Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sharing with your kids the vulgar music that shaped you

I think I'm like most parents in wanting to share with my kids the music, art, and movies that shaped me, that I think are important or moving or wonderful.  This hasn't been a problem as far as the "high culture" stuff.  They know now a bit of Dickens, of Prokofiev and Beethoven.  When Sam was one I showed him an Indiana Jones movie before realizing an hour in that this was pretty flippantly violent; now I'm sharing with him and his brother the Young Indiana Jones TV series from the 90s that's less violent and more educational.

But when it comes to the popular music I grew up with, a fair chunk of it is pretty vulgar or otherwise inappropriate for kids.  There is no "Young Snoop Dogg" series.  Not just the gangsta rap, but a lot of the angry or destructive rock music just isn't fit for little guys.  They'll hear it eventually, and I don't have a problem with that once they're a bit older and can understand and process it, but I don't want them learning from Axl quite yet that heroin is "a real motherfucker".  In that vein, the Guns and Roses albums that I like are pretty much out of bounds for now.

So I've had a dilemma of how to expose them to good hiphop without exposing them to a lot of profanity.  Thus far I've handpicked a few songs from Tupac's Me Against the World, the ones like Dear Momma and Can you get away that are sweet, as opposed to the frustrated, hopeless tone of the rest of the album (which is indeed its strength, since it captures the feeling of so many marginalized youth that don't have a place to be nor a place to go in our society).  I also played quite a bit of Common's "Be" for my boys, since aside from the occasional drop of the N-word it is pretty positive and constructive. 

This is why a recent article from a much more devoted hiphop fan than I really struck home for me.  He has found a series of recordings called Kidz Bop that reworks inappropriate parts of pop songs, then has kids sing them.  I don't think I'll be buying a Kidz Bop album anytime soon.  That type of kids singing is often cloying, and I'm not up to date on most pop music, nor would I want to generate some consumer addiction for my kids.  But the concept is novel, and the musings of the author on how to share some 20-plus years of pretty profane music that has shaped him with his kids is exactly the same question I'd been asking myself for some time.

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