Sex & Music Has It Gone Too Far? Backlash over Lyrics, Violence and Threat to Young Women Grows

By Bennett, Lerone, Jr.; Hughes, Zondra | Ebony, October 2002 | Go to article overview

Sex & Music Has It Gone Too Far? Backlash over Lyrics, Violence and Threat to Young Women Grows


Bennett, Lerone, Jr., Hughes, Zondra, Ebony


THERE'S always been a connection between sex and music, but a new generation and new generations of technology have pushed the connection to the limits, triggering assaults, rapes and homicides all over the place and detonating a national barrage of criticism and controversy.

The most dramatic cases are known to almost all Americans, and are a matter of court record, but the most insidious and most damaging results can be seen in the miseducation of millions of Black males and the creation of a climate of violence and intimidation that threatens millions of Sisterz in the 'Hood.

There are even charges, some of them unfortunately true, that some mothers and fathers have virtually pushed their young daughters into the arms of "stars" for financial reasons or, worse, for the privilege of basking in the reflected glow of the long Black limousines.

All of this has raised explosive questions about the increasingly close connection between sex and music. "We used to sing about love, losing and finding it again," says psychologist Nathan Hare of the Black Think Tank, based in San Francisco. "But now music seems to have gone into a destructive motif. Sexual ecstasy is taking the place of happiness, and this is taking away from the feeling of music and the mores and customs of the community. It's become self-destructive."

Things have gotten so bad that some superstars are taking it all off and frolicking in porno films. One of the biggest porno hits of the year is an 80-minute video by Treach of the rap duo Naughty by Nature, who said he made the film for his female fans. "[I] did it," he said, "for the women who may have fantasies about being with me."

Some of the new musical icons, like Treach, say, correctly, that pop music has always been a first or second cousin of sex. But the hits from past decades ("Midnight Hour," "60-Minute Man," "Jelly! Jelly!") were kinder and gentler--and left something to the imagination. All the same, one ought to remember, at least for perspective, that Duke Ellington's elegant "Warm Valley" has nothing to do with geography. The key word here and the important difference between the old and new music is elegant. Ellington ("Satin Doll"), Coltrane ("Soul Eyes"), Miles ("Kind of Blue") said in thousands of compositions that the connection between sex and music is allusive and that both require art, empathy and the grace of a great three-point shooter.

Macho-macho music, by contrast, is explicit ("Shake ya a--") and almost juvenile in its frenzy to write dirty words on the shiny fences of CDs. Another and perhaps even more important difference is that the new music can't be escaped or denied because it's repeated all day long and all night long on TV and elsewhere.

How did we get to this point and how do we stop the anti-music music from playing?

The answers are complex and involve a lot of villains, including White producers and directors. But all or almost all of the answers are rooted in two major facts of the evolving dialogue between the new generation and the new generations of technology.

The first fact is a new generation of youth, raised in an electronic fantasy world exacerbated by a dangerous real world of crack, poverty, low-income family disintegration and racism. In appraising this generation, we must remember that it created the rap revolution and is the only generation to say anything new musically in America in the last 30 years.

Let it be said also that the problem is not a whole generation or a whole musical genre; the problem is a minority of the generation and the genre, a minority who inherited extreme needs (broken families, broken dreams, broken streets) from history and who are calling history to account in extreme, macho-macho words and images.

The second fact is the overwhelming impact of new generations of technology--TV, MTV, DVD, Internet, cell phones--that saturate and overwhelm the mind and body, creating a constant climate of stimulation, seduction (sexual, political and economic), and rape masquerading as seduction. …

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