A Little Less Ratchet, A Little More Romance: Where’s The Love In Hip Hop And R&B?
Whether it’s Trey Songz crooning he’s about to “Dive In” or Chris Brown moaning about how he’s going to make me “Wet The Bed,” I must be getting old and sensitive because love and hip-hop is a little too raw for me. Not even 5 years ago, I was attracted to men who were vulgar and explicit and thought those sweet, sensitive guys singing lullabies about walks in the park and candlelit dinners were clowns. But after years of blatant honesty, I find myself missing the days of middle school when a guy would send me a candy gram in class asking, “Will you go with me?”
A few months ago my colleagues and I decided that we needed some music to break up the monotony of our office days that are otherwise filled with calls from probation officers about parenting classes and random UPS diaper deliveries. With the help of Pandora, soon we had Marvin Gaye and Sade to serenade us through those long eight hours. We chose channels that we thought were “safe” for an office of women ranging from their early twenties to their late fifties. And by “safe” I mean we didn’t want to run the risk of Rihanna exclaiming, “I love it when you eat it,” in the event that a donor walked through the door. By choosing the Toni Braxton channel, I figured we were in the clear.
Nonetheless after a few times haul assing to my phone to change the channel when I heard the first few notes of “Neighbors Know My Name” drop, it hit me: There aren’t too many men singing about love anymore. Even back in the day our parents clearly knew exactly that Ronald Isley wasn’t just talking about a hug when he sang “I feel your love surrounding me” on “In Between the Sheets,” but it was a lot more subtle than, “Girl I like the way it opens up when you throw it back baby,” as Chris Brown sings on 2012. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I have my random ratchet moments where a little wine and some Rick Ross “Diced Pineapples” or “She Will” by Lil’ Wayne doesn’t make me feel like the sexiest broad to ever sip Yellowtail on a Saturday. When it comes to raunch and romance, I like Chris Brown and Trey Songz because they “go there.” But sometimes I just want to fall back and hear a man tell me how beautiful I am, not how fat my a** is.
It’s not like thug love didn’t exist when I was a teen. Boys II Men might have been on bended knee begging to make love, but Jodeci didn’t hesitate to hump the stage and let us know that every freakin day they wanted to freak our bodies in every freakin way. A few years later even LL Cool J and Fabolous had their share of public displays of affection through singles like Hey Lover and Baby. There was a balance back then, but recently when I try to think of anyone mainstream that’s actually singing about love the only artist who comes to mind is Ne-yo and recently he seems to making more songs for the club than for couples. It’s no wonder why teens today can’t see anything beyond breaking headboards when it comes to relationships. Women are becoming the worst offenders. When did a man become soft or a sucker for being a gentleman? Any time a man reveals the slightest bit of sensitivity or emotion we are quick to label him as “soft” or “gay,”but don’t let him refer to us as “bitches” and we’re ready to swing on him…unless of course he’s a rapper and he’s telling us to drop down and get our eagle on. There’s nothing like a little fame and money to make the rules of the regular not apply. Even I must admit it’s been me on some occasions looking all silly and doe-eyed when a man tells me how “bad” I am or that I look like a video vixen. But on some level it’s sad that “I can tell that you’ve been practicin’” is seen as the ultimate form of flattery these days.
I think it’s great that people are talking so openly about sex especially when it comes to people not fearing they’ll be judged for what gender they choose to love or young people being able to ask questions without people assuming they are trying to make a pregnancy pact. But sometimes people being so TMI about their sexual intentions kills the mystery which as a result kills the mood. I think that’s why I enjoy Drake so much; he can just as easily hold his own surrounded by bouncing booties on a single like “Pop That” and then turn around and express how vulnerable he actually is on a song like “Hate Sleeping Alone.”
There’s time and place for passion, but as women we can’t wonder where the romance and respect went when any man who isn’t telling us to bend over and look back at him is considered a clown. Ladies if we want romance and candlelight, we have to think more about love than dropping it low and spreading it wide. Fellas, sometimes revealing what you want to stick and lick isn’t nearly as arousing as telling a woman that you just want to hold her. Romance and ratchet don’t mix and we don’t always want baby-making music as much as we want to boo love. The subtle art of flirting and courtship needs to be brought back not only to hip hop, but to relationships every where. That doesn’t have to mean cliched rose petals leading to the bedroom or Barry White and candlelight, but try being a little creative. I like it rough, but take a note from Otis Redding and try a little tenderness.
Can you think of any R&B artists who still sing about love?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog Bullets and Blessings .