Sunday, September 7, 2008

Damn that Lil' Wayne--Now I Have To Live Without My Radio.


So I’m in the car on my way to Target with my daughters when I realize I pulled out without my pack of homemade kid-friendly/mom-approved CD mixes. Now, this isn’t an issue if I’m driving alone—I simply tune into talk radio (Warren Ballentine has my ear during morning errands, Michel Martin’s NPR show Tell Me More is on in the afternoon, and I smile all the way to my exercise torture… er, African dance class listening to Farai Chideya’s News & Notes in the evenings). But Mari and Lila neither understand nor appreciate the finer points of intelligent black thought on the RNC convention and the Kwame Kilpatrick fiasco (hey, they’re nine and six—have an exhaustive talk about SpongeBob, Raven-Symone, or snot, and they’re all in). So I turned on the radio. It was nine in the morning. I live only about five minutes from Target. “How bad could it be?” I asked myself as I punched in my local R&B station.

And wouldn’t you know—on comes Lil’ Wayne’s “Mrs. Officer,” with Bobby Valentino contributing a chorus of police siren noises and dirty talk about what he’s going to do to the lady cop when he gets her in the backseat of her ride. It took Lila, the 6-year-old, all of three seconds to tap into her inner Beyonce and join along: “When I get all up in ya/We can hear the angels calling us/We can see the sunrise before us/And when I’m in that thang/I’ll make that body sing/I make it say Wee Ooh Wee Ooh Wee…” she sang with much gusto and way too much glee.

When I tell you I almost crashed the ride into a ditch trying to change the station?

A rambling black-out lecture immediately followed—I think the words “inappropriate” and “mommy’s not mad, really,” and “since you’re not grown,” tumbled from my lips. But mostly, I remember the look of confusion and fear on my baby’s face. Why, I could tell she was wondering, is my mother bugging out over a song?

Here’s why: Because Lil’ Wayne with his “Lollipop” and Bobbi Valentino with his “Wee Ooh Wee Ooh Wee,” and black radio, with its devil-may-care playlists blasting in the afternoons for all of the Elmo set to hear, are k-i-l-l-i-n-g this generation’s ability to hear and appreciate good music. And frankly, I’m tired of it.

Now don’t get it twisted: I love Hip Hop and R&B. I’m a product of it in every way—sat by the stereo in my parents basement every Friday night listening to Red Alert and Mr. Magic; blasted Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Rakim from my stereo in my college dorm room; got through my year living away from home and on my own listening to A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Mary J. Blige and Jodeci and; covered some of the greatest lyricists and singers ever as an entertainment reporter for The Daily News in New York. I’m prone to blasting Jay-Z, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, T.I., Ludacris and music by countless other artists whose lyrics are astounding.

But the babies don’t know nothing about them.

That’s grown folk music.

And I just wish that somebody who has control over what’s played on my local radio station when I’m driving the kids to school, or picking them up from swim practice, or driving them to Target would act like they know this, too. I mean, I distinctly remember as a teenager listening to legendary radio jock Frankie Crocker explain why nobody would ever hear Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” before 9 p.m. on his watch. The subject matter, he said, wasn’t for the kids to hear. I didn’t fully comprehend what the big deal was, but then, Crocker wasn’t talking to me, right? He was helping out my mom and dad, who, while at work, just didn’t—and couldn’t—control what my brother and I were listening to on the family stereo.

Sadly, there are no Frankie Crockers, it seems, on the scene today—just deejays who are quite happy to tell moms like us that they just play what the audience wants to hear and if we don’t like it, oh well.

With apologies to black radio, and at the expense of sounding like a played-out mom too old to recognize cool when I hear it, I’m just going to go on ahead and tune out when my girls are in the car, thank you. And for other moms considering the same, I’m attaching a list of kid-friendly, mother-approved R&B and Hip Hop hits both you and your kids can enjoy the next time you’re in the car, without fear (all of these can be downloaded off iTunes). If you want to add on to this list, go on ahead and do it in the comments section. Happy listening!

1. Alright, Ledisi
2. UMI Says, Mos Def
3. Mi Swing Es Tropical, Nickodemus & Quantic, featuring Tempo
4. Summertime, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
5. Mind Control, Stephen Marley
6. Still In Love, Kirk Franklin
7. I’d Like To, Corinne Baily Rae
8. Honey, Erykah Badu
9. Let Go, Lalah Hathaway
10. Sittin’ In The Middle, Raul Midon
11. Teenage Love Affair, Alicia Keys
12. Golden, Jill Scott
13. Get By, Talib Kweli [Note: Get the “clean” version; there is some cursing on the explicit one, but it’s a great message song you’ll appreciate the kids hearing.]
14. Need U Bad, Jazmine Sullivan
15. Magic Touch, Robin Thicke
16. Ordinary, Wayne Brady


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As the mother of two sons, 6 and 9 years old- I couldn't agree with you more. Although I want my sons to grow up appreciating R&B just like I did when I was their age- ok, I spent a lot of time listening to New Edition and pretending I was a "Candy Girl", R&B was still decent back in the day. I know that young children aren't exactly the demographic for black radio stations, but can't they help momma out and at least be cognizant of the fact that a person under the age of 18 may be listening to the radio at 3:15pm in the afternoon!

