Fly Young Red: Challenging Hip-Hop’s Heteronormativity

 

Fly Young Red

Fly Young Red

The first time I saw the video for ‘Throw That Boy Pussy’ by Fly Young Red (FYR), I instantly fell in love with the song, but with a kind of tongue-in-cheek fervor that was more an appreciation for how over-the-top it was.  However, after a second viewing, it’s clear that in the context of hip-hop, there is nothing extraordinarily crass about the song.  In fact, it is fairly mundane and even tame compared to some songs.  What makes it appear so edgy is not the sexual content in and of itself, but rather that the sexual content is speaking to homosexual love, which has little if any representation in popular music.  What FYR’s ‘Throw That Boy Pussy’ does, then, is highlight how the heteronormative culture is perpetually prescribing its principles onto the populace.  This is such normative behaviour, that when a homosexual couple expresses their affection, like Michael Sam did on the night he was drafted, it not only becomes a news story (which is odd since heterosexual couples kiss all the times after winning awards and never make the headlines for their public displays of affection), but often ends up receiving complaints from hypocritical ignoramuses who feel that members of the LGBT community are forcing people to bear witness to their lifestyle choices.  When comparing FYR’s ‘Throw That Boy Pussy’ to other popular hip-hop songs, it becomes clear that the only thing it does differently than other hip-hop songs is speak to a sexuality that represents a groups whose lifestyle is simply not given airtime on top-40 radio.

 

 

Beyoncé, one of the many hip-hop artists who have celebrated the female buttocks.

Beyoncé, one of the many hip-hop artists who have celebrated the female buttocks.

Throughout the song, FYR makes references to ‘clapping asses’ and anal sex, and though this might be jarring for some fans of hip-hop, it shouldn’t be.  When FYR instructs the object of his affection to “make that ass clap” with a chorus of male dancers shaking their asses behind him as he sings this line, it is perhaps tempting to see this as excessive or crass, but there has been a proliferation of booty bouncing songs that have hit the air waves, from Tujamo’s ‘Booty Bounce’, to Eminem’s ‘Ass Like That’, to Wiz Khalifa ‘Ass Drop’, to Booty Bass’s ‘Shake That Ass Bitch’. In fact, such songs are so common (‘Bootilicious’, ‘I like Big Butts’) that hip-hop artists who don’t have at least one track that pays homage to bouncing asses are a rarity (though they do exist).  In the context of the genre, FYR’s request for some ass clapping is not only not shocking: it’s mundane and even borders on the cliché.  In framing it within the context of a same-sex relationship, though, the request is refreshing and challenges the heteronormative orthodoxy by illustrating how the dominant culture is constantly doing what it complains ‘transgressive’ elements of society are doing: pushing their lifestyle choices in everyone’s faces.

 

 

Nicki Minaj, one of many hip-hop artists who have boasted of the powers of their reproductive organs.

Nicki Minaj, one of many hip-hop artists who have boasted of the powers of their reproductive organs.

FYR does not simply reference ass clapping and twerking, though, he also makes overt reference to rough sex and an exceptionally large phallus, but neither is this uncommon in popular hip-hop.  In the song, FYR instructs his beloved to “Bend [his ass] over” so FYR can “bust it open”, going onto infer that his phallus is so large, that when he is done having anal intercourse with his beloved, he will “Send that ass home limping”.  If one were to introduced to FYR’s lyrics after a lifetime of listening to Sonseed and Michael W. Smith, FYR’s lyrics might seem crass, but if one has been listening to Flo Rida, it really shouldn’t be.  In his hit ‘Low’, Flo Rida states that he had to ‘fold’ the woman he was courting “over like a pornography poster”, just as FYR asks his beloved to bend his ass over.  Likewise, in Ice Cube’s classic track ‘It Was a Good Day’, Ice Cube claims that his “dick runs so deep”, it put his beloved’s “ass to sleep”.  Likewise, in Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’, her yoni puts her beloved’s “ass to sleep”, inspiring him to call her Nyquil.  And of course there is a sizable phallus involved, in fact, it is the size of towers, and Minaj is not talking about Eiffels.  Boasting of a large phallus, or an exceptional yoni, and their ability to leave lovers incapacitated is common place in hip-hop songs, making FYR’s reference routine outside of the fact that it is in reference to a same-sex act.  Again, the ‘shock’ that the viewer or listener might encounter is not the result, not of any distinctive vulgarity, but heteronormative culture causes one to view same-sex interactions as somehow different than normalized and equally graphic heterosexual interactions.

 

Fly Young Red may have come up with the best M&M's reference in hip-hop history.

Fly Young Red may have come up with the best M&M’s reference in hip-hop history.

