Kids And Today’s Music: Is There Anything Wrong With Malia And Sasha Obama Listening To Frank Ocean?

February 27, 2013  |  

From Pitchfork:

Last night, “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” welcomed First Lady Michelle Obama, who talked about the listening habits of the First Family. Obviously, they’re all into Beyoncé, but she also noted that Sasha and Malia are Frank Ocean fans (via Consequence of Sound).

And First Lady Michelle Obama is okay with that?

Okay, so what’s the big deal about Sasha and Malia listening to Frank Ocean? Nothing actually. Despite thinking he was hyped for the wrong reasons, I like Frank Ocean, and I particularly appreciate the way in which he maneuvers in and out of traditional R&B to create a somewhat different sound than what’s out today. However, Ocean is not what I typically think of as a young adult-friendly artist, and especially not safe for the daughters of the first black president. While Ocean has a way with words, his words do mostly revolve around excess, sex, wholehearted love, and drugs. For instance, “Pilot Jones” may be cleverly prosed, but it also speaks rather bluntly about being in a relationship with a strung-out woman. Another example is “Pyramids,” which starts out painting a beautiful picture of Queen Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, but after about three minutes, morphs into a slow whine about a much different Cleopatra, who it seems works at an actual club called the Pyramids. So yeah, while there are some musical differences between Frank Ocean and the rest of his R&B contemporaries, clearly, in some ways they are the same.

So don’t nobody go think I’m saying that Ocean is setting a bad example to the youth of our generation. To the contrary, I think children can learn from his use of metaphors and imagery. However, can someone explain to me how did Frank Ocean get passed White House clearance to be deemed safe enough to mention in a national interview? I’m thinking that some of his themes alone would be enough fodder for some crazed Republican to claim that the Obamas were secretly trying to corrupt the mind of the nation’s children. Also, I just can’t imagine the Obama girls jamming to the following: “Novacane Baby, Baby/Novacane baby I want you/F**k me good, f**k me long, f**k me numb/Love me now when I’m gone love me none/Love me none, love me none/Numb numb, numb numb…”

That song, if you quite haven’t figured it out yet, is called “Novacane” and it is about falling in love (OR, not being able to) with an Adult Video star, who also wants to be a dentist. Although I like the song, I’m sure that there is some metaphorical deeper meaning that I have not fully understood. But the song is pretty graphic in content. And since the late ’80s, similar themed songs, particularly those coming from the hip-hop and R&B community, have faced scrutiny for graphic content and themes, many of which are similar to this Ocean track. Most particularly, both genres of music have been blamed for some pretty damning stuff in the black community – from the over-sexualization of our young black girls to even the mass incarceration of young black men. So I wonder how does the First Family reconcile with the girls’ taste in music and the sexual themes and messages, which might exist in a song?

Well, according to an article in Glamour, President Obama once stated the following about Malia:

“You know, we actually don’t constrain what she listens to. We expect her to show some good judgment. She listens to my iPod and has gotten hip to stuff that was made well before she was born like Motown, jazz, classic rock. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that she’s picking up on. We actually share tastes in hip-hop and rap music but we don’t listen to it together, because some of the language in there would embarrass me—at least while I’m listening to it with her. Folks like Jay-Z, Nas, we both like them, but when it comes on and I’m sitting with her and Sasha, then I fast-forward because it would make me blush…. It’s interesting, both Malia and Sasha, they’re very much up on pop culture, but what I’m pleased to see is that they’re interested in making culture too. They both play the piano, and Sasha’s dancing, and Malia’s interested in filmmaking.”

I don’t think that President Obama, the First Lady, and more specifically Sasha and Malia’s open adulation of Frank Ocean – or any other Hip-Hop or R&B musician- sends the wrong messages. Heck, I’m not sure it sends out any message other than stating that the kids have pretty decent taste in music. And clearly we are talking about the Obama girls and there is no doubt that they are getting the best education and guidance that being the children of a president and first lady of the United States can afford them. However, if rap music and sexually explicit R&B does not mean that one is destined to be anti-social and basically a degenerate to society, as in the case of the Obama girls, perhaps we might be overstating its importance or relevance in addressing the problems in our community?

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  • TuAmor

    wake up people you can’t blame everything on music and the media … art imitates life if these things weren’t happening in real life these artist wouldn’t have it to sing or rap about. Hip Hop and R&B has always been about story telling actually all genre of music tells some type of story. I hate how people try to blame urban music for all thats wrong in this country and our youth when all genre speaks of some wild things. We have to teach our kids the difference between right and wrong and the difference between their reality and someone else’s. Stop leaving your children’s up bringing to celebrities. I would have to agree with the Obama’s on this one, teach your kids to think for themselves and not follow.

