This is BN-W’s second quarterly music monitoring session – Winter 2005. This time around we didn’t have to suffer through listening to a bunch of individual CDs. As we did with some artists in the BN-W Fall 2004 music monitor (BN-W #9), we pulled the lyrics to many of the songs from the Internet using the following Web sites:
As with BN-W’s first music monitoring session, it’s still brutally disappointing listening to and reading the lyrics for some of the CDs and hearing the self-hatred, which they don’t even recognize, just spewing out with ease from these young people’s mouths. In the Fall music monitor, we listed some CDs that we considered “worth going to the store and buying.” This time, however, we have a few Web sites that offer a variety of entertainment for different tastes as well as ages. BN-W’s based on the East Coast, so bear with us and understand when we pass on information that’s, literally, close to home for us. Hopefully, if you’re not already here, you’ll visit the New York City area at some point and get a chance to catch at least one of the events.
(3) Bergen Performing Arts Center (NJ’s Bergen County area)
[The official BN-W CD Monitoring session of Billboard magazine’s (www.billboard.com) “ Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums” is farther down in this document.]
Although we don’t give content critique for our film monitoring, it’s a little more difficult not to do so with the music because music can be so much more personal than a film on a big screen. We think it’s safe to say that, in general, music (and lyrics, if applicable) can hit a little closer to your soul and can get embedded to a certain extent. We say embedded because a lot of times you’re listening to it in your car, with your walkman or portable CD, with headphones or earplugs, when you’re getting dressed, possibly when you wake up or before you go to sleep, and the list goes on. This, in our opinion, makes it a whole lot more personal. Therefore, to be honest with you, unless you’re a music critic or a diehard rap/hip-hop fan, a lot of the CDs with excessive use (10+) of the N-word that we monitored are really just not worth listening to. Some artists try to have more to say than just sex, hoes, bitches, money, bling-bling, cars, violence, killing, drugs, and liquor, but overall most of them aren’t saying much that will have a positive impact on them or anyone else. Nas stands out from the others in terms of social/political commentary, but the N-word usage can work against the message.
As with the Fall 2004 monitor, some of the beats are funky or “slamming,” as the slang goes, but so what. If the lyrics overall aren’t saying much on top of using the N-word excessively, again, so what. We were told that you can purchase an instrumental version of all the songs, so if you love the beat that much consider doing that and then rapping or singing over it yourself. Also, some artists didn’t use the N-word directly themselves, but they had guest artists that used it. Those guest artists include Ja Rule (of course), T.I. (of course), D-12 (of course), and R. Kelly. But, as the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together, so we can only assume the artists ( Ashanti, Eminem, Ciara) must be OK with its use by their guests. In fact, although Eminem “apologized” for his use of the N-word in his pre-fame past, he certainly surrounds himself with and is behind quite a number of artists who use it profusely and excessively, including being a part of the late Tupac Shakur’s newest album, “Loyal to the Game.”
We’d also like to report that we received an e-mail from the president of Blisslife Records (www.blisslife.com). One of its artists is Amel Larrieux, who used to be with Groove Theory and whose latest solo album entitled “Bravebird” is excellent. The president informed us that they are actively against the use of the N-word and don’t allow its use on their label. Their artists are told this before signing and if they choose to ignore it, their music is not released. This proves that there are companies and top executives out there taking a stand. So it can be done – all it takes is the tiniest effort and, more importantly, just a tiny bit of caring – by those in a position to put such requirements in effect. Some may think this is infringing on the First Amendment rights, but do you really think that most of the people who use the word are educationally or historically passionate about using it? Or did it just develop by following what others do, thus resulting in an unfortunate habit? We can guarantee you that most don’t even understand and really know or realize the true historical significance of the word. [Lack of the proper education is still a big issue and a big part of the problem.]
