A Phoenix Burning

In Which She Discovers 74 Explicit Songs on Her Daughter’s iPod

WARNING: This post contains graphic language.

I thought I knew.

I thought I was aware.

I knew rap music as a whole was inundated with bad language, violent messages, and sexual overtones.

I knew nothing.  I was ignorant.

“Was” is the operative because I am ignorant no more.

I spent an afternoon last week, and another afternoon yesterday, reading rap lyrics.  Have you ever wished you could pour Clorox through your ears to disinfect your brain???  Well, spend a day reading lyrics by Eminem, Dr. Dre, Lil Jon, and Lil Wayne, and you will.

You see, I happened to note the word “Explicit” on my darling, sweet, used-to-be innocent Big Girl’s iPod music list.  I am not a prude by any means.  I do not believe in sheltering my children from all the evil things Out There.  I believe they need to be exposed to it to be prepared to deal with it.  So at first I wasn’t alarmed.

“Didn’t your father and I tell you we need to approve any download with the “explicit” tag before you buy it?”

“Oh, yeah…I forgot.”

So I pulled up her playlist to find not a few explicit tags…but 74.    Shamefacedly, we parents admit to an “Epic Fail” on our part.  However, to say that it has been an educational experience is an understatement.  I printed the list, and decided to go through every single song, word for word.

I was left utterly horrified and speechless.  Not only is the language damned filthy, the recurrent themes are enough to make you want to vomit.  The glorification of drug use, alcohol consumption, and promiscuous violent sex is just the tip of the iceberg.  Abusive, addictive relationships, worship of material status symbols, packing guns, anti-government,  and “shooting up the club” is a continuous thread throughout the genre.  Not a single song I came across could say what needed to be said without the word F**k thrown in..and several times in the majority of cases.  The women are referred to solely as bitches and hoes and they are only good for two things…beating and f***ing. (Their terminology, not mine.)  Words like c**t, a**, t*t, p***y, motherf***er, are thrown around like “and”, “the”, and “at.”

I did not come across a single solitary positive message in any of the “songs” (I use that term loosely.)  Not one.  Not even a “this WAS my life, but I’m changing” message…not ONE.

I do not believe in censorship.  I do believe in parents needing to parent.  I don’t believe that rap music is the root of all evil, or that Eminem is the Devil as some believe.  I am not about to withdraw my kids from school to limit their outside  exposure to this garbage.  However, I am shaken by the proliferation and glorification of Godless behavior.  There is no shred of ethical awareness, no value placed on the human experience of love, and no care in the world for living a life that will benefit the greater good.  These writers seek to undermine and undervalue authority at every level, and that is what troubles me the most.  Life is simply one big pissing match to see who can win the Alpha male title…and the Alpha is the one with the biggest car, the most bling, the sluttiest women (preferable in pairs) with the biggest breasts, the highest quality and the biggest quantity of drugs, the most powerful weapon, the highest paying record deal, and the honorable title of living through the most drive by shootings.

And the teenagers love this stuff.

My daughter says, “I just love the beats and the music.”

I tend to believe she loves it because her friends love it…it is what is “cool.”  Up here, if you don’t love Country music, then you must love rap.  One or the other.

She’s heard it all in my house.  We love music.  All types.  Hit Shuffle on my iPod…First ten songs right now:

Rehab (Glee Cast Version)

Touch (Seal)

Nearer to Thee (Sam Cooke)

Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major, Larghetto (Maria-Joao Pires_

Seven Mile Breakdown (Taylor Hicks)

Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)

Me and a Gun (Tori Amos)

Hallelujah (John Cale)

Hope and Memory (Howard Shore)

Life on the Moon (David Cook)

If I were to go to Zan’s you would see an even greater arc across genres, including some of the dancy rappy stuff that I don’t care for.

So, the girl has been exposed to everything, from Classical to Classic Rock to all the new stuff.  And yet, this is the bulk of her most recent downloads?

What is a parent to do?  I’ll tell you what we chose to do.

