I never thought Lil’ Wayne would become such a dominant presence in my life … or Lil’ John or Lil’ Mama or any other the other legions of “Lil’ ” hip-hop stars that seem to have recently invaded my radio.
Little Red Riding Hood. Little Bo Peep. Little Orphan Annie. The Little Engine that Could, even “The Littles. I was looking out for those, preparing to placate Jellybean until she graduated to less obnoxious characters.
But this is an audio affront.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no prude. I too once offended and frightened Mom and Dad with my heavy metal worship, idolizing the likes of Blackie Lawless, Ozzy Osbourne, Gene Simmons, Dee Snider and Bon Jovi (OK, so he wasn’t that scary, but Slippery When Wet had some pretty suggestive lyrics).
But in the face of Lil’ Wayne, the diminutive, platinum-selling, dread-locked rapper known for such booty-shakin’ ditties as “Misunderstood,” “Lollipop” and “Knockout”, those dudes with the eyeliner, spandex and more Aquanet in their hair than a Vegas showgirl are harmless. Nobody would ever accuse Bret Michael of being gangsta.
I find myself cringing whenever The Diva climbs into the passenger seat with CD in hand. She loves hip-hop … possibly because I don’t.
True, I grew up with the Beastie Boys teaching me to fight for my right to party. Public Enemy showed me how to “Fight the Power.” I knew Ice-T – pre Law & Order SVU – as the original gangsta. Run DMC taught me how to walk this way. I remember Ice Cube before he was family friendly. And who could forget MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice … though many are trying to.
So I’ve been down with O.P.P. and witnessed the strength of street knowledge, but what these kids are listening to … I just don’t get it. Today’s rap is to music what comic books are to literature. Though I must admit being in awe of Lil’ Wayne and Eminem’s clever wordplay, I’d rather they not serve as a role model – musically or otherwise.
So I play along. Every morning we play her mix CD on the way to school. She knows every word. Minus the bits of skillful self-editing, The Diva’s got game. She spits memorized rhymes with the fury that I used to sing Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” … Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball, Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide….
And yes, there are curse words and illicit references. I get the “clean” version when possible, but music is supposed to be dangerous and rebellious. If it weren’t, we’d all listen to the Kidz-Bop. From Dylan to Drake, good music’s supposed to make you think, to inspire. It makes everyone feel heroic and empowered, especially for those whose real lives are anything but.
I remember convincing my mom that Stryper’s “To Hell with the Devil,” was Christian metal with a strong moral message. Just ignore that parental guidance sticker. I promised my dad that 2 Live Crew’s “As Nasty as they Wanna Be” wasn’t all that bad and that it’s totally normal to have to show a picture ID when buying a tape.
The Diva likes rap (among other music including melancholy acoustic ballads, quasi-punk and “scream-o”), and I’ll continue to act like I hate it. Course she doesn’t know that I sing the same songs – only louder – after dropping her off at school.
And I’m allowed to cuss.
Brett Buckner is an award-winning freelance newspaper/magazine writer who was raised in Albany.