  • Keisha Samoht

    If they were to get out of line,and try to blame the music (i doubt it happening) Michelle will be sure to handle it like any momma would. They know what to say and what to say around they parents.
    Hey how did my respone to a comment get turned into a guest comment?

  • Gworl!

    …The Obamas could feed their kids dog poop and it would be praised by you people. “Oh it’s not that bad, at least there’s some left over nutrients in it!” GTFOH! If I had children I wouldn’t allow them to listen to certain types of music (at least not in my house) that boasts about adult content, even if it’s masked in metaphors. Not because I would expect them to be misguided enough to start perpetuating what the music says, but because I just don’t think it’s appropriate for children/teens to be exposed to everything just because it sounds nice or it’s popular. How about we let kids be kids and stop willingly exposing them to stuff that’s not appropriate for their age? And how about we stop acting like everything the Obamas do is pure gold. Beautiful family, but it’s tiring when people act like they’re the second coming of Christ.

    • wizdom

      Omg THANK YOU!! Moreover the author of this article CLEARLY thinks what Michelle Obama said was wrong but is simply too afraid of the backlash from readers. ok hunnie let me say it for you. THE FACT THAT THE OBAMAS AND ANY OTHER FAMILY THINK THAT FRANK OCEAN AND BEYONCE ARE APPROPRIATE CHOICES OF MUSIC IS BOTH MISGUIDED AND SOCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE!

      wake up people! Do your research, do people realize that most of what we learn is coming through our subconscious mind?! YOU ARE what you repeatedly listen to, think, eat, and do. Sorry I love FLOTUS but she was dead wrong on this one. Learn how to keep your leaders accountable, and yes
      even the great Obamas can be wrong.

  • Honesty

    Listening to that terrible combination he calls an album is wrong.

  • I have 3 daughters 5, 8, and 14. I only have time to be worried about what they are listening to hand how it is affecting them. Sasha and Malia have wonderful parents who I am pretty sure keeps track of what they are listening to and the affects it has on them. They don’t need my input.

    • Guest

      And if they were to get out of line,and try to blame the music (i doubt it happening) Michelle will be sure to handle it like any momma would.

  • Sagittarius81

    No, they’re better off listening to Frank Ocean than Lil’ Wayne and Chief Keef.

  • FromUR2UB

    I don’t think it’s that serious. Kids who haven’t been exposed to a lot of sexuality and other activities, usually interpret things literally. I was eight years old when the Isley Brothers released “Pop That Thang”, and when they sang the verse, “Look at that rooster, runnin’ after that hen”, I could easily have inserted Foghorn Leghorn there. It wasn’t until I saw some adults doing a very suggestive dance to the song, that it took on a different meaning. I know adults who’ve said they weren’t allowed to listen to any secular music while growing up, but I don’t see that it did any good. They pretty much do some of everything as adults. So, you have to allow kids to be kids, and listen to music that appeals to them, as long as the lyrics aren’t graphic or filled with expletives. Personally, when I saw Frank Ocean on the Grammy’s, I couldn’t see what the big deal was. That was just one song, but my curiosity hadn’t been piqued enough to seek out other songs by him.

    • Amija James

      So true. I listen to some of the songs that were out when I was young and I trip because they were talking about sexual stuff and I had no idea! H ell, I didn’t know D’Angelo was talking about weed in Brown Suga until someone told me. Even then I had to look it up.

  • Kahekili

    Yea. He sucks.

  • sabrina

    I disagree. Of course the Obama girls won’t be affected much by the lyrics and content of the rap songs they listen to because they were both brought up well by both their parents and know not to mimic what these songs say.

    However, when some of these urban kids that have parents that don’t raise them well because they don’t love them enough/aren’t there for one reason or another/don’t know better themselves/etc., these kids tend to have the streets and the hip-hop/rap music raise them. They focus on the braggadocios elements, the sexual content, the drug lifestyle and so on, and make it their reality. Do you know how many young kids smoke weed just because of Wiz Khalifa? Do you know how many grown azz men take molly now because of the references in all those songs? Do you know how many people went out and bought Balenciaga’s and Louboutins (for men and women) when it became popular in these rap songs?

    Rap and hip hop culture significantly affects our community, oftentimes for the worse. That’s not an overstatement at all, and using the Obama girls to say otherwise is the worst kind of example — no offense.

  • Nikki

    I’m sure that Sasha and Malia know better than to imitate everything they see or hear. There are kids younger than them listening to explicit lyrics.

    I remember when I babysit for a cousin of mine, her 4 year-old was singing along to Lil Wayne’s Lollipop like it was no big deal. Of course she didn’t know the meaning behind what she was saying, but the fact that she knew it shocked me.