Perhaps the passage that seems most crass in the FYR track is the anilingus references.  In one verse, FYR requests his beloved to spread his ass for FYR can “eat it like a Pac-Man”, before going on to say that “It taste good like M&M’s”.  Though I am sure that one can quantifiably state that sphincters do not taste like M&M’s, such claims regarding oral sex are not uncommon in hip-hop.  Khia scored a big hit with her track “My Neck, My Back”, in which she instructs potential suitors to “lick [her] pussy and her crack” and gives them instruction how to “roll [their] tongue from the crack back to the front then suck it all”.  112 were likewise fans of performing cunnilingus, as demonstrated by their track ‘Peaches and Cream’, though Petey Pablo claims he’s “not drunk enough to do that shit” in his track ‘Freak a Leak’ (sorry Pablo, you ain’t that freaky if you ain’t down for cunnilingus without getting drunk first).  And then there is the classic dance anthem from 20 Fingers, ‘Lick It’, that instructs men to preform cunnilingus before penetration.  Though these other oral sex references may not have clever references to popular video games from the 80’s and popular snack foods, they are no different from FYR’s references in terms of their graphic nature, and so it is not the ‘vulgarity’ that is shocking, merely the fact that somebody is giving representation to a sexual exchange between two members of the same sex.

 

inferring that having money will make one a more appealing suitor frames the beloved as a sex worker.

inferring that having money will make one a more appealing suitor frames the beloved as a sex worker.

FYR’s work does more than simply compel the viewer to recognize how heteronormativity causes people to view homosexual acts as shocking; it also lampoons and satirizes heterosexual courting rituals.  In one passage, for instance, he notes that he has “more cash than” than another suitor, as if the amount of money he has ought to be a factor in whether or not he is a viable partner.  This is reminiscent of tracks like Flo Rida’s ‘Low’, which rely on displays of wealth as a means to ensure successful courting.  The issue with this approach is that it infers female partners are seeking a trade of commodities: their body for their partner’s money.  This frames women as sex workers, demonstrating how demeaning such courting rituals are.  The overt ridiculousness of this is reinforced by the fact that FYR call upon this ritual in a scenario where it would be assumed that all potential partners are ‘bread winners’ (aka: men).  Likewise, FYR employs the phrasing ‘boy pussy’, using the childlike ‘boy’ in place of ‘man’.  Through this word selection, FYR also lampoons the way in which hip-hop infantilizes women by using terms like ‘girl’ and ‘baby’ (when they are using ‘bitch’) instead of woman (though hip-hop artists like Lupe Fiasco have challenged the way women are addressed in hip-hop with tracks like ‘Bitch Bad‘, while Wyclef makes a habit of avoiding words like ‘bitch’). This infantilization of women is of course common in most genres of music.  In this way, FYR offers a sharp critique of the moral implications of some of the common practices that heterosexual couples engage in.

 

Fly Young Red

Fly Young Red

Aside from lampooning heterosexual courting practices, the song also promotes tolerance and socially responsible behaviour.  Many heterosexuals bemoan when homosexual couples engage in public displays of affection, and while dealing with such overt antagonism is a stark reality for many homosexuals, FYR does not allow this to colour his attitude regarding heterosexual couples.  In one line, he states that he is “cool with his and her”, referring to heterosexual relationships, but expresses that he is about “that his and his”.  In this instance, he notes that his orientation does not cause him to take issue with others, offering a template of tolerance for heterosexuals to follow.  FYR also promotes socially responsible behaviour when courting his beloved, suggesting that his partner “let [him] get a rubber”.  Though many hip-hop artists have promoted safe sex, it is not common that sexually charged lyrics feature references to the use of prophylactics.  With the threat of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases being a concern both within the homosexual community and the Black community, FYR uses his agency to promote safe sex. Though the piece does seem over-the-top, FYR makes an effort to promote tolerance and encourage socially responsible behaviour, engaging in the broader themes that are interrelated with his form of self-expression.

 

 

Romantic ballads and songs about sex have often been framed in exclusively heterosexual terms, whether it be tracks like ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’, or ‘Having My Baby’.  There have been any number of musicians and artists who have identified as homosexual or as members of the LGBT community, and when it comes to expressing their affection for their partners, it has proven difficult to do so in the context of heteronormative popular music and still garner listeners.  Creative minds like Freddy Mercury often wrote in second-person so that their lyrics could be applied by any gender (see ‘You’re My Best Friend’), or in gender neutral terms (see ‘Somebody To Love’).  In this way anybody could project themselves into the song.  In this way artists like Mercury have been able to express affection for their partners without alienating fans.  FYR, though, is unapologetic about his affection and doesn’t feel he should have to couch his desires in a manner that can be easily absorbed by heteronormative culture.  He places his desires on parity terms with his heterosexual counterparts and demands that they show him the same respect he offers them.  Though he may get this message across more poignantly in tracks like ‘U Don’t Want It’, ‘Throw That Boy Pussy’ is a conversation starter that challenges listeners to confront their heteronormative biases.

 

 

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Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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