I’ll admit, I’ve probably gotten kinda soft, in an up tight old man kind of way as I’ve gotten older. I’m not yelling at hooligans to stay off my lawn yet but I have been more conscientious about what lyrics young people around me are hearing. I’m not for censorship (wholly) and I’m not against “bad words” – how could I be when my wife, not to purposely put her on blast, talks like she’s just come off a 3 year sea voyage. However, there was a time, when I was younger (i.e. before I had kids),when I didn’t care what kinda *#$%in language was coming out the speaker – content yes, language no. The Chronic wasn’t a problem. Immortal Technique, eh, no problem. Beatnuts, Too $hort, Nas, Cube…all good.
But as of late, it’s been edited versions of albums boomin’ out the home stereo system. Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe that just because the word is bleeped the meaning is lost. It’s just a matter of having the language less in your face and not hitting you like a hard right in the sixth round.
With the exception of merch acquired at shows, I haven’t bought a CD in a really long time. If I’m gonna buy music it’s usually a digital download or vinyl. So, if making a digital download purchase it’s recently been the case that I have the option of purchasing a clean (edited) version of an album or the dirty (original version that the artist wanted you to hear). Given this choice, I’ve lately been opting for the former more often than the latter. Let’s see, here a few of the clean choices I’ve made: Kendrick Lamar, The Roots, Brother Ali, Big Boi, and Nas. These edited versions don’t change much but make a huge difference for me in regards to my 2 and 6 year old. My kids LOVE music. LOVE it. I need music on at all times. I’m glad my 2 year old loves the Lee Dorsey, Fats Domino and Motown Hits that I play but I gotta hear some hip hop at some point. So, I’d prefer to have Kendrick Lamar’s voice repeating, “Trick, don’t kill my vibe” rather than “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe” while the kids are around. If my youngest starts repeating the refrain of the edited version of the song in front of my grandma, I’m not stressing it at all. But if his teachers at school hear him saying, “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe…” I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. Then I gotta start defending Hip Hop from a difficult position.
Look, don’t get it twisted – I don’t believe that there are “bad” words any more than I believe that there are “good” words. I talk about this with my 8th graders all the time. There are, however, words appropriate for certain situations. If I hit my thumb with a hammer while working on the the house, then four letter words could be deemed as appropriate. In the same way that If I’m driving to work by myself and feel like hearing J Dilla’s “Fuck the Police,” is totally acceptable and appropriate (especially considering I live in Arizona). Whereas, picking up my kids from school listening to Pac’s “Fuck the World” would be entirely inappropriate.
I mean basically I have 2 options: 1. Stop playing any music that has overtly “bad” lyrics or 2. get the edited versions. I’m going with door number two on this one. From where I’m sitting this is the responsible route. That new Big Boi album is DOPE, and I can listen to it on 10 while the kids play Legos…because I got the edited version. On the other side of the coin, I’m only able to hear Bambu’s “One Rifle Per Family” in my car on the way to work or through my headphones. That album bangs so hard with songs like THIS but I can’t hear it through my Klipsch because of lines like, “I’m a motherfukkin Raider, not a mutherfukkin trader…I get fukked on the daily.” The song is so damn catchy with that fresh-ass beat but the f-bombs eliminate it’s household play. And everything else he’s saying between the f-bombs is soooo on point.
I do recognize that music ain’t no genuine change, merely a way to erase the way you thought the game got played/to get you thinking about shit critically. Stop listening and build, don’t just grab a picket sign when that next boy killed/ it go beyond that conscious rap song and I’m out in the field/ rappin’ cool but words never break bones, you feel?
That song minus the “curse” words is something I think young people should hear. He’s not talking about pimping hoes or anything like that. There’s a message…with stigmata. Why? Because he’s using colorful language that little dudes don’t need passing through their ear ducts.
So, what’s my stance on censorship? Well, I can kind of connect it to a Chris Rock stand-up joke where he talks bout how ridiculous the idea of being Liberal or Conservative is. He said something to the effect of – Anyone that makes up their mind before hearing the issue is a fool. No normal person is one way about all issues. I’m liberal about some things and conservative about others. Crime – conservative. Prostitution – liberal.
It’s funny but he makes a good point and it hits the nail on the head about how I feel towards censorship. Should artists have to censor their art? Hell no. Should adults, especially parents, censor what young folks hear. Hell yes. Censorship at the family level, not the federal level. Artists that are making good music, please continue to do so. I’ll sensor what I think is appropriate.