I’ve decided to start a new series called Culture Critique.  In this series (which will be sporadic at best) I will examine different examples of culture which I personally find unique and worth mentioning.  I hope to even isolate some cultural watersheds.  The main impetus for this series will be your comments, so feel free to leave your thoughts.

Let me start by saying that (almost across the board) I despise the genre of music known as rap.  My reasoning behind this is simple- rap degrades women; rap is profusely vulgar; and a majority of rap is completely void of any real musical talent.  Before I start getting hate mail, I would quickly say that this is an opinion I have come to foster due to my experiences.  I would never claim across the board that rap is 100% bad.  In fact, this post deals with rap explicitly, looking specifically at an example of the genre I found startlingly unique.

The content of this installment looks at an artist from the UK named Dylan Mills, or as he is better known, Dizzee Rascal.  Dizzee is most often associated with a rap movement called “grime.”  Grime is described as a “sub-genre of urban music which first emerged in London, England in the early 2000s [and was characterized by] complex two-step break beats, generally around 140 beats per minute.” (1) In other words, grime is not rap, but sounds an awful lot like it.

On July 21 of 2003, Dizzee Rascal released his first album, Boy In Da Corner, which garnished critical acclaim for it’s genre.  The album is somewhat biographical, and lyrically relates a lot of the struggles and confusion Dizzee experienced growing up.  The album touches on issues of “teenage pregnancy, police brutality, and friends lost to the lure of crime and cash”. (2)  In his review of the album, Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork magazine writes concerning the ultimate aim of Dizzee’s tirades against a messed up world,

For all of his concern and meditation, Dizzee himself offers few suggestions and little hope. He can dish bravado with the best emcees, but despite the eloquent boasts, he remains fragile, apprehensive, and consumed by the possibility of failure. (3)

The album produces many startling and unique tracks, many of which break traditional stereotypes, both musically and lyrically, for its rap genre.  In this installment of Cultural Critique, I would like to focus specifically at the lyrical stereotypes broken in this album.  For the sake of length, I have chosen to focus on one track, entitled “Jezebel”.

“Jezebel” is the twelfth track on the album.  It is a song which “laments the cycle of teen pregnancy, blaming a promiscuous girl for bringing other future Jezebels into the estate.” (4) Since Dizzee is from the UK, some of his euphemism may be lost in translation.  A “jezebel” may be understood as a promiscuous woman.  The reason I have chosen to look at this track specifically lies in the fact that the track simply destroys the rap stereotype of loose women being praised for their promiscuity.  Instead, the loose woman of the story is portrayed as facing neglect, abuse, and even rape!  She is portrayed realistically as having contracted STD’s from her promiscuity.  In one stunning line, we read,

Raised in the church
Not knowing anything
Learned about boys
Ruined every thing

Through the entire song, Dizzee’s tone is immedately recognizable as mournful and quickly associated with regret.  However, the sad aspect of this entire song is that, much like Plagenhoef’s assessment, Dizzee is quick to point out the bad, but does not give a definitive means to correct it.  The most he can provide is a youthful wish for this Jezebel to return to her former years of innocence,

Yo, wishin’ she could take it back to the old school
And make better choice’s
Oh what a fool
But all by her side
But she wonder man
Only if she was six years younger
Damn

Aside from this fact, Dizzee Rascal has done something here deserving notice.  In a world where rap artists continually degrade women with their lyrics, Dizzee has made a statement- a statement of reality- a statement of truth.  In a world were women are treated as objects, women suffer.  If the genre of rap would realize this, it would be a better genre because of it.  I have provided the song in full below (thanks to YouTube) and have also provided the lyrics.

WARNING: The following song contains explicit dialogue.  Please know that I do not endorse this artist or this song, both of which were simply used for cultural critique.

Yo, look, look, look
They call her Jezebel
you might find her in your neighborhood
Always in some shit
Up to no good
Constant boasting bragging to her friends
Juiced every boy in the ends
Gettin’ outta school
She would truant every day
Always on the link
Different boy every day
Missed mathematics she was doing acrobatics
But not gym class
She was gettin’ doggy fast

Yo, they call her Jezebel
Friends call her sket behind her back
She never knew the clock
She was born of track
Tight top short skirt thinks she’s to nice
Hates love but she’s been deep in twice
Pass with, whoa can’t keep her legs closed
Always on the creep
Now she’s in too deep
Now she face’s neglect, abuse and rape
Man said that he’d kill her
If she try to escape

[Chorus]
Whats your name?
I’ve seen you about
I think your tromp (Boom ting)
I really hope your not a grim
I really hope your not a jezzy, jezzy
Where you from?
Hot stuff (Buff ting)
I really hope your not a grim
I really hope your not a jezzy, jezzy
I’ve seen you around
I think your tromp (Boom ting)
I really hope your not a grim
I really hope your not a jezzy, jezzy
Where you from?
Hot stuff (Boom ting)
I really hope your not grim
I really hope your not a Jezebel

You might find her at a house rave
For the fifth time
She’s gettin’ whined from behind
Had a bit of drink
So she’s acting kinda slow
She came with Natasha
But she’s leavin’ with Joe
Ricky loves jezzy but jezzy loves bling
Ricky means well but Ricky aint got a thing
Joe’s got a name
And jezzy loves fame
She wants a man to show
So it’s all about Joe

They call her Jezebel
On her way to get worked out
Get battery
And get kicked out
Jezzy weren’t expecting more then four
What could she say
She just did it anyway
Messed up caught a kinda STD
Gonorrhea, Herpes, no VD
Left bitter, left angry, left vex
But still loves sex
Passed it on to the next

[Chorus]

Pretty ma
Ain’t got a brain
Got no shame
Got juiced on the train
Went from daddy’s little girl
To daddy’s heart attack
House wreck a side
She could never go back
Raised in the church
Not knowing anything
Learned about boys
Ruined every thing

Aged 16
She was never full grown
She was in a family
Now she’s got one of her own
Two kids
Even worse
Two little girls
Two more of her
Thats two Jezebels
Two fatherless kids
One single mum
No longer young
But the boys still come
Yo, wishin’ she could take it back to the old school
And make better choice’s
Oh what a fool
But all by her side
But she wonder man
Only if she was six years younger
Damn

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