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 (Michel Martin's NPR show Tell Me More has my ear 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 thought on why black moms aren't breast feeding or the BP oil spill fiasco (hey, they're 10 and seven -- have an exhaustive talk about SpongeBob, KeKe Palmer, or snot, and they're all in). And I'll be damned if I'm going to suffer through a car ride's worth of Justin Bieber and High School Musical 503 (*dry heaving*). 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 7-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 mornings and 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, Wale, 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. Tightrope, Jonelle Monae??
15. Magic Touch, Robin Thicke??
16. Ordinary, Wayne Brady?
17. Momentinlife, Musiq Soulchild