Dr. Dre & 2 Live Crew Then, Rick Ross Now: Are The Risque Lyrics In Today’s Hip-Hop THAT Bad Compared To In The Past?
The other day I saw a hilarious SomeeCard meme that read: “I can’t believe the music that you kids listen to nowadays. What happened to the good wholesome songs like Push It and Me So Horney?”
That got me thinking about Rick Ross. From Hello Beautiful:
“Known for his braggadocious lyrics, showboating style and dangling stomach, Rick Ross stomped all over the lines of inappropriate, disgusting and misogynistic content with the release of his verse on Rocko’s song “You Don’t Even Know It”: “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it,” the MMG bawse rapped with confidence.”
It’s no secret how I feel about our favorite ex-correctional officer turned “BAWSE.” But this is sort of Ross’ schtick, right? Say something inflammatory, watch people get mad and reap the benefits financially from the controversy? Remember last year, when Ross took us on a swagged-out voyage through the slums of Nigeria for his video to “Hold Me Back?” Or the time that he tried to woo the ladies with this romantic line from Usher’s “Lemme See,” “Chanel hoodie on looking like Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman don’t want it.”
Move over Barry White! Because nothing says let’s get it on more than having your dude tell you that you remind him of a murdered teenager. Oh, and let’s not forget that Ross cover art for his The Black Bar Mitzvah mixtape, featuring himself draped in a fur coat, centered inside of the Star of David, not only raised the eyebrows of the Jewish community, but also ruffling the feathers of the nefarious Gangster Disciples, who too use the symbol as part of their own logo. The man obviously has no filter, nor does he understand (or maybe care about) boundaries. And at this point, I would be more surprised if Ross had something more thoughtful to say.
Yet if we are being honest here, Hip-Hop has always said some pretty messed up things. I freaking love Biggie Smalls, but I remember cringing like hell when I heard him say, “I’m using rubbers so they won’t trace the semen/The black demon, got the little hookers screaming/Because you know I love it young, fresh and green/With no hair in between, know what I mean?” Yes, I know what you mean and that is not appropriate. Ice Cube was my favorite quasi-conscious West Coast rapper from back in the day, but aren’t we being hypocritical when we chastise Lil Wayne for his “whip it like a slave” lyric and not thinking about when Cube said, “So don’t believe what Ren say/Cuz he’s goin’ out like “Kunta” Kinte/But I got a whip for ya Toby…”?
Too $hort made an entire career out of his misogyny. And there was no other more gangster rapper than Scarface. I remember in high school, one of the biggest dancehall songs at the time was Sasha’s “Kill the B***h.” According to her Wiki page, Sasha has since rediscovered Jesus and will no longer perform the song that made her a ghetto household name. But that doesn’t change the fact that she once thought nothing wrong with mimicking sex through half of the song. Neither did my best friend and I, who used to take pride in the fact that we knew all the words to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album, and would sit in the back of our classroom, flowing to B***hes Ain’t S**t. We swore up and down that since we weren’t those type of girls, those lyrics we belted out out had nothing to do with us. It would take years later to learn that some dudes, despite our best efforts at respectability, still couldn’t tell the difference. Even our beloved Tupac, who most try to remember canonizing women in “Dear Mama” and “Keep Ya Head Up” (“…cause Tupac care, if don’t nobody else care”) also reminded us that, he’s only got one night in town so basically, “Break out or be clowned.” While being the agent of and the voice of the downtrodden and politically conscience who screamed “fight the power,” Hip-Hop too has always offered a welcoming home to voices who only wanted to talk about the money, clothes and most importantly, the ho*s. And we have sort of been kind of okay with that for a while now.
We tried to tell ourselves that there was a bigger purpose; that these rappers were not just appealing to the rebellious side of our natures but also daring to speak on the authenticity of what is taboo. Or as stated by Jay-Z (with assistance from Dream Hampton) in his book, Decoded:
“Hip-hop has always been controversial, and for good reason. The music is meant to be provocative—which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily obnoxious, but it is (mostly) confrontational, and more than that, it’s dense with multiple meanings. Great rap should have all kinds of unresolved layers that you don’t necessarily figure out the first time you listen to it. Instead it plants dissonance in your head. You can enjoy a song that knocks in the club or has witty punch lines the first time you hear it. But great rap retains mystery. It leaves s**t rattling around in your head that won’t make sense till the fifth or sixth time through. It challenges you. Which is another reason hip-hop is so controversial: People don’t bother trying to get it. The problem isn’t in the rap or the rapper or the culture. The problem is that so many people don’t even know how to listen to the music.”
Yet I don’t really think there is no deeper significance or much else to “get” from Ross’ lyrics, other than that this hopefully fictitious woman in this song was date-raped – and she didn’t even know it. And I think that is the point: rappers recognize that you don’t have to say much of substance or even be lyrically inclined these days. You just have to be provocative and obnoxious. And I feel like like our inability to call it out or acknowledge the music genre’s shortcomings earlier on paved the way for Ross and other industry folks to commodify and repackage the art form into a cash crop of the most garish, misogynistic and overall opulent images and lyrics. Instead of checking the rappers of past, many of us yelled foul over what we felt was the government’s attempt at denying 2 Live Crew constitutional rights to be as narsty as they wanted to be. We forgot later on that the group’s Supreme Court victory would later be symbolically used to justify why it was okay for Snoop Dogg to walk across mainstream stages with women on leashes and later why it would become acceptable for Ross to rhyme nonchalantly about drugging and sexually assaulting a woman.