A COUPLE of days ago, I read a story on Philly.com talking about an investigation Mayor Michael Nutter was launching into how the Philly 4th of July Jam turned into Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam, complete with all of the profanity.
This Moment of Ratchet isn’t Mayor Nutter’s fault. Don’t fault co-sponsor VH1, or The Roots–the folks who put this concert together. No, good reader, none of those folks are to blame. You are …
Apparently some of the acts, most notably rapper Nicki Minaj and host Marlon Wayans, cursed so much that the air turned blue. A lot of my Facebook friends were scandalized (truly scandalized!) by the non-family friendly content and demanded something be done.
But see, here’s the thing. This Moment of Ratchet isn’t Mayor Nutter’s fault. Don’t fault co-sponsor VH1, or The Roots–the folks who put this concert together.
No, good reader, none of those folks are to blame.
You are, especially if your kid’s iPod includes a copy of “Pink Friday” or “Roman Reloaded.”
Why parents need to check themselves
If you don’t want your kids to demand that folks like Nicki Minaj be a part of our Philly 4th of July Jam fun, it might be time to steer them toward what you’d like them to see.
For me, music and writing go hand in hand like cheese and crackers or fruit and chocolate.
I listen to all kinds of music and if you’ve read anything I’ve written for this site you can kind of see that. From musicals, to neo-soul to heavy metal (within reason), I like it all.
That’s why I usually circle two dates in my calendar: The day Fourth of July concert lineup is announced, and the Fourth of July itself. I highlight them so I know what I’m doing that night.
I was pretty ecstatic when the city gave control of the concert to The Roots because it needed a serious breath of fresh air.
Because I’m a big fan of the Roots, and know that they put on a great show, I usually have no problem fighting the crowds, finding my spot, setting up my lawn chair, and watching the concert with a cup of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and a bottle of water. It’s usually an interesting evening, even if I have to Google some of the acts because I don’t know who they are.
But this year, I decided to take a break from going to watch the Philly 4th of July Jam on the Parkway, opting to watch it on TV at home instead.
I did so partly because I’m currently hanging my hat in New Jersey and the last bus to where I’m staying leaves at 7:30 p.m.
The other part was the concert lineup.
Why I stayed home this year
Last year VH1 became a driving force for the Philly 4th of July Jam concert. It broadcast the show live across the country and attracted a lot of really good entertainment like Philly’s own Jill Scott, Ne-Yo, John Mayer, who luckily just stuck to singing, Hunter Hayes, J. Cole and Grace Potter. Even comedian Kevin Hart, a guy who usually annoys me, was good at playing host.
Fast forward to this year. Wayans, part of the group that gave us the comedy classic “In Living Color,” played host and, well, told jokes that were suitable for a comedy club. Or a strip club. Or a strip-comedy club. You decide.
I saw the kids—and when I say kids I mean the 8- and 9-year-olds in attendance—singing along with Nicki Minaj as she performed. They knew every word … That told me the problem isn’t Nicki Minaj. Or The Roots. Or Mayor Nutter. The problem is the parents.
The musical lineup didn’t do much for me either. While a concert featuring The Roots and Jeff Bradshaw is my idea of a good evening out anytime, there wasn’t much else worth my time. Sure, Aloe Blacc is interesting, and Jennifer Hudson is okay, but they’re performers I’d review, not pay to see. I don’t know a lot about Ed Sheeran—or as I kept calling him, Prince Harry with a guitar—though he seemed like he could be okay.
But the headliner was Nicki Minaj, whose catalogue needs a censor in the best situations. The minute she came out in an outfit that showcased her assets and started performing, my Facebook feed blew up.
I saw the online hand wringing.
I saw the calls demanding Mayor Nutter launch an investigation to see who fell down on the “family friendly” job.
I saw the complaints.
But, here’s what I also saw.
I saw the kids—and when I say kids I mean the 8- and 9-year-olds in attendance—singing along with Nicki Minaj as she performed.
They knew every word.
Every. Single. Word.
That told me the problem isn’t Nicki Minaj. Or The Roots. Or Mayor Nutter.
The problem is the parents. Grown ups. The people who are supposed to keep 8-year-olds away from songs like “Lookin’ Ass Nigga”…
Don’t talk about it, be about it
When you don’t look over your kid’s shoulder as they look on iTunes, or monitor what they see in terms of music videos and what they listen to on the radio, you get stuff like the Philly 4th of July Jam concert.
Nicki Minaj ended up on the Parkway because VH1’s mission is to pick hot acts with new music to spotlight and put them out there … And you, oh handwringing parent, helped VH1 and Nicki Minaj by letting your kid download “Pink Friday.”
Nicki Minaj ended up on the Parkway because VH1’s mission is to pick hot acts with new music to spotlight and put them out there for public consumption. Like it or not kids, Nicki Minaj fits that category.
And you, oh handwringing parent, helped VH1 and Nicki Minaj by letting your kid download “Pink Friday.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not down with censorship at all. I think it’s wrong as two left feet. But I also think that keeping 8-year-olds from inappropriate music isn’t censorship. It’s common sense.
Maybe if we had a little more of that common sense being utilized, the profanity-ridden Philly 4th of July Jam show wouldn’t have happened.
Click here to read Solomon Jones’s column: Independence from Nicki Minaj.
Photo © Canstock Photo
Denise Clay is a journalist and adjunct professor. She is active in the National Association of Black Journalists and the Philadelphia Association of black Journalists.