Why explicit songs should not offend
Since the beginning of time, it seems like musicians are always being questioned over lyrical content. Whether it is the drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll of the 60’s, explicit language in hip hop or violent, “satanic” material in metal, musicians have always been under scrutiny of their music’s message.
The problem here is a miscommunication and lack of understanding. There is a sense of hypocrisy and a generational gap at hand. Which raises the question, is lyrical content worth getting upset about?
In life, people want everything black and white; a sense of clarity— a clearly drawn line that says yes or no, but life isn’t this simple. We have shades of gray, and not everything is clear-cut. This is the same with the music we enjoy. People want to take what artists say as literal truth or fact when such simplistic views can’t be used to enjoy the art of music.
Hip hop artists have self indulgent songs, boosting themselves and ripping on their adversaries, which are not a reflection of massive ego, but are more playful in nature. In Kendrick Lamar’s hit song “Backseat Freestyle,” the rapper boasts, “I pray my d*** gets as big as the Eiffel Tower / So I can f*** the world for 72 hours.” While this may sound arrogant, Lamar later said, “‘Backseat Freestyle’ is being in the mind state of being 16 years old and not having no cares in the world. Not giving a damn about nothing, but life and money and what you see in front of you. It’s not me talking now, it’s me talking then.”
Lamar recently received The Generational Icon Award from the state of California for the positive effect he’s made on the community with his music and through donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to local schools to support their sports, music and after-school programs.
Metal lyrics often receive criticism for their violent nature. Many bands of the genre will often have songs about satanic rituals or violent killings, but much like hip hop, these lyrical themes are to be taken with a grain of salt. When asked about his band’s violent / satanic lyrics, Trevor Strnad of Michigan’s The Black Dahlia Murder said, “It’s just fun man, I’ve always been into the macabre aspect of death metal. That’s kind of what attracted me to it. It’s all tongue and cheek, you know? Kind of like a horror movie.”
A certain level of hypocrisy takes place amongst people in lyrics too, often this is seen between different genres of music. A fan of rock may point to a genre like hip hop and criticize it for its lyrics about sex but have no problem with a song like “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC / DC. A fan of hip hop may be critical of death metal for violent lyrics, but enjoy the song “Deep Cover” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, a song about killing an undercover cop. This genre-to-genre miscommunication and lack of understanding creates double standards for all music.
Song lyrics can’t be censored out of misunderstanding. Music is an art form, and art, under no circumstance, should be censored. Instead of crying, “foul” maybe these critics need to take a closer look at their selves and their music, along with the music they are pointing fingers at.