The Tipper Sticker. Screwing kids over since 1985.

The seal of doom

This sticker used to make me seethe with rage and anguish.  It was the symbol of unavoidable doom.  Because as a kid who has parents that actually pay attention, this was a sign that the piece of musical art that you wanted to get your grubby little paws on was in mortal jeopardy of being left behind in the store without any chance of negotiation.

I remember back when I was 15 I went to the store with my dad and as per usual I ended up in the music section.  This was the year that Bone Thugs-n-Harmony had released their cd ‘Creepin on ah Come Up’ and boy did I want it.  So I got it and headed to the register and waited to pay for my new property. (Whooo Haa lucrative babysitting gigs!)  So I get up there and the lady behind the counter looks at me and asks how old I am.  I tell her and then she proceeds to tell me that I can’t buy it without my parents permission.  Something told me that something was not right here, but I was a slow and stupid kid who couldn’t look much further past what she wanted.  So I hunt my dad down and get him to the register and he looks at my purchase, looks at me, then the conversation goes like this:

Nope.  You can’t have this.

But daaadddy, I want to get this.  I’ve been saving up for it.

No.  I don’t want you listening to this stuff in my house.  It’s got unacceptable language.

Much wailing and begging ensued but being as my dad was/is a minister, it was a battle that was not to be won.  So I left the store feeling angry and dejected.  How dare these people tell me what I can and can’t buy with my money?  Where’d they come off treating me like some dumb kid?  I brooded that day for hours in my room.  Plotting my vengeance or whatever it is 15 year olds plot.  Someone was going to pay for this outrage.  Retribution would be mine!

Later dad came and talked to me and explained his reasoning behind his decision.  It went a little something like this:

The reason I didn’t allow you to have that cd is because the messages in that type of music are not cool or acceptable.  I don’t like all the foul language, the degradation of women, the violence, and not much meaning.  All this bitches and hoes stuff.  Do you consider yourself either of these things?

Of course I don’t dad, but for me it isn’t about that anyway.  The songs are catchy and I like the music.  I don’t go around saying these things.

Good.  Stay that way.  But there is my reasoning and hopefully one day you’ll understand.

Well, that’s the cliff-notes version.  I understood him then.  I just didn’t agree with him.  In a way I still don’t.  I live under the belief system that words mean nothing unless power is given to them.  I hear the term bitch all the time.  Heck I get called it very often.  I just take it as a clue that the person saying it doesn’t have a very large vocabulary to work with.  True, the music then and more so now use these terms oftentimes to the point of excess to get their point across, but I didn’t see it as a reason to reject outright hearing what the point was.

I got that cd about a week later from a friend of mine. (Take that! :-p )  And started listening to some other people.  Tupac was the biggest one.  It took me months to listen to all his music.  I got ahold of Ice Cube, Wu Tang Clan, Public Enemy, NWA, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and others.  Dr. Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ is still one of my favorite rap albums ever.  I listened to so many groups and felt sad because A. I almost missed out on a genre of popular music that was interesting and B. my father didn’t think I had brains enough to comprehend what I was hearing.  All because of a stupid sticker that had to ruin everything.

During this time, my friends totally griped that this was some sort of plot to keep music by black artists under.  But they were totally wrong.  The white artists were catching just as much heat and ire due to this sticker.  A lot of those artist were the ones that were up on Capitol Hill protesting the infringement of this tag on their music.  Which I totally respect and admire.  And even better, they were pretty damn vocal and open about their displeasure in their music.  Which was really freaking awesome.

But in time dad would come to be 100% correct.  Rap these days really doesn’t have much meaning to it.  Not like it used to anyway.  Now it is all about ass and screwing and making money.  Which, depending on who your listening to, has become tiresome, uninteresting and annoying.  In that secret experimental rap music stage, I also went back a bit further.  I listened to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Sugarhill Gang.  I still love those groups to this day.  They remind me that you can get your point across and be fantastic without being vulgar and over the top.  I kind of miss rap/hip hop as being a lyrical social commentary about what’s going on.  And they didn’t need labels.

But the question is ‘do I think that these artist need to be flagged?’  To keep it out of kids hands, if their parent is not going to pay attention to them, then yes.  If you have a parent that does pay attention and will sit down and have open discussions about it instead of banning it outright, then let experience it.  In the end, do I think it will make a difference?  No.  I’ve proven that kids will get what they want from wherever if they want it bad enough and know the right people.

I both curse and bless Tipper Gore for her blatant interference into my life.  As a kid I didn’t get it and didn’t want to.  I couldn’t see past what I wanted.  But now as a full-grown woman I get where she is coming from.  I don’t like it, but I get it.  And to think, the whole thing was born because of a song by Prince of all people.


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