Smell Yo Dick?

Because I am something of a self-involved bastard and I enjoyed the column I wrote for today’s WSN:

Indie music’s shift to the nasty, vulgar mainstream

Issue date: 4/9/08 Section: Opinion

Damon Beres

On Feb. 5, hip-hop artist Riskay officially released her poignant single “Smell Yo Dick,” the wildly anticipated follow-up to “I’m da Shit,” “Fuck Boi” and “You Ain’t Shit.” The song, which aired on the radio in 2007 as “Who You Creepin’ With,” gained a fair amount of momentum and all but exploded on the internet, according to the All Music Guide.

And why not? “Smell Yo Dick” features a moving chorus that any young female growing up in the new millennium can relate to. “Why you comin’ home five in the morn?” Riskay asks her man. “Something’s goin’ on, can I smell yo dick?/Don’t play me like a fool, cause that ain’t cool./So what you need to do is let me smell yo dick.” The way that dear, sweet Riskay relates her mounting concerns of infidelity, the way that she has exhausted all of her options except for the last resort wafting of crotch stench – well, it’s pretty gross, actually. Hardly poignant at all, in fact.

For all the flak that the nastiest of nasty rappers seem to get from parents and the media, I’ve yet to hear anything that quite rivals the sheer repugnance of Riskay’s balls ballad. The song itself sounds like something Destiny’s Child would have released back in their heyday, except the lyrics would probably have been approaching tasteful in comparison (and this is the band that’s famous for “Bootylicious”). In other words, this is the sort of music that’s meant to reach a tween crowd. Little girls are going to listen to Riskay and learn to solve all of their relationship problems with their nasal cavities, huffing private parts left and right on the jungle gym when their boyfriends come late from fifth period. Let’s get some watchdog groups on this.

Though I’m never one to jump on the censorship bandwagon, this whole Riskay business has brought to light a number of trends that might, just might, benefit society in their swift, total reversal. At first, the single sounds just like anything that a major record label would put out; it’s derivative, repetitive, simple, synthesized and, well, the list goes on. Interestingly, though, the single was put out by independent music company Glassnote Entertainment, who has also put out such bands as Secondhand Serenade, Blowing Trees and Justin Nozuka. (In other words, they’re pretty nice.)

The common thread to all of them is a sense – represented by the album art, band images and simple sound of the music – of pandering to the mainstream. It’s almost ironic that an indie label would attempt to mimic the very trash that it’s meant to be independent from, and the most obvious explanation is that they’re trying to cash in on a lucrative market, just from the backdoor.

What that means for Riskay is that her special brand of music (which I might lovingly refer to as “stank-ass”) is, in fact, a less successful representation of the rotten cornmeal that MTV excretes day in and day out. Glassnote, and by extension Riskay, is thus holding up this stagnant mush as some glorious example of what people are willing to pay for and what they should aspire to be. The problem with that, of course, is that the music is terrible. Nevertheless, if the big bad record industry is going to sell us crap like Soulja Boy and Fergie (thanks, Interscope), then Riskay is going to croon about penis musk in hopes of striking sweet, sweet gold.

Unless she’s genuinely passionate about the subject matter, and the cash flow and uninteresting music are simply incidental results of Riskay’s pursuit of high art, I’d venture to guess that the world could do without “Smell Yo Dick.” Do we really want The New York Times claiming that “the tune is almost as catchy as the concept” about this dreck while iTunes reviewers make proclamations like “ladies, make sure you know what it NORMALLY smells like before you take Riskay’s words of wisdom to heart”?

Is this honestly what our society has come to? Punk music used to shock people with its violent, sexual lyrics and now we have attractive pop idols pushing stuff 20 times worse under a bubblegum veneer.

It’s just … gross.

Damon Beres is a columnist. E-mail him at opinion@nyunews.com.

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