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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Say Whatever the Hell You Want Club: Meeting Two

I motion we begin this meeting. And I second that motion.

So here's the deal: tonight we're booing the recent announcement by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons that he's seeking the ban of three words in the clean/radio versions of rap albums: the N-word, bitch, and ho.

The words are bad, sure. But a ban will not fix anything. And to the pundits who applaud Simmons for being brave, you guys are gullible, and I'd like to sell you a bridge....and a swamp....I mean a hot tub.

This move, if it happens will not clean up rap lyrics. It will give consumers and radio stations the option to buy/play so-called radio edits that don't contain those three words. Correct me if I'm wrong though, but those three words have been self-censored by radio stations for years now. As far back as the early '90s I recall hearing the N-word and all manner of swears bleeped out during radio play. Nobody wants to be hassled by the FCC. So few stations are stupid enough to let those words slip onto the air. Again, it's been that way for years. This new proposed ban is helpful how?

Asking that three words get banned isn't brave. Sorta brave would be asking the artists to stop using the words in their lyrics. But that's a hollow request. It's like asking Saddam to show us his weapon(s) of mass destruction. Sounds great in a speech, but if he'd had the weapon(s) he would never have shown 'em voluntarily.

Besides, if these guys insist that they're simply telling the story of the streets on which they were raised, then maybe they really did see lots of hos and drug dealing and death and destruction. If that's the fact-based fiction you want to listen to, knock yourself out. Even Ann Coulter suggested that a rapper's use of "ho" probably really is in reference to the woman shopping her wares on the corner opposite the drug dealer, not, say, the college basketball player. But I digress.

Brave would be raising kids to have self respect so they wouldn't want to use certain words to describe themselves and their peers.

Brave would also be asking the parents of the kids buying this music and attending the concerts to grow a set and tell their kids "no!" No, you're not buying that album. No, you can't listen to it in your room. No, you're not going to that concert. No!

I was a teenager. I realize that just saying no can be futile. It damned sure didn't work to curb drug use in the '80s (and neither did those this-fried-egg-is-your-brain-on-drugs commercials). But let's see a little effort, and let's put the burden for these words where it squarely belongs: on the consumers who eat it up.

Yeah, yeah, artists/performers/celebrities all have responsibility, roll models, yadda yadda, to whom much is given, etc., etc.

But the truth is in this country the market takes what the market can bear. For example, we all gripe about the obscene salaries pro athletes make, but then we pack out arenas and stadiums and pay big bucks for tickets and pinkie-sized hotdogs and $6 thimble-sized beers. When we all get tired of it and stop paying, sporting event prices will fall, and athlete salaries will drop....and we'll still be miserable with our daily routines. But that's another story.

As for music with naughty words, when we figure out a way to convince young'ns that it isn't cool they'll stop listening. When they stop listening record labels will stop paying top dollar for it. Advertisers will stop sponsoring concert tours.

But I got news for ya: that'll never happen! Your great great grandparents couldn't stop your great grandparents from listening to whatever was bad in their day. Your great grandparents couldn't stop your grandparents from listening to whatever was bad in their day. Your grandparents couldn't stop your parents from listening to rock'n'roll, and so on and so forth.

Best you can do is teach your kids some good sense, some good manners, some good morals, and some taste. And if a couple of those things stick, they'll probably find profane music distasteful all on their own. I listened to it in spite of my parents' best efforts. I thought stupid songs about the lore of the streets were cool. I mostly bobbed my head to the beats. And then I grew up. Occasionally I still bob my head to those beats. But I'm grown now. That music means nothing.

Banning words in rap is a very, very bad idea.

If you like that idea, don't be smug. Any of you into porn? That's rhetorical. I don't really want to know. But if you are, how would you like to find out that a small group of anti-porn activists will now limit you to viewing "clean" versions of your favorite skin flick?

Do not support word bans!

Now, let's bring this meeting to a close. Please excuse me, while I go pour some gin and juice and ponder why big pimpin' requires spendin' cheese.

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21 Comments:

  • How about we ban assholes? Road congestion would decrease exponentially.

    of course, there can never be an asshole shortage, it seems to be our greatest National Resource.

    By Anonymous og, at 11:32 PM  

  • I don't think they should bad the words either. If everybody is so offended by them they wouldn't buy the CDs. Or, like you said, the parents would at the very least make their kids buy the "clean" version of the songs since there is a clean version of almost every rap song available on iTunes.