One interesting observation about some of the artists, particularly the males, is that they do want meaningful relationships – quite a few wrote about desiring a healthy relationship similar to what Will and Jada Smith seem to have (we say seem because nobody ever really knows what’s truly happening in anyone’s relationship). So, that’s definitely a positive thing because it might mean that they’re looking for women who will help make them better (which is what Will Smith has said Jada does for him, right?). We can’t let the males take all the weight if girls/young ladies/women don’t demand respect. Is it because, perhaps, they don’t have the self-respect, the self-confidence, the self-worth to realize they deserve it? How women allow themselves to be portrayed is a big part of the problem as well; in fact, probably the biggest part of it. Right or wrong? In a song entitled “Down With Da South,” which is on Trick Daddy’s newest CD (“Thug Matrimony…”), female rapper Trina has a rap that flaunts her, we suppose, sexual prowess. If curious, go onto the www.ohhla.com Web site above and read her rap portion for yourself. For comparison’s sake, also check out the lyrics to “Lose My Breath” by Destiny’s Child (DC) onwww.lyricsbox.com. And you may as well check out the lyrics to DC’s other current single, which is getting plenty of radio and video play, “Soldier.” The danceable music and beats can grab you, but when you read the lyrics and realize what you’re jamming to it kinda makes you go hmmmmm because you can handle it and hopefully read between the lines as an adult, but what about a 5-, 8-, 12-, 15-, or 21-year-old. What are they subliminally (and blatantly) absorbing from the combination of a catchy beat and “slick” lyrics that intentionally get played over and over and over and over….? Add the video to the mix and all you can do is hope these young people have enough exposure to other things (including adult influences and the arts) to add the necessary balance. And, in your opinion, what’s the likelihood they’ll have this balanced exposure – highly likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely or highly unlikely?
Just a few final questions. Why are there five plus writers for one song with minimal lyrics that are repeated over and over? Is this how the artists get a writing credit and/or royalties? Most of the lyrics are nowhere near the level of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, or Smokey Robinson – whether they were singing about love, sex, social issues, politics, history, etc. What is up with the music industry today? We are definitely getting played, but it’s said that history repeats itself, so hopefully soon we’ll start getting more 21st Century versions of the lyrics and music Stevie, Marvin, Smokey, Duke, Nina, and Miles, to name just a few, gave us. There are artists out there, but they’re rarely getting signed or promoted.
If you do take a chance and buy some of these CDs or if you or your kids already have some of them, the same questions still apply – appropriate/inappropriate? necessary/unnecessary? sensible/nonsensical? does it add to or take away from the CD overall? does the N-word have to be used at all? is there a valid reason for doing so? is it mandatory for the CD to be effective? what are the circumstances/situation that necessitate any use of the word? is it just thrown in for humor, insult, fear, crime? are other culturally insulting slang terms used as much as the N-word in the CDs?
Below is BN-W’s quarterly CD monitoring session for Winter 2005, which includes 20 CDs that are from Billboard magazine’s (www.billboard.com) “ Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums” for the week of January 1, 2005. The monitor shows a range (none , low [1-2], moderate [3-5], high [6-9], excessive [10+]) of how often the N-word was used throughout the CDs.
|LOW – EXCESSIVE [1+]|
|1||2Pac||Loyal to the Game||XXXXXX|
|3||Destiny’s Child||Destiny Fulfilled||XXXXXX|
|4||Ludacris||The Red Light District||XXXXXX|
|7||Jay-Z/Linkin Park||Collision Course||XXXXXX|
|13||Snoop Dogg||R&G: The Masterpiece||XXXXXX|
|16||Various Artists||Now 17||THIS ALBUM WAS NOT MONITORED BECAUSE FOUR ARTISTS – TERROR SQUAD, LIL FLIP, JADAKISS, AKON – USE THE N-WORD EXCESSIVELY ON THEIR CURRENT ALBUMS WHICH HAVE SONGS INCLUDED ON THIS “NOW 17” ALBUM|
|18||Ray Charles||Genius Loves Company||XXXXXX|
|19||Xzibit||Weapons of Mass Destruction||XXXXXX|
|20||Ruben Studdard||I Need An Angel||XXXXXX|
*The companion piece to this CD by Nelly is “Sweat” and it does use the N-word excessively.
BN-W Monitor Coming Soon: “Coach Carter” [Samuel L. Jackson, Ashanti Douglas]; “Are We There Yet?” [Ice Cube, Nia Long]; “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” [Kimberly Elise, Steve Harris]; “Hitch” [Will Smith, Eva Mendes]; “An Unfinished Life” [Jennifer Lopez, Robert Redford]; “Beauty Shop” [Queen Latifah, Ice Cube]
Also Coming : DVD Monitoring; Dave Chappelle