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Rap and Feminism Do Mix : Surprise! Videos by Positive K and Paris put a positive spin on respect for women

May 16, 1993|CHRIS WILLMAN | Chris Willman's Sound & Vision column appears periodically in Calendar

Rap has a rep as music's primary breeding ground of sexism, but two new videos suggest that respect for women is a hot topic in the hip-hop community nowadays, even among its men. Positive K takes the more lighthearted approach, portraying a less-than-honorable suitor in "I Got a Man," while Paris pays more earnest homage to the opposite sex in "Assata's Song."

These two clips are among the cream of this edition of Sound & Vision, in which current pop videos are reviewed and rated on a 0-100 scale:

Positive K, "I Got a Man." Someday--probably not in this millennium, but the next--there's going to be a successful rap musical on Broadway. You can catch glimmers of what that production might be like in this charming duet clip, which features the kind of fast-talking interplay between the sexes that was once exclusively the province of musical comedy.

Positive K plays the part of a lothario seeking out conquests on the street in this Top 10 hit; that's pretty typical for rap, of course, but what's atypical is the way he gets his comeuppance, dis for dis, from the target of his abortive seduction. "I got a maaaan!" she insists at appropriate intervals, introducing an instant catch phrase into the vocabulary of sexually harassed fabulous babes everywhere, and elaborating on her reasons for rejecting this insistent cad with a wit and savoir-faire equal to his.

The full-length version of the video includes a brief crawl at the end crediting the three lovely actresses who lip-sync the woman's role. But there's no credit for the woman rapper herself on the video or even on the album. Why? Surprise--it's K himself, doing a pretty remarkable job of voice-throwing. 79

Geto Boys, "6 Feet Deep." The Geto Boys are known as the prime purveyors of the sleazy "slasher rap" sub-genre, but they've matured enough to recognize real horror in their 'hood--for the length of this video at least. The setting, as the title would indicate, is a funeral, full of gang members decked out in the suits that, in this context, instantly convey that it's mourning in America. The pleasant riff and laconic beat--with a recurring distorted sample of Marvin Gaye singing, "There's far too many of us dying"--succeed in making the rap all the more disconcertingly creepy.

Even with a few party flashback scenes to leaven the dread, "6 Feet" is surprisingly uncompromising. That extends to the message, which isn't exactly hopeful in the face of senseless recrimination: "In the midst of all this (stuff) I think about myself / Wondering when somebody's gonna try to take me off the shelf / But I refuse to be another violent casualty. . . . " If that sounds like the setup to a just-say-no-to-gangs punch line rhyme, think again: "So when I'm runnin' I pack my pistol right beside my knee."

Just say . . . woe. 72

Paris, "Assata's Song." Paris is probably best known for expressing his militant attitudes in "negative" fashion--i.e., taking out after the power Establishments in fairly radical terminology--but here he takes a welcome timeout to pay tribute to African-American women and their struggles. Incorporated are a birth scene, a wife-beating, a mass hugging scene at the close and a succession of brave and beautiful faces in close-up as Paris intones, "I'm gonna love ya and show respect--I need you, black woman." 72

Dinosaur Jr., "Out There." Bands have ventured out into the snow to shoot their videos before (U2's "New Year's Day" being a notable example). But this goofy, chilly-scenes-of-winter clip--directed by noted ski movie filmmaker Greg Stump--takes some sort of cake: In a possible rock video first, group frontman J Mascis actually stoops to miming a guitar solo with his ski gloves on. It's nuthin' but a Midwest thang. 58

Dr. Dre, "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang." Dr. Dre directs himself in this clip and must be proud of the job he did; he gives himself a big on-screen credit at the end, though you won't see it on MTV, which electronically obscured the big, self-congratulatory print in favor of acknowledging Dre in the network's more modest usual credit block.

All auteur -ism aside, it's not a bad clip in its own rambling fashion, loosely chronicling a lazy afternoon and night in the life of a partying 'hood-lum--a relaxed barbecue attended by homeboys toting concealed weapons, followed by a more raucous malt liquor party, followed by the inevitable bleary-eyed return home at dawn.

Some viewers might find a few of the details offensive--the close-up of a pistol tucked in a gangsta's pants in the otherwise peaceful party scene; the hosing-down of an unwilling female party guest with beer. But it's all shot and edited in a rather laconic, matter-of-fact style that finally seems more observational than arousing. 52

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