    Besides, the more they're told not to use those words the more they will want to.

    By Blogger Jay, at 11:52 PM  

  • Yes, banning does nothing, and ya cannot stop the kids from listening to the music they like. So, you are right, just teach them right and wrong and morals and to keep their manners in check and hope you did good. The proof will be evident in the future as they grow.
    For now, my kids are doing well, they love school and are getting praised for their manners.
    We don't really watch video hits, so they don't see the video clips and we listen to CD's not radio mostly. The radio we do listen to is rock and roll hits and they love that (so do I) and we all play air guitar :)

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 12:17 AM  

  • Og, if A-holes were fuel, gas would be about 5 cents a gallon. There truly are a lot of 'em.

    Seriously, if we ban those three words. More will follow.

    Jay, you're right. To me this is like the cigarettes argument. I don't like them. And I say that as a sort of hypocrite who enjoys the occasional cigar in his back yard or while on vacation (never in a crowd of non-smokers). But the anti-smoking lobby, however well-intentioned, has taken on this mindset of "if you won't stop we'll 'help' you by taking away your choice." Blockers are doing the same with this music.

    Cazzie, you've got it right. Kids with good parental involvement tend to develop good sense. And even if they sneak tunes that their parents don't know about they have a good enough foundation at home that they're not influenced by the music to behave badly.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:40 AM  

  • I'm getting old. I remember when a song came out "Let's spend the night together" and all the songs played on the radio were skipped somehow to play "Let's spend it together"

    how times have changed

    By Blogger Pamela, at 1:41 AM  

  • Here, here!! Say it don't spray it!! Oh man - I already wrote that in you comments in another post huh? How 'bout, you rock?? It that a good comment?

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 1:58 AM  

  • A very interesting and intriguing article and your point is well taken. However, I think the point that's trying to be made with the banning of the word is that when used it can get you into a whole lot of trouble.

    e.g. Let's say you stand up in the middle of a crowded theater and yell FIRE, and there is no fire...sounds like someone is asking for a lot of trouble.

    Or let's say you stand out in front of a police station and shout to the top of your lungs that you have a BOMB. I won't elaborate here because we all know how things will turn out for the demonstrator.

    Point is certain words are trouble and the n-word happens to be one of those words. Unless you are looking for trouble you will not yell fire or bomb under false pretenses the same needs to be said for the n-word.

    By Blogger H. Lewis Smith, at 2:45 AM  

  • Let's see. The average child spends seven hours a day with their teacher, and seventeen MINUTES of quality time a day with their parent(s). Let's do some math, shall we?

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 6:46 AM  

  • As they commented on "Best Week Ever", if rap artists removed those words from the lyrics, all we'd be left with is the original songs sampled. And who wants that? ;)

    I say, if consumers are that offended, they have the right to NOT purchase that CD. And teach their kids to not use that language.

    By Blogger Balou, at 8:59 AM  

  • Normally, I'd agree w/ you 100% that Russell Simmons isn't making any sense and is trying to abrogate my First Amendment rights, which make this country truly unique.

    Though our press has been ranked by the UN as only the 17th (I think) freest press in the world (due to corporate ownership), our speech rights are generally the freest in the world by far.

    I don't think "ban" is the right word here to describe restrictions on these three words b/c that's just for the "clean" version and you can do whatever you want in the studio version, obviously.

    It's just another way of segmenting polite society from general society. It's a social thing and I think that's okay.

    The only reason I don't use the N-word (out loud) is b/c I care to be included in the social sphere but I'd shout it from the rooftops if the government was ever going to actually ban a word.

    Peace out.

    By Blogger Matt, at 9:56 AM  

  • p.s. this country is great b/c pornography is considered "speech."

    Best ruling ever!

    By Blogger Matt, at 10:00 AM  

  • Hi James, have you seen Zappa defend free speech on Crossfire circa 1986 under attack from a "frothing" John Lofton. Defending Prince and Duran Duran he repeatedly states that we should not censor "words" - so it's funny to see this old chestnut rise up again.

    Lofton really is a pest here, and when he says Zappa needs "to get out more" you just have to laugh at the moron...

