Youth Culture Window
Let’s just say – hypothetically, of course – that you’re a hip hop celebrity trying to bounce back from a domestic violence rap, and several other public debacles, how would you do it?
Well, here’s how Chris Brown is doing it.
Breaking Free from the Past…Or Just Breaking?
As the first decade of the new millennium was coming to a close, Chris Brown’s career was just getting started. The good-looking dancer/singer was the latest star shooting out of Hollywood…and his entertainment was clean. His songs were free of the ubiquitous slurs and demeaning remarks made toward women that usually fill most hip hop songs. The dancer even had a role in Stomp the Yard and made an appearance (as himself) on Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
Yep, those were the days.
Then, in February of 2009, just hours before his big Grammy appearance, Brown turned himself in to the LAPD for violence against his (then) girlfriend Rihanna and for making criminal threats towards her. Most Americans were shocked by these revelations, as everyone considered him one of the cleanest guys in showbiz.
Since then, Brown has kept pretty low. In conjunction with a YouTube apology released in July, he made a pre-recorded appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live where he claimed, “I’m in shock, because, first of all, that’s not who I am as a person, and that's not who I promise I want to be.”
But then, in March of 2011, Brown had an explosion on the set of Good Morning America when host Robin Roberts asked him about a restraining order issued against him. He became violent, shattered a window, cut out on the second of two pre-scheduled songs, and left the building shirtless.
It appears as though Brown’s past is still haunting him. Unfortunately, he’s not breaking free of his past; he seems to just be breaking himself in response to it.
But if Chris has anything to do with it – and he does – all that’s about to change.
“Look at Me Now”
That’s the name of his new single off his F.A.M.E. album, which stands for Fans Are My Everything, or Forgiving All My Enemies. As of this writing, the song is ranked #10 on Billboard’s HOT 100. According to Hip Hop Lead, Brown’s record sold over a quarter million albums its first week available. These are fairly impressive numbers especially in light of his recent fall from grace.
The song will probably cause listeners to do just that: look at him. But, what will they see when they do?
For starters, listeners will get three-for-the-price-of-one: Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne join Brown on this single. (I’m resisting a Three Stooges joke right now.) Each singer takes a turn rapping throughout the song. Unfortunately, it’s as if each guy is trying to outdo the vulgarity of the preceding rapper.
Here is Chris’ contribution that opens the song:
Lil n-gga bigger than gorilla
Cause I'm killing every n-gga that
Try to be on my sh-t
Better cuff your chick if you with her
I can get her
And she accidentally slip and fall on my d-ck
Ooops, I said on my d-ck
I ain’t really mean to say on my d-ck
But since we talking about my d-ck
All of you haters say hi to it
Well the gauntlet has been thrown. Let’s see what Busta Rhymes can do in response.
everytime I come a n-gga gotta set it then I got it going
then I gotta get it, then I gotta blow, and then I gotta shudder any little thing
the n-gga think that he be doing cause it doesnt matter cause I'm gonna dadadada
then I'm gonna murder every thing and anything a badaboom a badabing
I gotta do a lot of things, and make it clearer to a couple n-ggas
that I always win and I gotta get it again and again and again
and I be doing it to death and now I move a little foul
a n-gga better call a ref, and everybody know my style
and niggas know that I'm the best
Meanwhile, Lil Wayne, no doubt the foulest of the three, has been quietly waiting his turn. I’ll apologize in advance….
Man f-ck these b-tch a-- n-ggas how yall doin?
I'm Lil Tunechi, I'm a nuisance, I go stupid, I go dumb like the 3 stooges
I dont eat sushi, I'm the sh-t, no I'm pollution, no substitution
Got a b-tch that play in movies in my jacuzzi, p-ssy juicy
I never give a f-ck about a hater got money on my radar
Dress like a skater, got a big house, came with a elevator
You n-ggas aint eatin, f-ck it, tell a waiter
Marley said shoot em, and I said ok,
If you on that bullsh-t then I'm like ole'
I dont care what you say, so don't even speak
Your girlfriend a freak like Cirque Du Soleil
Let me just come out and say it in case you’ve missed it thus far: this song is filthy. The rest of the song’s lyrics can be seen here, but be warned: they’re crude. The music video can be watched online, as well…and as of this writing, it has been – over 51 million times!
It seems as though Chris Brown has accomplished his goal: he has millions looking at him now.
Collecting Gazes…and Cash
The song almost makes me laugh.
I say that because the entire song is one braggadocios remark after another. Throughout the tune, the chorus echoes “Look at me now, look at me now. I’m getting paper (money).” In other words, because of Brown’s fans, he’s making lots and lots of cash. At the opening of the song he even says, “I get what you get in 10 years, in two days.”
The ridiculous part is, Brown’s bragging at the people who pay him for his music: his fans!
But just because the song is in the Top 10 on Billboard and has garnered 50 million hits on YouTube doesn’t mean we have to pay the price of Chris Brown’s comeback. Here are a couple things to think about before letting teens listen to or download Look at Me Now.
Facts to Consider Before Downloading:
First, the song doesn’t even pretend to be clean; the digital copies available for sale on iTunes carry the EXPLICIT warning. Too many songs these days masquerade as “clean” while pumping out an overtly sexual or violent message. Brown’s Look at Me Now doesn’t even try to hide its nastiness; it showcases it.
Second, the song has Lil Wayne in it. Unfortunately for mankind, this guy hasn’t produced anything that approaches decent or good. I hate having to say that, I really do, but it’s the truth. But Lil Wayne’s got a comeback of his own to think about after his latest release from prison. Speaking of comebacks….
Third, always be leery of a celebrity trying to make one. When a celebrity is trying to make a comeback – as Chris Brown is – desperation takes a lead. History has shown that celebrities who’re backed into a corner are willing to do just about anything to get back to the top. By the way, the same thing goes for movie sequels and TV shows like this week’s MTV Movie Awards. Every time MTV has suffered low ratings, they ramp up the sex and vulgar language in their annual show. (Here’s a recap of last year’s show.) This week probably won’t be an exception. Here’s a good rule of thumb: unless it’s a Rocky film, comebacks are usually a bad thing.
I deeply lament the loss of a clean hip hop star like Chris Brown. But his continual practice of making bad decisions has put him in this position. Fortunately, now that you know who Chris Brown is and what he’s trying to get your teenagers to look at, you can talk with them about this kind of content…and hopefully they’ll choose to look at something else.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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