Turn on a pop radio station today and you're likely to get an earful of stupidity. I don't mean the kind of innocent dumb pop song of the old days. I mean songs that glorify lust and greed, stupidly.
One of the biggest radio hits right now is Nelly's song "Grillz," all about the goofy new rapper trend of "grills," diamond-encrusted dentures over a full set of teeth, like the one worn by his rapping partner on the song, a white "artist" named Paul Wall. At its low point, Nelly urges the audience to "rob da jewelry store and tell 'em make me a grill."
For lust and greed, it's hard to top "My Humps," by the Black Eyed Peas. The man in the song asks what his lady's going to do with "all that junk" in her trunk. She replies she will get him "love drunk on my hump...my lovely lady lumps." Why seduce him? For greed. She lists the fashionably expensive brands he will buy her: Dolce and Gabbana, Fendi and NaDonna, and jeans by Seven and True Religion. Those designer-label jeans at fancy department stores go for $175 to $300 a pair. It's what stupid people buy.
But there's competition from the new song from B4L called "Laffy Taffy," which has all the usual oral-sex metaphors (I won't bother with examples) and the chorus asks the girl to shake her "laffy taffy" about eight times in every chorus. It's infected with a serious case of stupid.
But the dumbest rapper of the new year is Kanye West, who is boldly going to that final frontier of egomania, the Jesus comparison. He's pictured on the cover of the new Rolling Stone magazine with a crown of thorns on his head and blood on his face, a persecuted martyr. The cover reads "The Passion of Kanye West." That's pretty bold for a millionaire superstar rapper. Perhaps it's a crucifixion at the hands of people who took issue with him - how dare they! - for ruining a Red Cross TV hurricane fundraiser with his wild, divisive bleatings about white racism, soldiers shooting at blacks, and President Bush's disdain for black people.
Excerpts from the Rolling Stone article display just the same old rapper braggadocio. West proclaiming he deserves more Grammy awards. West complaining that people shouldn't criticize him when he praises his own greatness. West giddily describing his addiction to pornography, and how he knew he wouldn't be able to get enough porn when he saw his first Playboy magazine at age five. Rolling Stone's writer loves him: "not since Tupac Shakur has a rapper been so compelling, so ridiculously brash, so irresistibly entertaining."
The Tupac Shakur comparison is apt, in that on his last album before that rapper as gunned down by gang-bangers in 1996, Shakur posed on the cover as a crucified black Christ. The rapper Nas also posed as crucified in a video for the F-bomb rap anthem "Hate Me Now," produced by Sean "P-Diddy" Combs. Diddy then edited the scenes out for MTV, but when MTV mistakenly aired an unedited version, within minutes, Diddy and two bodyguards beat Nas's manager in the head with a champagne bottle. A lawsuit was settled out of court.
Apparently, Rolling Stone thinks being a dumb rapper makes you a lovable icon.
Rolling Stone should not be excused for this stupid exercise in attention-getting. It's almost sad to see how perfectly they represent the upside-down creed of the counterculture, mocking the death of Jesus, but mourning the death of their beloved drug-addled scribbler Hunter S. Thompson. Douglas Brinkley grew almost religious in Rolling Stone over Thompson's bizarre ashes-in-a-rocket memorial service: "Our transport had become as solemn as an empty church... The sorcerer was truly gone. The ashes had settled, and only the dark shadow of the valley remained."
But West is not only stupid, he's sad. He's shown signs of an attraction to biblical imagery, from wanting to make Jesus jewelry to wanting to have one of his ceilings painted like the Sistine Chapel. His rap song "Jesus Walks" drew some attention to the culture's hostility to religion. West included the line "God show me the way because the devil [is] trying to break me down."
Earth to West: It's not a good career move to climb your way to the top of the pop ladder by stepping on the fingers of Jesus. It's just, well, dumb.