Thursday, May 28, 2009

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

Black radio apparently is facing an uphill battle against a bill that would charge radio stations millions of dollars in fees to play music for the masses, and a few outspoken station owners are sounding a rallying cry for listeners to stop the measure by fighting the powers that be. I have to say that though I respect the history behind black radio, I'm finding it ridiculously hard to grab picket signs, show up to hearings, and call my local congressman to implore folks to save the institution, particularly when it seems the institution really doesn't respect or care about me as a listener. I wrote this post, about why I've banned black radio when my kids are in the car, when I first started MyBrownBaby, back in Fall 2008. I think it stands to reason that not much has changed. Much respect to black radio, but if you want my help, maybe you need to consider making some changes. I'm just sayin'.


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

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  1. I'm relieved to hear that I'm not the only one - I sure wish I could listen to the radio without worrying about what my little girls hear. In fact, I wish I could watch the 5pm news without worrying about what my kids will see!

    Great post.

  2. Awesome! Awesome! Love You!! Thank YOU!!

    Add on:
    Reeeal Old School that my 15 yr old and her cohorts seem to like (by force):
    Rappers Delight, Sugar Hill Gang
    Do Wa Ditty, Zapp

  3. We gave up on regular radio a few years ago. I'm very careful of what I introduce my kid to. The good thing for me is my kid loves what I love, so we hardly have issues. In our car we have XM radio. This gives us the power of having REAL music during our time in said car.

    I'm so glad I am not alone in this!

  4. Excellent post and I agree 150%!! My girls always ask me is there any clean music anymore? Radio is beyond bad. I can't believe what they play during the times kids are on the way to school or getting out. Even worse, sometimes they play the dirty version (no bleeps). sad...

  5. Ditto to the last 3 posts! I rememeber the time I heard my son in the back seat singing "don't call me no mo', Don't text me no mo'!"

    I just thought this is ridiculous! We discovered Radio Disney that day but the play list is much appreciated when I cannot take another song from the Jonas Brothers!

  6. This is a subject that is close to my heart. I also grew up on hip hop from its birth in the early 80s when you barely heard it on the radio, even on the mainstream black stations! We've come a long way, but not always for the better. I think we've seen really good beats and hooks, but the content has really deteriorated. First came the gangsta stuff. I think it's fine if you are talking about your experience, but it became more than that. It became something to idolize, which is wrong, ignorant and reeks of low expectations. Then came the "bling" rap, which is all about bragging about how much money and material things you have. Along with the gangsta and bling came the misogynistic stuff which is ignorant AND immature.

    Some of the artists who have true talent with words are Jay Z and Kanye West, even though their messages have not always been uplifting either. So I feel torn. I love the beats, love Jay Z's voice and talent for expression, but I don't like hearing women maligned all the time and I don't respect love of money above all things.

    We can do so much better. Can we use those same beats to talk about something more positive and/or complex? While I want my son to experience the joy of a good rythym that makes you just have to dance, I don't want him singing about sex, money and bitches.

    I also really think it affects the expectations of kids who lack positive role models. They are the ones that are really at risk in the first place.

    Okay, I could go on for hours, but I'll get off the soapbox.

  7. The ipod stays in the glove box and gets plugged in when we enter. And if not, nothing is wrong with a little conversation!

  8. We have monitor everything. We have to constantly explain, explain, explain away this crap. My 12 year old is at the point where she can discern good from bad music. She tells me to go to Wal-mart to buy clean music. I just gave her permission to get 13 new songs for her ipod and she chose all clean songs, sadly, they weren't all R&B. The more she learns about the world, the more she is disgusted by R&B and rap music. I play old stuff and if I find any new that's good we grab it up.

    My daughter is a singer and she even comes to me to choose songs that are appropriate to sing to the public.

    I can trust Tom Joyner in the morning, but it goes down hill from there.

