Some songs require astute lyrical breakdowns or hours of study time on Genius. Some don't.
Some songs are nothing more than fun, catchy jams that require the brain activity of a possum drinking lean. There is, however, a small overlap where songs sound catchy, sound harmless, but once you actually pay even a shred of attention, they end up having a very different meaning. As a result of being wrapped up in a catchy melody these songs have received a pass as if they aren't about boners, rough sex, and cold blooded murder.
Let's explore some low-key fucked up anthems, shall we?
Next "Too Close"
Kids know the meme better than the original, but for those of us who are old enough "Too Close" by Next will undoubtedly bring back fond memories of middle school dances. Back then I was too busy worrying about how to grind on Melissa without the dance chaperons catching me to realize that this song was about getting a boner. “Too close,” “making it hard for me,” “I get so excited,” how did they allow this shit to be played for seventh graders?!
Still, the most low-key weird line is, “I feel a little poke comin' through on you.” First and foremost, a man's boner should never be described as a “little poke.” Second, I’m confused, shouldn’t it be “comin’ through from you”? They make it sound like she has a lady boner that's poking him. Third...ew...gross. The track is so cutesy, so bubblegummy, but she’s clearly talking about a man's half-erect wang.
The irony: a bunch of middle schoolers getting middle school boners while dancing to a song about boners while teachers look on.
Nelly "Country Grammar"
Nelly’s Country Grammar album was one of the first rap albums I was allowed to buy, and a lot of that had to do with the title track. “Country Grammar” is a fun, fluffy song that was all over Top 40 radio. With a catchy melody and a "shimmy shimmy cocoa pop" reference even my mom thought this record for a good 'ol time.
This song was also middle school dance favorite, but have you ever really listened to that hook?
I'm going down, down, baby, your street, in a Range Rover Street, street sweeper baby, cocked, ready to let it go
You know what this fun, light-hearted track is really about? A drive by shooting.
What makes it so low-key fucked up is how celebratory and fun the verses are. He’s having fun, rapping about money and cars and Donald Trump, and then all of a sudden he’s morphing a kid's nursery rhyme into code for a drive by shooting. Wow, that escalated quickly.
Naughty By Nature "OPP"
If a song is catchy and sing-along-able the masses don't think about its lyrical content on a deeper level. Naughty By Nature’s classic “O.P.P” is a perfect example.
See, “Too Close” and “Country Grammar” loosely veil their NSFW-ness, but on “O.P.P” the fucked up part is what drives the song. Still, for as many times as people in America have asked, “You down with O.P.P.?” I know for a fact that most don't truly realize what it means.
You know what it means? "Other peoples pussy" and....
Well, for the ladies O.P.P. means something different / The first two letters' the same but the last is something different
Yes. "Other people's penises." At least they kept things gender neutral, right? Although for the record other people's penises isn't nearly as catchy. Imagine if they had used that as the main hook?
Anyway, I’ve spent far too much time analyzing yet another verse about man meat, which is really clearly low-key fucked up especially considering I used to play this on family car trips. One of the most sing-a-long-able, intoxicating hooks in rap history is about cheating.
Salt N Pepa - “Push It”
I debated including this record because from the moment I heard it, even when I was 12, I knew it was about sex. It’s not even really low-key. It’s aggressive, raw, in your face, and that’s not just the Hulk Hogan sex tape.
Still, we all act like it’s totally not about sex because that beat is just too incredible. "O.P.P." gives you the excuse of an acronym, but “Push It”? You know damn well what you are supposed to push and where. Low-key fucked up? More like just straight up about fucking. Still, it gave me an excuse to watch this video for the first time in 10 years, so I don't care. I'm still including it.
Crash Into Me”
It wouldn’t be fair to pin this all on hip-hop, there’s a ton of low-key fucked up songs you wouldn’t want within 50 feet of a playground. For instance, “Crash Into Me” by The Dave Matthews Band.
On the surface the song sounds pretty, like a garden blooming in spring or a walk on the beach holding hands with Mandy Moore. It was the kind of song middle school girls would post on their Myspace page next to a glittering heart animation. But you know what this song is really about? Kinky sex.
Oh I watch you there / Through the window / And I stare at you / You wear nothing but you / Wear it so well / Tied up and twisted / The way I'd like to be
Creepy, right? Well it gets even creepier when you picture this guy singing it to you and/or hitting you with some sort of paddle and/or peeping into your windows. Yeah, not good.
There’s really a million more examples, I could go on forever. How about the super date rapey Christmas carol, or now that I think about it, while DJBooth readers might understand "Trap Queen" how many middle school dances did that song get played at where adults had no idea it was about drugs?
It really is amazing, how if a song is catchy, if it’s fun to sing along too, people don't even care what the artists are actually saying. Behold the power of music.