Rape is the fourth track from Pharoahe Monch's excellent 1999 album, Internal Affairs. It is a typical rap song, with a deep bassline and simple drum loop, but what is atypical is its use of an extended metaphor. Pharoahe uses rape as a metaphor for music, to say that others don't fuck it the way he does. I've said before that I don't have much respect for lyrics that serve no purpose beyond boasting one's lyrical prowess, but this is something of an exception, just because it's so damned clever. Please let me explain.

I would have liked to reproduce the lyrics here, but it's too long for me to be within the copyright rules (he raps pretty quickly, and almost continuously). You could listen to it if you like, but I'll try to give you the general gist of it.

It begins like this:

(the distant sound of a woman screaming)
I'm obsessed with multiple nude photographs of the beat in my room on the wall
Pondering the verses
Fondling my balls
Witness a nigger who will take rap and chase it
Through unoccupied dimly lit staircases and rape it, grab the drums by the waistline
I snatch the kick, kick the snares
Sodomise the bassline
Never waste time, I give the verse rabies
Cum on the chorus, tell the hook to swallow my babies.

The bridge and chorus go like this:

Consider this:
Loops are similar to clitorises exposed
On your miss is a hole
A vicious cycle of sin
That doesn't end 'till I stop fuckin'
A million MCs and they ain't sayin' nothin', ain't fuckin' it right
They aint fuckin' it right
They aint fuckin' it right
They aint fuckin' it right
They aint fuckin' it like... Me.

This song is a prime example of Pharoahe's fast-paced, complex style, and also a prime example of a song that can give rap a bad image when it isn't heard with a sympathetic ear. I think that sympathy is just what it takes to appreciate any kind of art, otherwise it just looks and sounds ridiculous, callous or pitiful. Pharoahe claims that he rapes his music, forcing it to submit to his plan, whereas others just aren't "fuckin' it right." This might sound stupid, but it's typical rap fare, served in a unique way. Rather than just candidly boasting his rap skills (which he has in abundance), he wraps the message in some clever wordplay and imagery, and perhaps even satirises the violent lyrics for which rap is known. On the other hand, this could just be excess for the fun of it (just what could "loops are similar to clitorises exposed" mean?). It's very hard to know how serious he is.

It's not just the swearing, but the whole idea of comparing music to rape is bound to offend, as it probably should. I don't know where I stand on the issue of whether free speech extends to things that will offend or incite hatred without any redeeming virtue. I'm honestly unsure about the morality of it, because rape is a serious issue that is a frightening reality for a lot of women, not something to joke about. That's a whole other debate, but all the things that Unless said in Don't encourage people to read about the book Choke are entirely applicable here. That is, we're lucky that this song never charted, because if some frigid right-wing mothers ever knew about it, rap fans would be in for it again. Sometimes it's good that interesting music isn't popular.

At the Internal Affairs tenth anniversary gig, Pharoahe gave the song a short introduction. He said, in part:

So I come up with this record 'cause I'm on my little [unintelligible] shit, and I drop it. And the A&Rs at Rawkus is like, "Whoah whoah, hold up, wait a minute. Rape? RAPE? You gotta change that." I said, "Nah, it's a metaphor, it's a metaphor, it's not... It's not that, man." I gotta stick to my guns. You know what I'm sayin'?

Either way, I suppose the point that I'm trying to make here is that this kind of music shouldn't be dismissed just because some find it unsavoury. Yes, it's gratuitous and excessive, perhaps that's the point, but it's music just the same. I try to defend music like this from my friends, so I thought I should try to show everyone the most reprehensible song that I like. If one were to listen to this unattentively, or if you already had decided that rap should be kept away from decent society, then this would sound like just another misogynistic, violent outburst from a black man with a microphone. And perhaps it is, but it's a lot more than that, if you ask me. I just hope that people understand that there is more to rap than what they most often see.

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