At one time, every major rap album had to contain at least one track where the rapper recounted, in extreme detail and in first person, a boastful yet grossly implausible tale involving himself and perhaps his crew. Many believe the mid-80s to the mid-90s was the golden era of rap music storytelling.
This era ended in 1994, with Nate Dogg and Warren G's "Regulate," a song that details, among other events, Warren G looking so handsome that a group of women crashed their car from staring at him so hard. The medium's credibility was never regained, causing many of us to cast a skeptical eye on tales such as ...
The very first time mainstream America heard from future worldwide superstar Will Smith was the 1988 single "Parents Just Don't Understand," back when Smith was going by The Fresh Prince. It's a bouncy, radio-friendly, lighthearted tale told from the point of view of a teenager that, partway through, takes a turn for the nightmarish.
The second verse, which depicts at least one felony that Smith was apparently never even indicted for, begins with Smith "borrowing" his parents' car while they're away. Then he finds a girl:
That's when I saw this beautiful girlie girl walking
I picked up my car phone to perpetrate like I was talking
You should've seen this girl's bodily dimensions
I honked my horn just to get her attention
Above: What all women want. Forever.
She likes the Porsche and climbs in, then immediately starts desperately trying to seduce him:
She kicked her shoes off onto the floor
She said, "Drive fast, speed turns me on"
She put her hand on my knee, I put my foot on the gas
This girl's hand was steadily moving up my thigh
She had opened up three buttons on her shirt so far
At best, his eyes are on the road a third of the time.
At this point he's going so fast he attracts the attention of the police, which is a problem since he doesn't have license. And then:
I almost had a heart attack that day
Come to find out the girl was a 12-year-old runaway
What. The. Fucking. Fuck. Motherfucker.
Let's review. Will Smith, future international superstar and Oscar nominee, says, "You should've seen this girl's bodily dimensions," about a middle school child. A child who says, "Drive fast, speed turns me on" before moving her hand toward his dick.
Finally, she seduces him by unbuttoning the top three buttons on her shirt to reveal her cleavage. Her 12-year-old cleavage.
Daaamn, girl, you're lookin' fine!
I was arrested, the car was impounded
There was no way for me to avoid being grounded
During this whole sequence, a confused Smith seems to think the problem is that he doesn't have a license. No, Will, the problem is that you just abducted a child off the street with the intention of molesting her.
If you traveled in a time machine back to 1989 and turned on MTV, you'd see a Tone Loc video. He had two hits, both of which were about his dysfunctional and at times clearly illegal sexual habits. The first was "Wild Thing" and the second was "Funky Cold Medina," after which humanity politely asked him to stop making music.
The story beings in a bar, where Tone is frustrated that he's not having any success trying to dig up a one-night stand:
Ladies, help us out here -- what about this is off-putting to you? The glasses?
Cold coolin' at a bar, and I'm lookin' for some action
But like Mick Jagger said, I can't get no satisfaction
First of all, when Jagger said he couldn't get satisfaction, we're pretty sure he was also having lots and lots of sex. No, Tone, your problems are not similar to Mick's. And let's face it, Tone wasn't the most attractive guy. He was a little overweight, wore ratty T-shirts and jeans, and sounded like Wolfman Jack. So right away we see that perhaps Tone doesn't have the firmest grip on reality.
But on the other side of the bar, some normal looking jackoff is surrounded by women. So Tone walks over and asks him how.
It can't be the sunglasses.
So I got up and strolled over to the other side of the cantina
I asked the guy, Why you so fly? He said, Funky Cold Medina
It's better than any alcohol or aphrodisiac
A couple of sips of this love potion, and she'll be on your lap
Yes, the stranger introduces him to a mind-controlling date-rape drug, which Tone doesn't even hesitate to accept. Now, clearly it would be irresponsible to immediately start drugging human women with this concoction. So Tone tests it on his dog, which becomes so aroused it tries to mate with Tone Loc himself:
So I gave some to my dog when he began to beg
Then he licked his bowl and he looked at me and did the wild thing on my leg
He used to scratch and bite me, before he was much much meaner
But now all the poodles run to my house for the Funky Cold Medina
His home now a writhing, yelping canine orgy, Mr. Loc considers this a successful test and immediately proceeds to drug a girl against her knowledge:
She said, I'd like a drink, I said, Ehm -- OK, I'll go get it
Then a couple sips she cold-licked her lips, and I knew that she was with it
What Tone did there now carries a 20-year minimum prison sentence, thanks to the Drug Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996.
Look everyone, a felony! In the wild!
But this was 1989, which was still the 80s, as Tone is about to remind us. So chemically enhanced sexual encounters with unwilling partners were still in a legal gray area. It was a different time.
Tone soon gets his comeuppance, however:
So I took her to my crib, and everything went well as planned
But when she got undressed, it was a big old mess, Sheena was a man
This is the 80s, and I'm down with the ladies
Here we learn that Tone alternates his sexual orientation by decade, which means that as of a month or so ago, he's gay again. But we digress. We're going to find out later that apparently, almost having sex with a transvestite is a very real danger in the hip-hop community, as it seems to come up fairly frequently.
Take off the shades and turn those eyes south, chief.
