Sunday, August 16, 2015
Track of the Week: A Tribe Called Quest "Bonita Applebum"
It's very strange seeing a Hollywood film coming out with a hagiographic vision of NWA, a group considered a threat to the public order in their heyday. During the height of the band's fame I was an enthusiastic fan of rap music, I could never really fully embrace them, like I had Public Enemy or Eric B and Rakim. (I guess I was pretty East Coast aligned from the beginning.) This wasn't due to NWA's political stance or musical style, but mostly because of the hateful misogyny and homophobia in a lot of their songs. I'd dug "Fuck Tha Police" and "Respect Yourself," but when my buddy Dan (who was an even bigger hip hop fan than me) played me Efil4zaggin in his basement I recoiled at the woman hating (as well as the violent attacks on the departed Ice Cube, who I considered to be the group's real talent.) When I heard about Dr Dre beating up journalist Dee Barnes it seemed that the lyrics demeaning women weren't just words. (This was also the same reason that I held certain rock bands like Guns and Roses and arm's length.)
When men sing songs about lust, no matter what the genre, the results are usually pretty ugly, whether it be Foreigner or Eazy-E. It doesn't have to be, though. A Tribe Called Quest penned what might be the best sensitive lust song (as opposed to love song) of all time, "Bonita Applebum." It's got a wonderfully jazzy feel and a creative sitar sample to boot. The lyrics are all about wooing the attractive lady of the title, but in a way that is unmistakably about sex, rather than mere romance. ("You gotta put me on.") At the same time, it's a very non-macho overture. The narrator promises to "say things other brothers won't" and to provide "mad prophylactics." The likes of Ted Nugent, or most other rockers and rappers, don't talk like this, which is a shame.