Are soca artistes really to blame for ‘smutty’ lyrics?
June 17, 2011
Are soca artistes really to blame for ‘smutty’ lyrics?

This year’s soca music for Vincy Mas is being received with mixed reviews. Many producers are being praised for their fresh and innovative beats,{{more}} but an increasing number of artistes are being criticised for their lyrics – which many have said push the envelope far beyond that of good taste.

With so many feathers being ruffled, artistes are biting back, claiming that they only write lyrics in response to the public’s demand, and it is unfair to lay the blame solely at the song-writers’ feet.

Even the Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves put his two cents into the debate. At a recent press conference he urged artistes to exhibit more creativity in their lyrical content.

“We don’t have to reduce everything to unsubtle vulgarity,” said Gonsalves.

Christopher Grant, who goes by the stage name ‘Grant’, shares this opinion. This year he released two soca songs – ‘Take a Stand’ and ‘Break Away’ – which he says have been receiving airplay on Star FM, Nice Radio, We FM and NBC Radio.

“This year has seen an increase in sexually charged lyrics. Why this is? I am not exactly sure,” said Grant.

“Sex sells. One can say that the public is to blame only to the extent that they request and promote them. However, the public can only request what songs are provided for them.”

Grant said that so far, he has not been made aware that his songs have been played on the more popular radio stations Hitz FM and Hot 97.1 FM.

“I don’t rely on sexually suggestive lyrics in my music,” he said. “I believe that music should be for all ages.”

Jason ‘Galanaire’ Bess, who sings the hugely popular ‘Big Stick’, holds an opposing view.

“When I hear people talking about [how] the songs are smutty and slack, it breaks my heart!” he admitted.

“It’s not intentional for me to sing something that’s so slack that you have to say ‘What did he just say there?’. You have to listen to the entire lyrical content of the song.”

Bess said that growing up, he loved songs because of their melody, and had no idea about the “double meaning” that many songs, released during his youth, had.

“I didn’t know what the song was talking about until I got bigger and was able to understand the double meaning. And that’s the calypso culture,” he explained.

“Most of the songs, I think, are humorous songs. Some people really take it too far. They don’t know how to craft their music… But the majority of us have been inspired by the legends who were masters of double meaning.”

Bess said that he believes it is simply coincidence that so many artistes this year have chosen to use double-entendre in their lyrics.

“Music is there for amusement and enjoyment, and we have to have a sense of humor when we listen to these songs,” he said.

Bess insisted that parents should filter what music their children are exposed to – just like they do with television viewing. He further pointed out that children learn what the double meaning: of certain words is, not from the songs but within their homes and schools.

“Don’t try to put it on musicians,” he admonished. “You have that responsibility at home… to know when to use certain words around your children.”

Bess pointed out that songs with double meaning have a provocative side and an innocent side as well.

“You are diverting minds from this other half of what the artiste is trying to say. You are taking them to one part only.”

He added: “The people who are criticising, they don’t love the music. They don’t really have any interest. They are trying to get their 40 seconds of fame because our music is popular.

“It’s our culture and we need to… encourage our artistes. Not to sing any slackness, but to craft it in the best way you can.”

Radio personality Kahlil ‘Gruve’ Cato, who works at Hitz FM, spared no punches in sharing his stance on the matter.

“If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then smut is in the ear of the listener,” he quipped.

“This so-called smut is the history of our calypso. The double-entendre is what calypso is based on.”

Cato pointed out that in decades gone by, calypsonians and soca artistes were famous for their ‘tongue in cheek’ lyrics, and that the vast majority of the songs being complained about now were no different from those.

“Becket had ‘Tone’ and ‘Too Much Iron’; Touch had ‘Puss Man’. Scorcher said ‘sweetness is my weakness’ and ‘fork dem beaches up’,” he said.

“I think people are finding a problem with the music because there are so many of that type… this year.”

Child psychologist Alisa Alvis also weighed in.

Referring to the sexually suggestive lyrics, she said: “I think it’s a bit much when it doesn’t serve a purpose to the song. In a lot of cases, it seems to just be gratuitous and done exclusively to attention grab.

“I think that any media that is consumed without guidance can affect young people’s behaviour since they are impressionable.”

While acknowledging the negative influence that such lyrics could have on the younger generation, Alvis disagreed that the solution is to censor artistes.

“Relentless censorship is not the answer because you cannot censor innuendo effectively.”

She summed up the debate appropriately: “The job falls to parents and care-takers to filter what their children consume when they are young. Teach them how to analyse and critique the message in things they hear and see.”