    And his "we are moving towards a fascist theocracy" quip is too far ahead of his time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HljzEXJvj8&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fmickey%2Etv%2Fr%2FVideo%2Easpx%3Fv%3D6HljzEXJvj8%26key%3DFrank%2BZappa

    By Blogger Danny Tagalog, at 3:21 PM  

  • I've said my piece on the matter already.

    By Blogger Evil Spock, at 3:49 PM  

  • I agree that censorship is the wrong road to go down.

    I also agree that these terms are offensive.

    I agree, most importantly, that the responsibility lies at home. It is our job as parents to actually parent.

    By Blogger katrice, at 4:40 PM  

  • I have a solution: we shoot all the consumers.

    This post warms the cockles of my tiny Libertarian heart. You rock!

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 5:05 PM  

  • There's always the issue of Which words to ban? This clown names but three, however, you start down that road by the time you stop you'll have 300.

    Solution: ban language. All of it. Penalty for violation: first offense, remove tongue. Second offense, decapitation.

    We'll ALL be liberated, then, and hate will simply vanish. Right?

    By Blogger Steve ("Klotz" As In "Blood"), at 5:31 PM  

  • "This new proposed ban is helpful how"?

    There's nothing more encouraging then when people propose to take away freedom... The fucking bitches! Please excuse me, my week mind is just trying to express itself forcefully.

    By Blogger captain corky, at 5:50 PM  

  • James, I agree. Banning is useless. There's always going to be underground, raunchy, offensive stuff no matter what color it has. The real deal is education and teaching ... knowing when to be a grown up or not. And that's going to take far more than just banning a few words.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 9:25 PM  

  • Pamela, every generation had their naughty tunes. That's funny. Now, I'll bet parents would kill to have their kids listen to what you heard as a child.

    Erica, you're allowed three uses of "say it, don't spray it" before we put a 12 week moratorium on it ;-)

    H. Lewis Smith, welcome aboard. And thanks for the insights. I agree with you. I just want us to not want to use those words. And then banning wouldn't even come up in conversation. Even with dangerous words, the only censorship I believe in is self-censorship.

    Sarc, I see your point. Maybe up to a certain age, parents need to make their kids - after school - spend as much quality time with them as the kids spend with teachers.

    Balou, here here!

    Matt, part of my point is clean or radio versions of lots of rap have already been available for years now. This grand announcement was just smoke and mirrors as far as I'm concerned. And remember, you have the right to yell the N-word. Just don't yell it around me. As pretty as I am, I might have to risk jail in order to share with you how I feel about you using it. And I've always found that porn thing ironic. Presidential candidates and their wives can go after rap lyrics as corrupting the youth. And yet, on the Internet, among other places, the hardcore porn beat goes on.

    Danny, I'll check out that link.

    Evil Spock, you spoke well on the matter.

    Katrice, to me this is like drug use. If we kill the desire, the market for these tunes will dry up.

    Steve, you are so right. I am not looking to be "liberated." But that's where this will head eventually. Like I told my dad, folks who don't like what he reads in his bible will eventually take him to court for spreading "hate" messages by reading aloud from it while giving a sermon. It may take years and years, but it won't stop till everyone silences everyone else.

    Corky, I feel ya. It's beyond irritating.

    MB, once again I think this takes us back to parents and mature adults - not stuffy, just mature.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:54 PM  

  • I recently stepped on my copy of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and so I redeemed some of my BMG music points for another one.

    I was upset and confused that I recieved the "edited" version. I mean, Lauryn Hill out of everybody only uses certain words for emphasis and illustration.

    F--- that!

    By Anonymous 123Valerie, at 1:29 PM  

  • Tell a kid to not look in a closet, and you increase his/her desire to do so. Tell someone they can't smoke, and they crave it all the more.

    Tell people they can't say this... or this... or that... and you're just asking for a revolt.

    What needs to change are social attitudes (on all sides of the divide). And it'll take a lot more than a "ban" to do that.

    I thought a local radio show host made a valid point a day or two ago when he was talking about the NAACP having a "funeral" for the N-word. He mentioned that the "C" in their acronym was pretty archaic and itself worthy of burial.

    Few people use that word any more. Granted, it never had quite the negative connotation that the "N" word has, but I think there's something to be said for the fact that -- for the past 2-3 generations -- it's pretty much fallen out of use.

    Perhaps there is hope.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 2:48 PM  

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