Hip-Hop, Don’t Be a Ho

I haven’t censored my kids’ musical choices for years. I’ve always been of the mindset that a stable home, good communication and discussion will protect them against much of the material others might see as corrupting. To a certain degree, too, they need to maintain cultural literacy. I mean, where else will they learn key phrases like “the way I are” or “lil mama I’m peepin your style?” Nursing school doesn’t hand out that kind of education.

But my liberalism has come back to bite me. Because of that, no matter how painful the process, I’m baring my soul in the hope of preventing further victimization. 

The occasion prompting this rant was yesterday’s drive home from school, when Timbaland’s latest song began to play on the radio. Frank and his cousins — as if as one — stopped arguing and asked me to turn the music up. Three adolescent males acting in unity? I know. I should have been suspicious right away.  

Alas, my mind was on other matters. I fell down on mom-patrol duty.

To be fair, I don’t have great hearing. Too much loud music in my youth means I often miss details. For instance, I only just figured out that in all the latest hip-hop songs, those words they say at the beginning? The ones that remain nonsensical no matter how many times you listen to them? That’s the musical artist singing their name. Fantastic marketing technique, that. Or it would be if they didn’t all mumble.


But I digress. The subject of my present rant is the song Carry Out. For those of you who might not be as cool as ishq or a knowledge worker, the link is embedded below:

Now you’re gonna laugh at me, but before I took the time to sit down and watch this video, I’d assumed this song was about the usual hip-hop stuff: How if you have big enough balls, money, and a grill, no matter how homely or menacing your appearance, gorgeous women will flock to you. They’ll strip down to their unmentionables in parking lots, offer to blow you at block parties, and think chunky jewelry is hawt. In other words, life in North America suburbia.

No harm in that. I can handle that. Except, did you notice the subversive message? Do you understand that underneath the backdrop of familiar misogyny and materialism, our children are being told to eat fast food? 

I think this hit me particularly hard because I’d had a good day on the health advocacy front. A friend wrote a glowing post about her experiment with treadmill writing (go Becke!); I’d discovered a wonderful humus recipe with unusual flavors. I’d stuck with my own exercise program. In other words, I’d deluded myself into thinking the tide had turned against our toxic lifestyle.

Now this.

What next? Will Lady GaGa’s disco stick turn out to be code for Freybe’s pepperoni? Will Flavor Flav turn out to be a front-man for Bulova?

If you’re feeling riled up right now, I don’t blame you. That’s where I was yesterday. However, once you move past emotion and are ready to take action, here are a few simple steps you might take:

1. Police your children’s musical choices. They may not thank you for it, but too bad. You signed on for parenthood, not friendship.

2. If an offensive song comes on, turn the channel immediately. Better yet, turn the radio off and embark on a discussion of the relative merits of Yugio versus Bleach. I promise you, it’s these kind of moments they’ll remember when they grow up, rather than the sight of their mother grinding to some serious driving bass beats.

3. Write to the artists that offend you. Ask them to clean up their act. Don’t be rude about it. Just remind them that their next paycheck depends on the public’s good-will. 

Now you are a bright bunch, so let’s pool our resources. Can you think of anything to add to my list?

And while we’re here, got any stories to share about a time you were shocked at the disconnect between a song’s intended meanings and your own understanding. 😉

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18 thoughts on “Hip-Hop, Don’t Be a Ho

  1. Hope – being somewhat *new* to parenthood, I’m learning how to read between the lines. I’ve not censored my stepdaughter’s musical choices because frankly, I’d lose the battle – being a stepmom has its challenges, particularly when her mom is *friend* vs parent.

    However, there is music I don’t allow her to listen to in my presence (in the car, out loud in the house), and we often discuss lyrics. I find now she will play a song for me, prefaced with: I think the song is about (blank), but it’s really catchy and I like the music. Do you think it’s bad?

    She doesn’t often read between the lines in terms of non-literal meaning (and would not have picked up the subliminal anti-health messages of Carry Out) but she is beginning to recognize the importance of lyrics (and in a way, how mighty the pen can be…woot!)

    Your *advocacy* suggestions are appreciated – and perhaps a way my stepdaughter and I can learn together about appropriate messaging. In many ways, I think she can decipher between inappropriate and healthy…but like most youth, needs a parent (not a friend) to hold her accountable.

    As always, a good – and thought provoking – post.

  2. I want cake. Brb.

    LOL….Ok I get what you’re saying but to be frank, the misogyny that’s so rife within rap music bothers me a lot more than this does. Now, when Micky D’s or Burger King makes it their new theme song, we’ve got a problem.