    Thanks for the playlist...and unfortunately, I am learning to live without my radio.

  2. Children are very impressionable. My son learns songs and dances at school. Things I wouldn't dare allow him to listen to with me. Soulja Boy killed it for my son. It's sad that they don't have wholesome things for them anymore, heck for me! Unfortunately I can't think of anything I'd let my 9 or 3 year old listen to. It's hard to find a clean message without hidden innuendos or some form of sexual content. I've stuck with gospel, and some of that is out of control. One song has prince and R. Kelly's hooks..the two most sexual artist I can think of. We make up our own songs with Great post!

    I did a post on music but from a much different outlook. Brace yourself!

  3. Oh yeah, my entire play list is kid friendly.

  4. ok - just read this post and I am dying here. My 7 year old {girl} was jamming out to "I kissed a girl and I liked it" a few days ago. Not ok.

  5. I wish mine would get into music, of any kind. They hate it when Mom sings in the car.

    Sex Diaries of a Mom

  6. i actually had not heard this song till today. oh mine you are right! too bad for my 6 year old daughter, because she will be listening to the disney channel for a long time.

    great post D.

  7. My son has asked my why a girl would want to kiss another girl and what does bleeding love mean. Some things I'm just not ready to explain!

  8. Look at you! ON MBC 2 days and already in a comment circus! You go girl. I only listen to talk radio so my son really doesn't hear any music unless I play Chrisette Michelle or one of his Kindermusic CDs.

    When I occasionally listen to the radio I play jazz. We are covered for now - when he is older I will be making playlists on my ipod like you do.

  9. I try to be sure that I have my iPod in my car at all times. I have one CD in the console just in case i don't. The radio frustrates me too.

    (visiting from MBC)

  10. I am so with you on this. I remember my son coming home from pre-K two years ago talking about "I knoooow you see it..." or some other mess. Cute...until I actually realized what he was singing! I actually make mine listen to NPR more than he wants to, but I also had to take it back to the old school. He likes "Candy Girl" and "Popcorn Love" almost as much as I do. Thank God for iPods!

  11. LOL. I had to laugh out loud while reading this because its sad, but true. I've had the same experience, not in the car while driving (because I completely refuse to listen to anything about no darn wheels going round and round while I'm in the car, I must have real music), but at my daughter's preschool. She ended up teaching the class Rihanna's Umbrella song.

    Umbrella isn't that bad, but what made me wanna run is when I went to pick her up one day and her bff (who is Chinese and know's absolutely NOTHING about hip hop music and is 5 btw) broke out with the Lollipop song by the group 3-6 Mafia.

    Music can get out of hand with the little ones really fast, lol.

  12. Hey there...fellow writer. Yes, I agree. I can actually hear my 4 year old singing along as well. I love are you song selections. Though I dont have them all on my IPOD i'll take your Corinne Bailey Rae and Erica Badu selections for now!

  13. As sad as this is, its so true. Part of the reason why I barely listen to the radio myself any more. Thanks to my and my husband's Caribbean roots, my daughter has taken to listening to Bob Marley and I Wayne when we're in the car. Both have one or 2 songs we have to skip, but for the most part, they are kid friendly. And unlike most of the kiddie music she'll hear on Noggin and Sprout all day long, reggae doesn't make me want to stick pencils in my ears.

  14. I totally understand where you're coming from pet peeve with this is when you see the mamas teaching their kids these songs and then asking them to get up and sing them for their uncle LOL.

    Reading this blog, I had a flashback on my son singing "American Boy"

  15. You should check out Hip Hop Speaks to Children edited by Nikki Giovanni, it comes with a CD. Its a good mix of old and new hip hop Sugar Hill Gang, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Queen Latifah, Tribe Called Quest and Langston Hughes to name a few. Not all the poems are on the CD

  16. yeah no radio...

    and yes, i have to children friendly CDs in the deck..

    I suggest:

    1. K OS -- Atlantis -- great sing a long

    2. Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun...

    3. The Roots' "Tipping Point" Clean

    4. Anything by Sly and The Family Stone

    5. Jungle Brothers "Straight out the jungle"

  17. Great post! It drives me nuts pre-screening all music, television, and even disney movies for appropriate language and themes. But, I suppose that's my job as the mom. My girls do like to rock out to my oldie hip hop.

    Stop by my blog when you have a chance, I have a little award for you!!

  18. i am SO with you on this. both of my girls just love music and at the tender ages of 4 and 2, already know when "their song" - meaning T-Pain's "Can't Believe It" is on the radio. They have so much fun snapping along to the beat, but recently they have begun to sing along and there is just something slightly disturbing about them singing "Oooo, she all on me, on me..." Like you said, "it's grown folks music."

    I keep meaning to invest in the Kidz Bop Cds that are supposed to be kid-friendly pop music, but until then your list helps!

  19. so true!! in fact, i wrote a very similar post with a song listing months ago:


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