Back in the saddle, lookin' for a little affection
I took a shot as a contestant on The Love Connection
The audience voted, and you know they picked a winner
I took my date to the Hilton for Medina and some dinner
Tone, undaunted and unable to find rest in his home due to the mass of humping dogs that are presumably still in his living room, decides to try his luck on a popular game show from the 80s called The Love Connection. This is where we have a problem. We've seen, recorded and memorized every episode of that show, and we don't recall Tone Loc ever being on it. However, he claims that he not only appeared but won.
We would suggest that he put Love Connection in there because it was the only thing he could think of that rhymed with "affection." But that seems unlikely considering that "erection" is out there.
We would also suggest that this guy win every major music award.
She had a few drinks, I'm thinkin' soon what I'll be getting
Instead she started talkin' 'bout plans for our wedding
So here Tone claims that even though he had a date that was guaranteed by contract, he still used the rape drug. But instead of the girl having sex with him, she wanted to get married, as the chemical has the remarkable ability to not only lower a woman's inhibitions and increase her sex drive, but to also create the kind of illusions of compatibility and long-term attraction that would induce her to propose marriage after a few hours.
This scares Tone, who warns listeners off of using Funky Cold Medina at all, despite the fact that it seemed to work just fine for the stranger at the bar and his dog. At no point does Tone speculate that perhaps he is the problem.
The tragedy of Public Enemy is that there are fans reading this who are young enough that they know Flavor Flav only as the goofy reality show star.
"Tragedy" is such a small word.
Back in the day, he and Chuck D changed rap music forever. Their first hit album was the bombastically titled It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in 1988. They rapped about racism and the tragic state of black America, and about their persecution at the hands of a white-dominated government. In the middle of it all was the prison-break tale "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos."
Subtlety really wasn't their thing.
So first, the arrest:
I got a letter from the government
The other day
I opened and read it
It said they were suckas
They wanted me for their army or whatever
Picture me given' a damn I said never
Cold sweatin' as I dwell in my cell
How long has it been?
They got me sittin' in the state pen
So if you're to believe Mr. D, he was arrested for dodging the draft ... in 1988. He evidently got a letter from "the government," which called themselves "suckas" and then had him thrown in prison and scheduled for execution (he says later in the song that he is on "death row").
Clearly the government does some questionable things from time to time, but we've yet to encounter a situation in which an official showed up and said, "I'm a stupid asshole. You have the right to remain silent."
"The motion passes. This month, we will refer to ourselves as 'tards.'"
But that just goes to show how much different things are for the black man in this corrupt system. Once in prison, Chuck devises a plan to break out. The first step is to call Flavor Flav, resulting in this exchange:
Flavor Flav: Yo Chuck, you serious, you in the justice man?
Chuck: Word 'em up. I'm lookin' for that steel.
Flavor Flav: Yo, man, we gonna break you outta there, man we ain't goin' out like that man.
One thing we learn from that exchange that Chuck D is in fact a man, at least in the mind of Flav. After this, we find out that Chuck's intricate escape plan consists of waiting for the guard on death row to fall asleep while leaning against his cell:
Apparently, malls and prisons used the same employees back in Chuck D's day.
You know I caught a C-O
Fallin' asleep on death row
I grabbed his gun -- then he did what I said so
All right, so Chuck was fortunate enough to wind up in the most escapable prison since that one with the magnet boots in Face/Off. Now with hostages, it's time to make demands:
To understand my demands
I gave a warnin' -- I wanted the governor, y'all
And plus the warden to know
That I was innocent -
Because I'm militant
Posing a threat, you bet it's fuckin' up the government
Wait, are you innocent, or are you militant? You can't advocate overthrowing the government and then complain that you're falsely accused.
Nothing shady goin' on here.
Maybe part of the story is missing? Let's see if we can find a clue in here:
Got a woman C-O to call me a copter
She tried to get away, and I popped her
Now who wanna get nice?
I had six C-Os, now it's five to go
See, it's going to be awfully hard to get the governor to accept your innocence when you just killed a prison guard. And not for attacking you or trying to get the gun away, but for trying to leave. As the listener, we're thinking you're the bad guy, Chuck D.
Who exactly are the "good guys" here?
But then he makes his move, and the story strains our suspension of disbelief one step too far. He and his fellow escapees make a run for it, venturing into the courtyard past the guard towers:
... from the tower shots rang out
A high number of dose -- yes
And some came close
Figure I trigger my steel
Stand and hold my post
And then I threw up my steel bullets flew up
And to my surprise the guard tower blew up
What? Who? The bazooka was who?
And to my rescue, it was the S1Ws
Yes, Flavor Flav has shown up with the "S1W's" (Public Enemy's hype men/backup dancers).
Their half of the escape plan was to launch shoulder-fired rockets at the guard tower and presumably the fence.
Now, obviously this is where rappers' tendency to tell these stories first-person muddles things. Clearly Chuck D never murdered multiple prison guards and/or destroyed a prison with rockets. That would have made the news. But his fantasy reveals something deeply disturbing about his personality: In the event of a life-or-death emergency, he thinks it'll be a good idea to call Flavor Flav.
He'd get more muscle out of New York.