    Not that I don’t take food, diet and health issues seriously–I do and I have to watch my diet because of my liver/health issues but I thought the comparison was more tongue-in-cheek than anything and a funny but kinda dirty comparison of women to fast food.

    1. Ha! I’m a bit tone-deaf today, Amie, so just in case you were serious when you asked about the boy-bits euphemism, you are correct. If you want to follow one of the links above the embedded video, it’ll take you to Urban Dictionary. Don’t go unless you’re prepared for an edumacation.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Hope, and also for telling me about the laptop/treadmill gadget.

    Remind me to tell you about my adventures with teen music sometime. My son played bass guitar in a band for a couple years – they even got paid to play in clubs! But he was a huge fan of Blink 182 and used to blast “The Party Song” until I thought my ears would fall off. I’m sure he was going for a cool factor, so I, being equally cool, pretended I was deaf. (Which, after a few million listens, I practically was.)

    The lyrics are here, and they are not G-rated:

    I got my revenge by playing “Hey there, Delilah” five million times back at him.

  4. LOL. This post is classic. Love how the misogyny and materialism are overshadowed by the subliminal fast food messages!

    My 4yo refuses all kids’ music. Always has. Never has he tolerated Raffi or the Wiggles. In utero it was the Black Eyed Peas. Now it’s Vampire Weekend and Lady Gaga. No wonder he likes pizza and french fries so much!

  5. Um, sorry, but I have my own personal on-going war against short, dumpy men wearing saggy pants, large jewelry, and backwards baseball caps. There’s nothing sexy about waddling like a toad, especially when they dip their heads with every step. They look like those chunky little dogs with bobbing heads that used to ride in the rear window of cars.

    While I would love to take up this cause as well, I find rap annoying simply because I have a profound hearing loss (thank you, Steven Tyler) and can’t understand the lyrics. After forty-five seconds of listening to the same thumping beat and nonsense words, I develop violent tendencies that cause my husband to hide the guns.

    Rap simply does bad things to my brain.

    I’ve been exceptionally fortunate that my daughter never cared for it, my nephews on the other hand . . .

    Anyway, back to the topic: junk food may be bad for me, but not as bad as rap. Rap is bad because it leads to junk food, which in turn makes men dumpy, and they wear baggy clothes to cover their weight gain. Of course these men not sexy, and since hoards of women are NOT throwing themselves at short dumpy men in baggy pants, the short dumpy men turn into misogynists.

    How am I doing?

    1. How are you doing? Well, you owe me a new keyboard for that brilliance. 😉 And now I’m looking at my own baggy sweats and wondering if I need to change my own listening habits. Think I’m going all instrumental…

  6. lol! So that explains the so-called obesity epidemic. You are brilliant! No wonder the world is falling apart. First heavy metal turned generations into satanists, and now rap is turning us all fat.

  7. Ya know…I don’t know. Television contributes so much more to our Fast Food Nation than music could hope to, that I can’t get worked up about this.

    As for suggestions for parents: go find the good music that sends the right message. Turn your kids onto The Coup or Iron Sy or Balkan Beat Box or Street Sweeper Social Club. Nothing like politically aware music you can shake your ass to.

  8. I have sat here reading this post and the replies and snickered all over my keyboard.

    As the wife of a professional musician (and the mother of one), I am going to recuse myself from this conversation… or maybe that’s plead the fifth, LOL!

    1. LOL, I’m glad to hear you laughed, Glinda. Not everyone gets my sense of humor. In fact, I think I need a disclaimer for my blog: Unless otherwise specified, Hope is being silly and ironic. 😉

  9. *dies* I LOVE how you have nailed the true evil here, and fell off my chair reading Amie’s Chick-o-sticks comment.

    My philosophy on nearly everything is TALK ABOUT IT–no censoring. They will be exposed regardless, far be it for me to make it MORE appealing. There are some things I can’t listen to, though, I can appreciate the use of innuendo in this particular feature.

  10. I am NOT a vegan
    However a balanced diet (w/o fast food ) has always been my goal.
    The fact that………THIS generation will be the ‘first, ever (on an average) to die before their parents because of unhealthy eating habits’ is ludicrous.
    So everyone is busy .. too busy to make healthful food?
    MacDonalds iz only too happy to provide (breakfast..lunch..supper) help for the harassed homemaker.
    OR… forgetting take-out… consider the crap in processed food (we are even too busy to peel our own carrots and wash our lettuce…but that’s WAYyyyyyyy down the line)
    How about boxed, mac ‘n cheese? OR frozen *fried* chicken (we LUV Tyson’s “Anytizers”!!!)
    I am dealing with an overweight granddaughter who, will *pay the price of a poor diet*
    Who wants to carry the blame for this?

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