The opening stanza of the song is enough to tell us as to what it is about and frankly I have retired it from my playlists and sets.
The lyrics are as follows:
That a mainstream artist as young as Rihanna is handed or forced to do a song such as this to perform to mostly young(er) impressionable fans that gobble up materials without the requisite checks and balances should be of concern. I am assuming that Miss RiRi and management are tied into a contract that may basically say sing what we give you or else, of course in a subtle form. I have been digging other new songs from her such as “Needed Me” & “Sex With Me” and spinning them in my sets both clean and explicit versions; although the latter is a little racy and more for adults but it does not promote violence directly although the “ .....switch on a fake nigga like a station..” line is kind of hinting towards black ghetto life and belittling hypermasculinity/bravado; the use of the word “nigga” is well known to many that that means a gangster or as in our case the dons. The redeeming line follows however in a sense “Vodka & water and a lemon and a few other things I cannot mention,” which seems to retrieve the dignity aspect of the track. While there is an ongoing national uproar about whether dancehall is influencing violence as life imitate art or vice versa (if one can call some of the stuff these days art) here is a big pop song brought in quietly over the mainstream and played on radio.
Same gender liaisons challenges
The unanswered question of the age for me is why would someone who is the subject of abuse outside of a co-dependency issue stay in said union and take it and then when it comes to crunch time the justification is ‘he beats me because he loves me?’ do not for one minute believe that this a hetero-normative construct only because it’s definitely not; especially when there is the aforementioned co-dependency matter at work. A poorer gay man versus a monied or privileged man in a liaison and the main driver is not necessarily sex but also control as the motivator which can lead to abuse. The lesser powered man is sometimes forced to take all kinds of abuse including sexual, psychological and violence against his person re-emphasizing the dependency element; while he may have some difficulty reporting same to a police station; he may be the brunt of humiliation, homophobia or simply ignored by the cops and chased away from the precinct. Once the cops realize it is more a lovers’ quarrel bordering on an old crime of passion mantra one can just walk away or if one is strong enough take it to a higher authority such as the area’s Superintendent and such. It might get a little tricky if there are hints of rape or sexual assault when it comes to two men, a buggery charge might hit one or both if they don’t handle themselves well or have an attorney present to wade through the matter. The lesser charge of grievous sexual assault might also creep into the mix.
There was some attempt via the USAID Comet II training exercise with some cops in 2016 but that only seems to target new recruits and not necessarily the older ones who are set in their ways; after years of very little strong oversight and workshops for capacity building via improved customer service experience. Some changes have come through at certain stations but others the bad habits are still there, but change is usually slow anyway.
Conflict resolution interventions if not far more public awareness programs are needed, despite we have a dispute resolution mechanism and a hotline service they are not promoted enough and the other ones that are out there tend to be more so female based for the most part with the man being the aggressor. Campaigns since the upsurge in intimate partner violence cases are too flat in my view and sound too politically correct, flat and cannot be compared to the strength of the cadence of what dancehall acts for example use in more misogynistic songs. The message has to be firm and placed in a real world context not presented by some middle class person who has never experienced any pain or is in tune with the culture in a far more real way than just an observer in an observational tower or privilege. I was expecting more on the grounds of foreign songs with similar messages to RiRi’s i.e. some rap for example that directly promote violence against women, but what do we do, censorship is an issue as well but there is also responsibility on the part of artists, song writers, producers and so on.
It seems what is popular trumps what is right in the scheme of things when the current hot matter of alleged new recordings of Vybz Kartel while serving a life sentence; it does not seem to matter that Kartel is a convicted murderer indeed the incarceration of him is seen as a stripe of sorts; the deafening silence from the prison authorities is telling when in fact it is only the Tower Street facility aka General Penitentiary, GP that has recording equipment my short time there I remember but they maybe old nowadays as analogue ones i.e. reel to reel tapes device versus newer compact hand held devices such as tablets with a good microphone, auto tune and Q-sound technology does the rest for the post production to finished product; when compared to the voice quality of the ‘new songs’ (or as we are told previously recorded tracks) it suggests that much higher grade of device(s) such as a phone were used. That also speaks to the business ‘contraband’ and what is allowed in and by whom. The subject matter of the ‘new songs’ is telling as most of the songs content are counteraction songs and also dealing with present matters and clashes with other rival artists so it cannot be that these songs are previously recorded materials held in wait for release and sale.
