Last month I went home to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday. The conversations I had with my grandparents that weekend made me want to revisit the idea that there’s “nothing new under the sun” as far as music goes. While I was there, my grandparents had a visitor in his twenties stop by. My grandmother was getting all in this young man’s business and asked about his love life. To not be disrespectful he stopped short of saying “. . .these girls gotta give me more than just. . .” and my grandma, in her 80s, says “some cut.” I could not believe what I heard. I’m looking over at my momma like, “did she just say what I THINK she said?” hoping I heard wrong. He continued talking and nodding his head as if what my grandma said was correct.
First time I heard “cut” was in music out of Georgia, which also happens to be my grandma’s home state. I couldn’t help but wonder what things we think are new aren’t. I’ve heard it said many times by peers and elders that our music is so risqué. When you bring up the fact that there has always been music about sex, drugs, and crazy relationships, many will claim that it’s never been as blunt or careless as it is now. After some of the things I’ve heard with this last dig, I promise you there is NOTHING new under the sun.
Some of these songs are straight up funny and others down right crude.
If you think Lil Kim or Nikki are vulgar check out Lucille Bogan. She went as far as using the pseudonym Bessie Jackson when recording her dirty lyrics, like the 1935 “Til the Cows Come Home”
Everyone knows the side-chick concept is not new, but some people seem to think taking pride in that role is new. Well, Rosa Henderson had no shame in being the other women when she recorded “He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar”
Beyonce and Jay-Z aren’t the only ones getting “Drunk in Love” but they are married to each other. Clearly Harlem Hamfats were drinking, getting high AND cheating on “Let’s Get Drunk and Truck”
Oh, and they had jokes too. Great rappers are praised for their use of double entendres, but our forefathers did it to the max. Songs like “Big Long Slidin’ Thing” by Dinah Washington referring to instruments (human and musical) or “Big Ten Inch” about an actual record (or not) are good examples of this. My favorite double speak are the ones about food. You would not believe the amount of songs that substituted food for body parts or the act of sex. One of the funniest I’ve heard so far is “What’s That Smell Like Fish” by Blind Boy Fuller.
I could keep going on with these, but I will leave it at these early pioneers. I may revisit this at some point, because there is a lot that can be branched from this. But If ever you hear someone talk about the music that made today as if the music before was pure and holy, feel free to share this post.