One of my favorite past-times is reading (and writing) hot takes. We live in the Internet era—thank you, Al Gore!—where anybody with an Internet connection and social media can let off any and everything that comes to mind. I’m about to do that right now. BRB.
One of my other favorite things to read is ridiculous and over-the-top in-depth analyses about songs that come out. Nothing gets the spirit moving like a think piece—entertaining or profound—about a new song that’s come out. Most times, the in-depth analysis isn’t warranted (or even remotely on point), but you know what, that’s the beauty of sharing and caring—you can find entertainment value anywhere. I know I do. If you want to regale somebody with a sordid take about Doja Cat’s work in the cannon of neo-liberal feminist Black capitalism... I’m your guy. And I don’t even know if what I just wrote makes sense or if that’s a thing, but I’m here for it anyway. I’m the guy who broke down the lyric “eat the booty like groceries,” from Omarion’s song “Post To Be,” which even ‘til today is still one of my favorite pieces I’ve written. 10/10 stars; I highly recommend. I may be biased.
Which is why my soul shudders and is saddened, alliterationally, about how much think piece gold was released prior to the era where think piece niggas—like myself—had the ability to whip up work with an uzi on the e-streets. Thankfully, I can make sure we remember what those songs could have done for writing careers had they been released in today’s day and age. Nothing jumpstarts a career like a viral moment because you wrote or dropped a video full of nincompoopery. Because like ODB (and the Wu-Tang Clan), Panama is for the children, I’m going to share five songs—obviously, there are many, many more but word count—that I believe would have sent writing niggas into overdrive if released today.
Whew, chile. Can you imagine if “Bills, Bills, Bills” were released today? Folks were up in arms when it dropped in 1999; men everywhere called it a golddigger anthem, mainly because folks really only listen to hooks. Sporty Thievz, creators of the response to TLC’s “No Scrubs”— “No Pigeons” —even released a response record. But the Black Writterati would have an aneurysm trying to get those takes off. Everything from women’s empowerment to Beyoncé’s vocals to “how does Kevin Samuels feel about this?” would be on the table. The video might even spawn a few synchronized hair-salon-dance-etiquette pieces; I hear that’s on the docket for consideration at the next Olympics. Even Derrick Jaxn might write a book. It really is the gift that could keep on giving.
(Also, as a point of note: do you know how hard it is to find licensed pictures of Destiny’s Child in the lineup that sang “Bills, Bills, Bills?” It’s hard AF. So that’s why you got a header picture that features the version of the group that didn’t release the song.)
I have hated this song since I first heard it. And I mean that with all due respect. Rarely has a song been so transparently pandering that even the dope beat couldn’t win me over...but this is the one. But can you imagine the think pieces that would emanate from this? What community couldn’t weigh in? There’s something for everyone: hip-hop, Hotep (and whatever that means for you), pandering Black men, content women maybe can enjoy?...hell, even the bread community can get in here. There are more mentions of croutons in hip hop songs than you might expect (seriously; I’m flabbergasted by the sheer amount of times croutons are mentioned in songs), but still, that community would have a layup here. I’d probably be good for two or three about how ridiculous this song is in terms of its “respect you” angle.
I remember when this song (and album) dropped in 1998. “Beautiful Skin” was the song for the Black women out there to show appreciation for them. Except it’s dripping with respectability politics and all the other shit that gets you dragged today. There is literally a line from Cee-lo (which in 2021 presents its own fodder for think piecing) where he says, “there’s no need to put titles on you me, those are limitations; living and learning are our only obligations,” and then in the hook is the line, “you’ve got respect yourself before I can.” Oh, and women are also called “females.” I mean, good Lord, the pieces just write themselves on those two lines alone. A song about showing love and respect to our Black women includes lines about not committing (depending on your vantage point, I suppose) and telling a woman she can’t be respected unless she respects herself. My fingers are trying to write 3,000 words right now on their own. I remember wondering why this song wasn’t bigger when it came out, and my youth didn’t allow me to understand why women didn’t love it. Now, I get it. Today—if it even managed to be released—Goodie Mob would trend for a day.
I love SWV. This is noted and documented, and they can do no wrong. So this ain’t that. But this song is all about a woman basically being like, “fam, cheat on your girl.” She’s just letting Dude know that she’s down for the cause; I actually wrote a thinkpiece on this come to think about it. But if it were to be released today, the men-who-hate-women would not be able to stop themselves from pointing out how trifling women are and how women cheat more than men and worse and are proud of it and how if men wrote this (which we have) women would be upset. I can feel the venom from here.
I mean, do we even have to explain this one? As I mentioned, “No Pigeons” was released in response to this song, but if Twitter and WordPress were around in 1999 in a mainstream way, this would be a whole ass thing thing. And you know it’s real because I said “thing” twice. And instead of just men-who-hate-women writing, I think women would also have a field day with this on both sides of the spectrum. It would literally launch 1,000 think pieces.