There are other songs even done by female dancehall acts though not popular as some of their male counterparts that hint to the ‘he beats me because he loves me’ mantra. The songs usually have one-liners contained suggesting that there would be no separation in the relationship even though the male in the union may handle the woman rough. Similarly to having a prison sentence or serving time as a stripe of ‘badness’ the physical scars of violence is also sold as a sign misguidedly of a strong relationship. It is almost a confirmation of submitted power to the man probably borne out of years of patriarchy and misogyny well established in dancehall music for example and some early reggae. Other rap songs also have such content and even spew threats to women who say they are ending the relationship there will be violent consequences even as the man has multiple partners sometimes knowingly to the threatened woman. Tracks such Cam’rons “Bitches Aint Shit” from way back in the 2000s though sexually suggestive via the “beat my bitch with a stick” line the threat element comes in where he threatens that if she leaves she’ll get a “dick in her mouth” and so on. Other older rap such as Cash Money Millionaires’ “Project Chick” from the Ballers Rollin’ album is quite clear, similar to Cam’ron is very suggestive as long as the woman is willing to comply at whatever costs, and failure to comply would have serious consequences. I don’t think I need to get into the days of 2 live Crew’s materials they are noted for their misogyny and such.
Artistry and repertoire (A & R) departments these days from record labels seem interested in pushing the envelope in terms of making too pretty or clean imaged females more street credible but are going overboard as music sales still struggle when compared to the days of CDs, vinyl and so on, case in point Miss RiRi herself nearly on the songs on the album are cutting it close designed to make her obviously more edgy. Mariah Carey’s latest video for example looks more like a lingerie advert instead of the polished diva we are used to; it is not the first time she has collaborated with rappers but this new one is kind of a turn off to many as they question why is she going so hard (or her handlers) to match up against younger stars? She is already the queen in certain respects as she really does not need to and while I can appreciate coquettishness to a point there are limits frankly. There is a reason why Diana Ross and the older gurlz have lasted so long without having to show too much leg, cleavage and hips albeit enhanced for some these days.
A word on church hypocrisy
There is a thin line between fantasy on record versus reality as we are learning nationally, the separation is not clear to some given the death threats being thrown via social media predicated on Vybz Kartel worship towards opposition spokesperson on youth Lisa Hanna by a mere suggestion that a review maybe needed as to allowing incarcerated persons to produce and record new music; the rapidity of rapes and abuse even from men of the cloth all so close to each other in terms of timing says to me that things were festering all along and we thought all was well. We really have to begin to consider the lyrical content of some of the songs and calling for bans on radio is one thing but the same tracks in their raw versions are readily available on an ever expanding set of platforms; with smartphone technologies and APPS it is a synch for any youngster these days. There may be legal implications as well in terms of censorship and our charter of rights. Many parents do not check or are able to check the content being technologically naive so all kinds of things can slip by. Then there is the business of the angel at home versus the bad boy/girl wannabe out of parents’ sight.
I think we need to calm for a while first then decide emotion free as possible the way forward but with fans of Kartel still up in arms we have some seriously embedded evil on the national psyche to contend with. For mostly men and bizarrely some women to openly suggest on social media while ignorant to the cyber crimes act Miss Hanna and indeed other persons who agree with her are to die violently or raped as punishment for the Kartel diss even though she widened the comment to other acts in prison is frightening to say the least. Restraint seems all but dead these days as some seem to think they have license to post or say anything online; we are told that the main instigators of the threats are known and the requisite posts (even after deletion) are being gathered to take the requisite prosecutorial actions by the police as empowered under the cyber crimes act.
Another bout of annoucementitis?
Yet again we hear aspirational soundings from politicians and privileged folks and NGOs but the announced strategies to include getting abused persons mostly women to come forward with the needed psycho social support sound nice on the face of it; while also announcing a shelter for battered women (not the first time) when others have been forced to close down due to lack of funding and help from successive governments. I hope not Let us see whether these ideas will ever come to light; case in point the human rights institute that is yet to come, homeless shelters promised but not fulfilled, infirmaries left to languish although places such as the previously structured Womens’ Crisis Centre and others struggle; there was a merger of sorts in 2015/6 but what has come of that new entity that announcements should come about shelters?
This is by no means the end of this. But should there be a ban on songs with this ‘he beats because he loves me’ mantra?
Peace & tolerance