Hip Hop Hooray? Not When You’re a Mama
by Uju Asika
One way to rev my son up in the morning is to blast some LL Cool J on the iPod docked in our bathroom. I love the sight of my baby in his PJs, toothbrush as mic, yelling ‘Mama Said Knock You OUT!’
Maybe it’s not the ideal message for the playground but the hip hop anthem gets us going when we’re both baggy-eyed.
At four, Ezra’s quite the music head. He’ll groove to anything from White Stripes to Wyclef, Ladysmith Black Mambazo to Lady Gaga.
The other day, I was left with my mouth literally hanging open when the video for Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s Telephone came on. It was midday and we were awash in images of girl on girl prison love and – best of all – poisoning.
‘Lady Gaga gave that man something to eat and he didn’t like it,’ Ezra explained helpfully, as one victim collapsed on screen.
I like to think of myself as a laidback mama. But as my kids get older, I’m learning to be more vigilant about what they hear and see.
It recently struck me that despite thinking of myself as ‘hip hop for life’, I can count on one hand the number of rap CDs I’ve bought since becoming a parent.
My hubby got me Lil Wayne’s album but I’ve barely played it. I have to wait until the kids are in bed or out the house. Even conscious cats like Lupe Fiasco aren’t always spitting pretty.
Back in the day, lyrics never fazed me. I would bounce to tracks like Dre’s Bitches ain’t sh** thinking, ‘they’re not talking about me, just the skanks they run with’. Not very sisterly, maybe, but nobody could call me a party pooper.
Cut to the mothering years, and I’m listening with a new pair of ears.
Rap misogyny might not reference me directly but I don’t want my kids growing up with twisted ideas about what it means to be a woman – or a man, for that matter.
I used to be strongly anti-censorship. I bought that line about how rap is the ‘black CNN’ and they’re just telling it like it is.
Nowadays I want MCs to check themselves before they wreck my little elves.
I remember my sister making the switch from Hot 97 to some easy but cheesy station. It was not long after my three-year-old niece was in the grocery store singing ‘Baby turn around, let me see your Hot body go donk donk donk’ (she was crazy for B2K).
So are parents doomed to Middle Age FM just because rappers refuse to clean up?
I’m not going out like that. Instead I’ll lock myself in the bathroom with Pac or Biggie and reminisce. Hubby and I will vibe to Tribe in the car as the kids nod off.
And I’ll happily jam with the babes to hip-hop in any positive form, be that Arrested Development or Yo Gabba Gabba!
Shout out to DJ Lance Rock!
Uju Asika is founder and Babe-in-chief of Babes About Town, a London-based city guide and social network for hip, smart parents.