We cleaned up the iPod.  I deleted nearly all the explicit stuff.  She will be allowed to buy back the “clean” versions of some of her songs.  (We know she knows the words, but she has a 9 year old sister and a 4 year old brother who don’t need to hear the explicit versions.)  About twenty five of the songs are off for good.  (For example, “Get Low” by Lil Jon et.al.  and “I Just Had Sex” by The Lonely Island and “Superman” by Eminem.  Google them if you’re curious, but be prepared…you’ll need a shower, a gallon of Clorox, and a Priest when you’re finished.)

And we talked to her, and talked and talked about what is wrong with the themes laid out in these songs.  I will admit she spoke quite intelligently with us, and agrees that the messages are not in keeping with our family values.  (“Mom, I know this isn’t how I should live…just because it’s in the music I listen to doesn’t mean I’m going to go do it!”)

Of that I am certain, but I also believe that it is my job to draw a line in the sand.  This is okay, this is not okay.  She will pass by us any explicit song before downloading it.  If I find she does not follow through with the rule, the iPod will be taken away.  Period.

And here we go again…blurring right and wrong…a world that wants to turn everything that should be black and white into shades of gray.  Twisting our God given gift of Free Will and our Forefathers’ gift of freedom into a free ticket to do whatever we damn well please, without consequence, without conscience.

I’m drawing a line in the sand and saying this is not okay.

Pray God that I’m right.


11 responses

  1. This is an excellent post, KD. I agree whole-heartedly with what you have said and your decision for your daughter – very fair. I’m lucky enough to have 2 teenagers who, for the most part, hate rap music, so I haven’t really had to deal with this. A little mostly innocent hip-hop (like the Black-Eyed Peas) sneaks in here and there.

    February 22, 2011 at 9:56 am

  2. Jennifer A (Bread and Putter)

    I was pretty shocked the other day to hear this Eminem & Rihanna song on a very mainstream top 40 station in our area. I’m not even sure why I left it on, but I did and I listened to the lyrics and it basically sounds like it is an abusive relationship and near the end he’s pleading that he’ll get better but if not he’ll probably just tie her to the bed and set the whole place on fire. Isn’t that nice???

    Bravo to you for keeping on top of this and keeping the dialog open with your daughter.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:08 am

    • Ah, yes…one of today’s most popular songs…
      “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rhianna
      The verse younare speaking of:

      “Now I know we said things
      Did things
      That we didn’t mean
      And we fall back
      Into the same patterns
      Same routine
      But your temper’s just as bad
      As mine is
      You’re the same as me
      But when it comes to love
      You’re just as blinded
      Baby please come back
      It wasn’t you
      Baby it was me
      Maybe our relationship
      Isn’t as crazy as it seems
      Maybe that’s what happens
      When a tornado meets a volcano
      All I know is
      I love you too much
      To walk away though
      Come inside
      Pick up your bags off the sidewalk
      Don’t you hear sincerity
      In my voice when I talk
      Told you this is my fault
      Look me in the eyeball
      Next time I’m pissed
      I’ll aim my fist
      At the dry wall
      Next time
      There will be no next time
      I apologize
      Even though I know it’s lies
      I’m tired of the games
      I just want her back
      I know I’m a liar
      If she ever tries to fucking leave again
      I’mma tie her to the bed
      And set the house on fire”

      February 22, 2011 at 11:23 am

      • Jennifer A (Bread and Putter)

        Such a sweet and nurturing song!! Ewwwwwwww.

        We have two top 40 stations in the Springfield, MA area and the other one does not play this song and advertises themselves as “kid friendly.” They should call it parent friendly too.

        February 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

  3. I absolutely agree with your right and obligation as a parent to set limits and to enforce them. You do it right, too, as part of frank conversations with your children, where you listen as well as speak. You and Zan are the grownups. You’d be amazed how many families don’t have grownups at the head.

    I still respectfully disagree with some–not all–of your assessment of rap as a genre. There is definitely art, in my view. Just art that can be hard to listen to for a host of reasons. When I read the lyrics to Love the Way You Lie I see a horrifying–and brilliant–depiction of exactly what abusive relationships can be like. Is that what Eminem meant to do? Is he glorifying the role of the abusive male? Is he dissecting it? Telling the truth about it? Even trying to understand it?