  9. Don't forget Kem. His voice is amazing, he is respectful as an artist, and his songs are a tribute to black relationships

  10. You need not apologize to Lil Wayne or anyone for choosing to not let your daughters listen to their trash. I cosign everything you said. Not only do I not want my grandson to hear Lil Wayne or Soulja Boy, but I don't want to hear it myself. `

    I have Radio Disney and Dora CDs in the car for when he's with me (and he sings along big time). Does it drive me crazy? YES, because my grandson can listen to the same song over and over again. It gets to the point where I have to sing my own song in my head to drown him out.

  11. I must add Musiq Soul child to the list of artist making quality music. Not only are the radio stations horrible, but the videos ooze sex in every way. Videos are allowed in our house but only God knows what other children are seeing and bringing to school. I froze in horror the other day when I caught my daughter (9) and neice (8) gyrating their hips in a manner only fit for the bedroom!

  12. Even worse, they throw in that Dial In 'Booty Call' radio segment at the exact time I'm in the car rider line waiting for the kids to get inside their school! I think it's funny, but when my daughter said, "What's a booty call?" I decided it had to go.
    Why doesn't India Arie get more radio play? She's not only an incredible musician, but everyone could use a little positive energy these days. Add India Arie to the song list!!!
    Beautiful, Gratitude, Ready For Love, Good Man, There's Hope,I Choose, He is the Truth, it could go on & on...Love Wyclef (If I were president, Million Voices, two wrongs is great too -there's a bed reference) & I love Lauryn Hill's Water- slow but brilliant & meditative. Where did Lauryn Hill go??? Time for her to come back!

  13. Funny you should mention L'il Wayne. I heard one of his "songs" during my morning power walk and I'm sure there was something offensive-I'd be almost willing to bet on it, but I couldn't understand a word of his synthesized drivel to take a stand for or against.

    As artists we are BIG on free speech and expression, but again there is a time and place for it-all of it. If the DJs paid a tad more attention to the music buyers' demographic, they'd see that some of their biggest supporters are the parents of their biggest fans. It would behoove them to make mama happy.

  14. I nearly fell out my seat when you said that you almost crashed trying to change the station after you heard your daughter sing the lyrics to that song. I totally understand where you're coming from. It really bothers me when I see young kids singing the lyrics to some of these provacative songs or better yet doing some of these dance moves. Some parents actually think it's cute. GO FIGURE!

    It's funny because I never really got into hip hop until my college years. My husband still bothers me till this day when an old rap song comes on and he's jamming along and I tell him that I've never heard that song. I guess it just never interest me before then.

    When my kids are with me in the car, it is strictly kids songs. I always keep one in the car. And if not, I added kids songs to my iPod for them. I also steer clear of hip hop music videos when they are with me. Once they get older, if they choose to

  15. Well said, and thanks for the list. :)

  16. True indeed! As much as I try to support hip hop, creativity, freedom of expression and all of that, music these days just really gets on my damn nerves. Its either talking about a new dance, or sleeping with a woman, or something that completely makes no sense at all! I'm with you on this one... if they want our support then they need to start taking our concerns into consideration.

  17. Thanks for the play list! I hope my little girl will enjoy it.

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    In addition to the music our children hear, I think it's equally important to be concerned about what they read. It's so important that our children see themselves portrayed positively in the media images that surround them everyday. And those images need to be both reflective of our actual lives as well as being aspirational.

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  19. ...ack. I guess we're on the extreme side around here. No black radio, no videos. And as of Friday? No broadcast t.v. Not even PBS anymore. I had a childhood. I'd like for my children to have a childhood. If the country wants to okay all this sex and violence in the media before 7 or 8 pm, then that means I'm responsible for what my children see; I'm the gatekeeper, so to speak. I don't want my 4 year old to even know what Lil' Wayne looks like. I can't imagine what she'd make of him-- that dude looks like a flippin' nightmare. Just my opinon.


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