A couple of weeks ago, my son Court and his wife went to see the movie Straight Out of Compton, the critically acclaimed biopic about the rap group N.W.A. When they came to pick up the kids, I asked them if they thought it was a good movie. Yes, they both agreed. It was very good.
Would I like the movie, I asked them. Yes, said Court, and not a chance in hell, said Alyx, both at the same time. (Actually, I’ve never heard Alyx cuss, so I’m only using those words to indicate just how certain she was that I shouldn’t see the movie.)
Too much sex, drugs, and violence for me was Alyx’s opinion. She might be right. But for reasons even I don’t quite understand, I sort of want to see that movie, and in fact, I think I probably will. I will hate myself in the morning. I’m interested in the development of rap music because Court has liked rap ever since Bill bought him his first rap CD – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince — when he was something like 12 years old. Little did I know that Court, with the help of his cousin BJ, went on to secretly purchase rap CD after rap CD with the warning of explicit lyrics, while only allowing me to hear him play DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Guess I should have realized by time Court was in high school, DJ Jazzy Jeff was a distant memory and the Fresh Prince had become Will Smith. I’m glad adolescence is behind us.
A dirty little secret about myself, however, is that I sort of like rap music myself. In fact, I would like it a lot if only I didn’t have to listen to the violent and misogynic lyrics which horrify me to no end. I’m pretty sure none of the people recording rap music can feel his face.
When I was in high school and college, I listened endlessly to Motown music. I had album after album by recording artists such as Gladys Knight and the Pips, Barry White (oh Barry!), the Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, and on and on and on. While it isn’t entirely accurate to compare the music of Motown with rap music, it isn’t that far off the track. It’s rhythm and it’s blues.
It is unfortunate that songs have moved from titles such as Betcha By Golly Wow to Bitches Ain’t Shit, and from lyrics like these….
And betcha by golly, wow
You’re the one that I’ve been waiting for forever
And ever will my love for you keep growin’ strong
Keep growin’ strong
…to, well, I was going to feature a few lyrics from Bitches Ain’t Shit until I
looked them up. Don’t be tempted to look them up yourselves, my friends. I mean it. Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t do it.
I’m not sure how we morphed from Diana Ross singing stop in the name of love to what many rap singers are telling us now, but it’s probably similar to how we morphed from Rob and Laura Petrie sleeping in separate twin beds to the scenes we see in television shows playing at 7 o’clock in the evening. God bless all you parents who have to monitor what your children watch and listen to.
But back to N.W.A. While I never once purposely listened to one of their songs, I’m still interested in how they got to where they got to, and how they influenced the music of today.
As long as I don’t have to listen to the lyrics.