01 October 2006

Ludacris : My Heart Divided

Part One: I Love Ludacris

Do you guys remember the song "Welcome to Atlanta" by Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri? It came out in 2002, while I was still living large in the ATL, and there's a verse where J.D. gives me a shout out. Listing all the parties he hits during the week, he says, "Wednesday, I'm at Strokers on lean."

Let's parse that, shall we? "Lean" is a Dirty South cocktail that mixes codeine-fueled cough syrup with Sprite, usually served in a styrofoam cup. And Strokers is a strip club in Clarkston, a small Atlanta suburb that's OTP (or "Outside the Perimeter" of downtown.)

I know for a fact that Strokers is on Brockett Road. How? Because I used to live in the apartment complex that's right across the street. Dizzamn!

How awesome am I? I never actually went to Strokers, but if I had, I might have seen J.D. Therefore, it's like he's giving me props.***

Or better yet, Luda is. You may remember that I don't have much love for Jermaine Dupri, but I've always thought Ludacris was awesome.

In last week's New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones did an excellent job of summing up why. For all his bravado and dirty talk, she notes, he still comes across as vulnerable and human.

She notes the doubt in some of his lyrics, but I'd add itg's also because Ludacris is the rare rapper who doesn't take himself very seriously. In his videos, he almost always looks ridiculous. Remember "Stand Up," where we saw his giant-afroed head digitally imposed on a baby in diapers? No? Scroll to 2:45...

That shit is funny, and it makes Ludacris seem fun.

Part 2: But Should I?

But as Frere-Jones notes, Ludacris can also be obscenely misogynistic. His first top ten hit was called "Move Bitch," for God's sake.

I've been dancing, though, and I know how easy it is to ignore the degradation in hip-hop lyrics if the beat is good. However, there's always a part of my brain burning with the awareness that it's against my ethics to swerve to words that I find so personally offensive. I think a lot of people feel that way... we turn off our consciences as much as we can, but we know that the music making us wriggle is demeaning half the population of the planet. (And demeaning men, too. This type of song fosters the idea that we're all sex-crazed fiends.)

Yet we party on. Or at least I do.

I guess that makes likeable Ludacris my truest guilty pleasure.

***I ackowledge that no one has given anyone props since 1996. I ran out of slangy synonyms.

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At 3:46 AM, Anonymous kalle said...

Sometimes one needs to leave the lyrics without attention, no matter how much they are crying for it. Truth be told, a lot of great songs have weird/ stupid/ offensive/ ridiculous lyrics that can totally ruin the overall experience, if you start to think about them. (actually, disregarding the lyrics is crucial for getting into heavy metal ;o)

How much do you really tune into all those political songs? Do you actually start to think about Martin Luther King when you hear "Pride"? Do I call my parliament representant while listening to Rage Against the Machine? No, I'm too busy banging my head. Che Quevara is dead anyway, so who cares...

Or, should you also refuse to watch movies and tv-series with offensive characters? Meaning, the events in a song aren't necessarily real. Or (as is often used as example), Johnny Cash actually shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die, but for some reason he never got prosecuted for that.

Sure, the abundance of bitchin' and pimpin' and hustlin' and whatever badass gangsta stuff they are doing in many a rap song is ludicrous and childish, which is also exactly why there's no reason for you to take it too seriously. But it is tiring to listen to.

(never had I thought to defend hip hop lyrics... oh, and sorry if I seemed agitated or offensive, it was not my intention - just stream of conciousness...)

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Mark Blankenship said...

Hey Kalle,

Not offensive at all! I think you've got a point with lyrics being so childish that they may not mean anything.

I'm such a lyrics-based person, though, that I can rarely just shut them out. I think this feeds into my whole opinion on dance music, too. I'm looking for lyrics in a way many people just aren't.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous kalle said...

Truth be told, I have the same problem with giving lyrics too much weight, but sometimes the song is just too good to let the stupid words to destroy the enjoyment. In my case it helps that English is my second language, so I can sort of shut it off, if I don't want to know what they are singing about.

But that does not apply to, for example, "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You" by Heart. It's a disgusting song, and that's the lyrics' fault.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Mark Blankenship said...

Aww, you don't like that song? I love it! To me, the story is just so tacky that it becomes fabulous.


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