    I don’t have the answers. And I agree with you that the takeaway for a young woman can be something entirely different–that this is some kind of twisted norm, romantic even. But the takeaway can also be a graphic reminder of the brutal liar who lurks behind the honeyed words. It can be a vaccine against becoming a victim. Maybe it depends on the kinds of conversations that particular young woman has with her grownup parents. So we’re back to how you are good at doing the right thing. And I admire, very much, the courage you have to do the right thing, even and especially when it’s a hard thing.

    February 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    • I love that you make me think Gerry! 🙂

      I won’t argue that rap is a form of artistic expression, albeit one that isn’t my cup of tea. These artists are brilliant lyricists…but I also think they use shock and awe to sell records. They have to top each other and push ever further into the realm of the obscene. One of Eminem’s lines in fact states, “I can get away with anything I say and you will love it.”

      And I also understand that some of this music speaks of a culture that is out there, and that I will never understand. I think my beef is with the glorification of the lifestyle and glorification of the culture of abuse…maybe not in all songs, but in most of the sample I looked at. I guess after reading through 74 songs, I was getting a tad over saturated with the filth and was having a hard time grasping the value. (I will tell you that the above song is on the “allowed to buy back clean” list.)

      Thanks Gerry…I can always count on you to give me something to chew on. 🙂

      February 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  4. Oh dear… I’m guessing this is a vision in to my future in a couple of years, when my oldest hits her teens… I have to confess to having previously (and still when the opportunity arises) liked some rap music, but more for the music and beats than the lyrical content… But for the same reasons you speak of, in the last 10 years I’ve had to put that genre of music in to hibernation, as I don’t particularly want to actively encourage my kids to like it too… Fortunately my musical taste also extends far and wide from classical to heavy rock and beyond…

    Censorship though is a very fine (and difficult) line though, and I’m not one to eliminate the less desirable stuff altogether, as I think there needs to be a realistic exposure to the world around them, and this exposure then allows us to to teach them the rights and wrongs out there, so that they can (hopefully) sensibly make the right choices…

    I think your approach is probably as right as you could have been, by not deleting everything, and still allowing her some choices… and more importantly getting her to express her own thoughts about the messages that are being sent… Education is definitely the key…

    February 23, 2011 at 4:00 am

    • Only time will tell if we’ve made the right decision…*crossing fingers*

      Yes, I am also not a believer in censorship…I suppose I simply wish all would be a bit more responsible with their free voices. What a wonderful world that would be. 🙂

      February 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm

  5. Sigh. Parents have it so tough these days. You try your best and then boom! You are unexpectedly blindsided. I absolutely LOVE how you handled the situation. Daughter is obviously testing the boundaries as she knew she was to ask before downloading.

    My fear for today’s youth is desensitization. It takes more and more to shock and awe than it ever did before. Where will it end?

    February 23, 2011 at 9:19 am

    • Not sure it ever will as long as the more obscene=more cash.

      Ah, well. In the immortal words of Dory the fish, “Just keep swimming just keep swimming just keep swimming swimming swimming.”

      February 23, 2011 at 10:14 pm

  6. Zandic

    Look. You do what you can while you have the control and leave it to her when you don’t. Big Girl HATES HATES HATES that we censored her playlist. She complains to friends about it alot. I think that is particuarly gratifying. We are being portrayed as parents with rules (awsome) and she is spreading that fact amongst her friends so soon everyone will know that Big Girl’s parents give a crap and that maybe Big Girl isn’t going to be the right person to pick as a partner in crime. They won’t want to have to face the music with parents that have rules. So the unintended affect is as delicious as dragging our so sweet daughter out of the disgusting crap she was blasting into her head. She is a “good girl” because her parents have rules. HER parents care. HER parents want more for her. It is as it should be and i feel the world (our little world at least) is back in order again.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:38 am

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