Welcome to a new weekly feature at Heave about music videos and the world around them. In Video Vultures, Cory Clifford takes a look at different music videos then ties them together through musical, political and cultural similarities.
Ahhh, the Dirty South – where the buffalo roam…as well as acid-fried country rock, a chronic race struggle, and hip-hop for days. The south, also known as “The Bible Belt,” tends to somehow balance extreme conservatism with extreme artistic expression in many facets of culture. Though this region tends to deal with many of the same cultural problems that the rest of America does, they deal with it through a much more far-sighted and broken lens. Let’s take a look at Khia’s 2002 classic, “My Neck, My Back:”
By far one of the most infamously dirty hip-hop songs, Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” had parents across America flipping wigs, specifically over the song’s blunt chorus: “My neck, my back/lick my pussy and my crack.” And all of this was coming from a woman! Interestingly enough, then (and still) washed up rapper Too $hort had a “genderific” response to her song called “My Dick, My Sack”, which upon first-listen offers an immediate realization as to why hearing men rap about the specificity of oral for the umpteenth time should be an automatic trip to eyeroll-city. “My Neck, My Back” is liberating in some regards, but for women in hip hop, there’s constantly been that push for sexuality. While the song my not be anywhere near the rhyme-slaying abilities of Nicki Minaj or Queen Latifah, what Khia did in one-hit-wonder-ville was create a national voice for black women who weren’t afraid to be honest of how they wanted things done. Yet people continuously tend to be disgusted by the song. Furthermore, it’s weird but not shocking how much people really loved “(Wait) The Whisper Song” by Ying Yang Twins:
Don’t get me wrong, I can get down to the twins of Crunk, but while words like “dick” and “pussy” certainly aren’t worthy to be said on the radio or MTV, what’s more annoying about “(Wait) The Whisper Song” is that they think they cleverly replaced them for the “edited” version with THE ABSOLUTE WORST sexual moans. Furthermore, the video is the perfect example of one of the lowest points in hip hop music: the early to mid-2000s. It was a time where an artist like Khia would get criticized for getting super-graphic lyrically, just for being female, yet an artist like Ying Yang Twins would literally objectify women in both their videos and in their songs and make millions off of it.
Now to get off topic for a minute: I’ve recently been reading a lot of different stuff on appropriation of black artists, and how in particular Justin Timberlake’s latest jams are guilty of it. All I have to say is, WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU WHEN HE DID IT ON JUSTIFIED??? I mean come on, seriously, you’re going to criticize someone whose most recent album, The 20/20 Experience, is one of the most original soul records since the days of D’Angelo and Maxwell yet THAT is the record you’re going to call appropriation? Have any of you ever heard of the band Natural Child?
Hell, Natural Child are my fuckin’ boys! They live up to what you want them to be and more: they’re three white boys from Memphis who play off the blues and Skynyrd, all under the approach and good fun of garage rock. Natty Child’s video for “Ain’t Gonna Stop” is as American as it gets, with baseball, gorgeous gals and wind-blowin’ in long white boys’ hair. And the video shows how fun they truly are, and as someone who’s seen them nearly a handful of times live, they’re just as fun in real life. Coincidentally, Natural Child do a really awesome cover of Ying Yang Twins’ “(Wait) The Whisper Song” as part of a medley full of originals and other covers. Now if you want to talk musical appropriation, please spare the conversation to Natural Child.
They have an excellent jam-out song called “White Man’s Burden” that boldly announces the headtrip of being the most privileged race, and that guilt you tend to live with as a white male in a modern society. Which is particularly heartbreaking for them, as rock ‘n rollers (something they note in the second verse of that song). Now the fact that Natural Child can recognize their privilege says something interesting, because for some reason it’s misunderstood by the Afropop-stealing rich kids in Brooklyn and Youtubers who call Elle King’s predictable acoustic cover of “My Neck, My Back” “inspiring.” Additionally, it’s quite a shame that many black men can’t see the privilege they hold in hip-hop over black women.
People like Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks may be successfully pushing limits against the boys-club nowadays, but artists like Khia, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, and even Missy Elliott to some extent, had to swallow their own pride, and do them, while still being sex symbols and white-people friendly (so white kids could get thousands of hits years later on Youtube with their acoustic renditions). Meanwhile artists like Nelly and the Ying Yang Twins were encouraging modern America to see the objectification of black women as tolerable, so long as it’s from black men. But the big crime in thinking like that is assuming that the playing field has always been fair, when in fact it has not. Hip-hop (as well as society) has come a long way since then, and even now, is starting to have influences and icons of the gay community (something that’s a huge step forward), but the struggle for hip-hop equality for women is still a huge issue.
I don’t care what anyone says, no matter how filthy of a song “My Neck, My Back” is, it still has that shimmer of liberation for women. Men may say it’s reverse-sexism, but after so many “Baby Got Back”s and “Shake Yo Ass”-like rap songs, the fact that Khia had the guts to do a track like that is what lead the way for bold female rappers today. We live in a twisted utopia, but the fact that we can look back at our culturally-ignorant moments with glimmers of hope, makes me realize how lucky we are to be so inundated with a myriad culture. Appropriation and the feminist struggle is something that may continue in the culture of the Dirty South, but the future looks brighter for our southern brothers and sisters more than ever before.