Booty Up, Kids!

Giving meaning to bad TV

"We got a whole lot more ass coming up," chirps the frat-perky host who's standing on some sunny South Florida beach. All around him is a seemingly endless cache of fab booty, the natural-bodied kind romanticized in travel brochures with pictures of Mozambique beaches or any one of John Stagliano's Buttman porn videos.

It's Wednesday night just after 3 a.m. and I'm watching Sisqo Unleashes Hip-Hop's Sexiest Videos on MTV. It's a show dedicated to hip-hop videos that reduce women to ornaments, depicting them as product with a market value based on the shape of their asses.

And my place looks like it's home to a dolt who would be watching a show that reduces women to a market value based on the shape of their asses. Scattered about are soiled socks and empty beer bottles, books and CDs, porn vids, rigid scraps of half-eaten meals, and numerous ashtrays overflowing with butts.

Most people have a life that prevents them from even thinking about watching something as insipid and impenetrable as Sisqo Unleashes Hip-Hop's Sexiest Videos.

I, it seems, do not.

The show's host is the platinum-haired lead singer of Dru Hill known as Sisqo. His current solo single, "Thong Song," provides the balmy "theme" for this MTV special, a tune that has cracked the U.S. pop charts in a big way.

"Thong Song" starts with Sisqo's stated intention to let ladies know "what guys talk about." And the message is loud and clear. By song's end, we know that men like nothing more than to gawk at hot chicks, particularly those strolling arm in arm along sunlit beaches with rears strung with thong bikinis. Shocking! Scandalous! Disgusting!

"More ass, ass, ass!" crows Sisqo on MTV. "Do you got back?" Giddy girls respond by offering their meaty, gravity-mocking backsides up for the camera. Hip-Hop's Sexiest Videos mixes old-school butt-trumpet raps like Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" and Wreckx-N-Effect's "Rump Shaker" with Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" and Jay-Z's "Can I Get a..."

The line here between sexiness and gratuitous voyeur porn is but a proverbial pubic hair.

In adult videos like Buttman Goes to Rio 4,John "Buttman" Stagliano exploits female derrière, showing it off as eye candy for dudes, which is exactly what it is to most dudes I know. But there was also a real sense of natural eroticism and seductiveness that didn't rely on dimwitted male power roles. Women were ultimately placed on pedestals and adored.

Most hip-hop videos exploit women as props but offer the message that says male power is something to be feared at all times; that violence will result if that power is crossed. It's a world in which women are looked upon as having shelf lives that expire with their first-born. They're depicted as "big booty ho's" and "greedy bitches" and treated as sex subservients rewarded for good lays with shopping sprees.

The female rappers featured on Hip-Hop's Sexiest Videos, like Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim, combine the absolute worst of both stereotypes. On one hand, they assume the traditional male power-tripping role of rap to the point of detesting other women, while portraying themselves as calculating gangsta glam pets that can be bought and sold with Chanel and Moschino. Only Salt-n-Pepa, on its video for "Shoop," shows a side of sex-positive celebration with none of the serious-faced badass countenance and garish overstatement common to the others.

In both cases, the rappers assume the void-filling trappings of rich white yuppies, brandishing unfortunate images of chauffeur-driven cars and wide wardrobes. They're like junior Trumps on hyperbolic holiday.

And it's an eerie and ironic common ground with identity-free wiggas like the Methods of Mayhems or Limp Bizkits of the world mix: a marriage of white privilege and black effect.

Only an idiot would assume that authentic expression of the black experience lies in corporate hip-hop. That's like saying Mötley Crüe defined what it was like growing up white in the suburbs.

I'm assuming I have the sense enough to understand that all this overt sexism is part of some male attempt to acquaint himself with his repulsion of his female side. Shit, half the world's literature, film and rock 'n' roll has taught us this. But after watching Sisqo Unleashes Hip-Hop's Sexiest Videos, I had to wonder how black music got so heartless and mean.

"We're gonna unleash the dragon!" Back on MTV, Sisqo hops around the sandy beach as though he has a Slinky installed in his own ass. The man, of course, is reveling in all the thongage that encircles him, and the camera shows little else. Sisqo informs me that he's got a video for the ladies. More curious now, I watch the remaining hour or so of the show. I didn't see anything for the ladies. In fact, I really didn't see anything at all.

Handsome Dick Manitoba once said, "It's a man's world/I live for cars and girls."

I say it's time to shut off the tube and go to bed.

Contact Brian Smith at his online address: Brian.Smith@newtimes.com

 
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