Quick, who wrote these lyrics: "With this Glock in your face ... you betta' not make a sound." Need another clue? The same guy came up with this gem: "S*** talker, s*** talker, whatcha gonna do when a real killer killer come for you?" Nope, it's not Stevie Wonder or Jerry Butler. The artist in question is Michael Brown, the late teen who was gunned down by a cop in Missouri.
This is not meant to besmirch "Big Mike," who is remembered fondly by many of his friends. Nor is it meant to imply that the killing was justified. That will be determined by the facts and a grand jury. No, the obscene and hate-filled lyrics are here to show just how pernicious the rap culture has become. It is a poison that reaches pretty much every young person in America.
Michael Brown rapped about violence, smoking weed, making big money, and having sex with "hos." Again, that does not automatically mean he was a thug. Far worse, it shows that he was not all that different from so many other young men who are stewing in a pernicious culture that glorifies violence and misogyny.
The "progressive" left excuses the lyrics as merely a "reflection of society." And they heap scorn on anyone who is "uptight" enough to point out how much things have changed. But let's point it out anyway.
Fifty years ago, just prior to LBJ's Great Society, Mary Wells sang "My Guy" and Marvin Gaye hit it big with "You're a Wonderful One." Teens, black and white, heard songs about searching for love, finding love, maybe even getting hitched. Darlene Love said it all when she gushed, "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry." And it was downright scandalous when the Shirelles made that seductive promise, "Tonight's the Night."
Today there is no love, no romance, no seduction, no marriage, only sex and violence and money. To suburban kids in two-parent homes, the music is often an amusing diversion as they head to soccer practice and the SAT prep course. But to young men with no fathers, no guidance, no structure, and very little hope, the thug life depicted in the music is a siren song. And just like the sirens of mythology lured men to danger and death, today's rap culture leads down a path of destruction.
There's another rap verse that is relevant: "These hoes crazy, all they jackets should be straightened, Yeah my nigga sold 'caine, he don't need no old lady." That's from a lovely song called "Big Nut Bust" by the rapper Big Sean. The rest of "Big Nut Bust" would take way too many asterisks to quote.
Why does it matter? Well, Big Sean, nee Sean Michael Leonard Anderson, was the first rapper invited to sing at the White House. Despite those lyrics, and his arrest for sexual assault, Big Sean performed as part of this year's White House Easter Egg Hunt. Barack and Michelle Obama had the 20-year-old perform for a few hundred little kids because nothing says Easter like Big Sean on the South Lawn. We'll just hope "Big Nut Bust" was not on Sean's playlist that day.
A few years ago Michelle Obama also invited the rapper "Common" to the White House, where he read poetry. The invitation was bizarre because Common had previously glorified convicted cop killers Joanne Chesimard and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Nothing common about that!
So the President and First Lady honor a dubious "poet," invite a foul-mouth rapper to "sing" as part of an Easter celebration, and regularly pal around with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. That's when Beyoncé isn't slithering salaciously and Jay-Z isn't talkin' 'bout some bitches. The First Family sets a stellar example for young blacks in many ways, but they seem to have a blind spot when it comes to popular culture.
Back to Michael Brown. Rap music didn't kill him, a policeman's bullets did. But who knows whether his attitude towards cops, shaped by violent music, played some role in any possible confrontation? We will never know for sure, but does anyone doubt that parts of our culture have crawled deep into the gutter?
We've gone from "One Less Bell to Answer" to "One Less Bitch," from "Be My Baby" to "Return of Da Baby Killer." Popular music sure has come a very long way in a very short time. And, far too often, young black men and women have paid the toll.