing fitted caps and collecting sneakers? When 40 year old mothers are saying things like 40 is the new 30? (it’s not, by the way)Then what do you get? I tell you what you get, a generation of people who, rather than satisfying themselves with marriage, family, and other cultural endeavors beyond new music, are using their free time to rain on Souljah Boy’s and his fan’s parade.
I use Soulja Boy as an example because for some reason, his music and image seem to bother people my age (27) the most. As someone who doesn’t even PRETEND to feel guilty for jigging when “Donk” comes on the radio, and who thought “Kiss Me Through The Phone” was soooo adorable, I am perplexed by the older (yeah I said it) generation’s issue with Soulja Boy. No, he’s not intellectual. No, he’s not furthering our community. No, he’s not the best rapper. Perhaps he doesn’t even deserve his success (although his hardwork and production talent is undeniable). But he is under 21. And honestly, is Soulja Boy’s sing-rapping effort in “Turn My Swag On” any more offensive to musical sensibilities than Domino’s “Ghetto Jam?,” one of the many songs from back in “my day” that I still know the words too? Is his awkward and not-quite-age-appropriate rap on “Crank Dat” that much worse than one my favorite songs “My Cadillac” by McNasD, where he raps about how his car helps him get “panties?”
I hate to say this, but there is simply something very unseemly about a bunch of near-30 year olds criticizing the musical existence of someone who is barely 19. I would also argue that Soulja Boy’s audience doesn’t and shouldn’t care what a bunch of 25+ 9-5 working stiffs think about the music they listen to on the bus ride to school or while they’re doing homework in the dorms. And, well, they shouldn’t. How would music be today, if my older cousins, parents and their friends got to decide whether Uncle Luke and 2 Live Crew were worthy of radio play? Well actually, they tried, took it all the way to Congress and failed due to the 1st amendment.
Well, thank goodness, at that time, there was an entire genre of music dedicated to people in that age range, it was called “Contemporary R&B.” Luther Vandross, Regina Bell, hell, even Whitney Houston sang for a slightly more mature audience that was halfway between giving up new music altogether and getting over the fact that hip hop was beginning to dominate the scene. Unfortunately, my generation unlike previous generations refuses to mature, and there is no such thing as Contemporary R&B anymore.
The previous generation knew when to quit. I still remember when my Dad found my very first rap TAPE. It was by a female rapper named Boss. My dad heard the blarings of “ya gotta, ya ya ya gotta, ya gotta let a hoe be a hoe” blaring from my “boom box” when he came home from work one day. He immediately demanded to listen to all my rap tapes.
At that time, I had 3 rap tapes. He took Boss' "Born Gangstaz" (who I later found out wasn't born Gansta or in CA!), Three Six Mafia’s “Mystic Styles" and Snoop Dogg’s “Doggy Style.” He took my tapes into his bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed, and put each tape into his stereo which previously had only played Gospel music, Kenny G, Patti LaBelle, and Luther Vandross.
I stood in my parent’s bedroom doorway for 30 minutes while my Daddy listened to songs off of each tape shaking his head at some of my favorites like “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none."
I got so sick to my stomach as I realized for the first time how terrible this music must sound to tender ears like my father’s. He wouldn't get it, I thought. I didn’t know if I was going to be put out of his house or just generally cussed out and lectured. But I knew for sure my tapes would be confiscated for good.
I was wrong.
My dad took my tapes out, put them back in their cases, and handed to me and said “here, just don’t let me hear them again.”
I didn’t. I asked my mom for a pair of headphones as soon as she got home from work!
I’m not saying that older people can’t like new music. But they should be ready to accept that they will have to pick and choose.
My mom, who is 59 years old, has “Sexy Lady” by Ray J as her ring tone—except for when my Dad calls. In that case, her phone plays “A Little Bit” by 50 cent. (I’m not going to even get into that). She loves Dr. Dre, forced me to download some new R. Kelly and Jamie Foxx onto her new ipod (when did she get that?), and had me buy Warren G’s “Smoking Me Out” by Ron Isley which she played on repeat for 3 weeks when it first came out, and she almost blows my ears out when Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” comes on the radio. I can’t hear. And don’t get me started on her love of old Hot Boyz jams like "Hot Girl" and "Bling Bling."
But beyond a few standout songs and artists here and there, she’s cool just listening to her old tunes, many of which are so filthy I can’t bare to listen to them! Marvin Cease’s “Candy Licker,” and Millie Jackson’s “Slow Tongue,” Chuck Willis “Stoop Down And Let Daddy See,” and pretty much anything by Joe Poonany are on her list of must-haves. If it were up to me, I would eliminate all of this kind of music because, quite frankly, I find it to be disgusting. In fact, I hate to even link to them they bother me so!
But it’s not up to me. I let my mom and her raunchy friends listen to their stuff, although I have a permanent wrinkle in my forehead from gagging as they jig to it.
The truth is, every generation gets to have a sound. I couldn’t believe when Jay-Z, who I remember very CLEARLY saying repeatedly in response to criticism of his just-as-igorant-as-2009-music in the 90s that he was speaking to his generation. That hip hop was “music for young people.” Fast forward to 2009 and Jay-Z is a 40 year old rapper (the same age my Dad was when he took my tapes!) pronouncing musical tools used by younger artists as ‘dead,’ criticizing younger rappers for their way of dressing, and taking credit for making the game what it is even though he says the game shouldn't be what it is. Not to mention, he's still referring to himself as “Young Hov”. I’m sorry sir, at 40 you can’t be “young” anything, unless you are doing a concert at a nursing home.
I am all for encouraging musicians to be better and analyzing the impact of certain messages on our culture, but honestly, my generation needs to quit the nostalgia. Instead of embracing the music that was made for you, you are holding on to youth and control of young folk’s music with a kung fu death grip. Young people deserve to have their own sound, no matter how substandard us “old” folks may find it.
Speaking of substandard, I take this opportunity to leave you with a couple of my favorite songs from my youth. The first is one of my favorite songs of all time, I could listen to it every day.
Scarred by Luke f. Trick Daddy
Hay Crucial Conflict
69 Boys = Donkey, Donkey
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 , Posted by JD at 7:59 PM