I was on youtube the other day, checking out a group of talented young men that go by the name Mindless Behavior since they’re all the rage with BOTH the step groups I currrently teach, one downtown Brooklyn, the other on the upper East Side of Manhattan. At the end of the video, the screen is full of related videos, and one is a freeze frame of a young woman with electric blue hair. I click the video and watch. I later find out this young lady is Zonnique “Star” Pullins, daughter of “Tiny” from the old school all girl R&B group Xscape, step daughter to rap icon T.I., and 1/3 of recently signed girl group the OMG Girlz. The song? Gucci This (Gucci That)- their first major label single.
My initial feelings caused me to shake my head and wave an imaginary disapproving finger. I was concerned for the girls image and the content of the song. As you’ll see from the video posted above, they wear HEAVY make-up and sport long, luxurious, multi-colored weaves. In this particular song- their first single- which is setting the stage for their image- they sing “I’m so official yall/ you can check my record/ my dress code is elevated/ no one can do it better/ what type’a chick you know/ rock Louie (Vuitton) from head to toe?/ I’m incredible” Immediately I’m reminded of my issues with mainstream rap and r&b today. The obsession with material items is truly astonishing, and the fact that these young ladies are 15 and 16 promoting Gucci, Fendi and Louie blows my mind. I’m wondering whose idea it was to dress them this way, and to give them this song? I’m thinking the world out side of young, urban listeners will immediately see this and think “ghetto!” I’m saddened by this.
But then I have a thought. Why is it that a young Black girl with bright pink hair is deemed “ghetto” when if a White girl dyes her hair some unnaturally bright color she’s considered “edgy” or “badass?” It’s the same with tattoos. Then I’m floored by a societal construct. I realize that as Afrocentric as I think I am, I have internalized a multitude of beliefs that did not originate in my own mind and that I was allowing them to affect how I perceive my very own people. Ridiculous! Am I still annoyed at the content of the song? Definitely. There is much more these young ladies could be talking about than clothes and swag. Am I turned off by all the make up? Without a doubt. Because all 3 of them are gorgeous and they don’t need it! Same goes for the weaves, but I quickly rub my temples and take a second look at the video with the industry in mind.
After the second look, I’m kinda groovin. Taking myself out of the role of teacher/ parent and just listening to the song as a young adult and someone with an understanding of the formulaic methodologies used to make hit records- it has some great qualities. It’s up-tempo, so you can dance to it (which they do), and it’s an anthem, very catchy, something every young woman would love to sing and think about herself. (See you might have the same outfit/ But if you ain’t got my swag you can’t rock it like this!) Plus, as tired as I am of hearing the word swag (God help me) at 15 and 16 what else are they going to sing about? Relationships? Sex? Cause no one’s buying an album about how they feed their pets and go to school. Not to mention that with society’s machismo double standard, if they came out with an album all about boys the way Mindless Behavior dropped an album about nothing but girls, they’d be heavily scrutinized and I would bet one of my kidneys that their virginity would be questioned. After considering the alternatives, I decide that swag is a-okay to sing about.
I also realize that although the song suggests that the girls wear nothing but name brands, you don’t see a single one on them throughout the entire video. They’re in brightly colored leggings, t shirts, boots and jackets for one scene and colorful jeans, a skirt, a tutu and plain tops for another. No Fendi. No Louie. No Gucci. Just swag. They giddily try on shades and hold shirts up to one another for approval as they pretend to shop and dance around. And you know what? They’re adorable.
So what do we have here? A group of pretty, confident young girls that like to shop and dress up with a catchy hit record on their hands? Or another addition to a generation of young women of color only concerned with their physical appearance and rockin’ the latest gear? Personally, I wish them the best in all their endeavors because I always like to see young people of color succeed, and I know if I had the means to make my child a star, and they wanted to have a career in music, I would make that happen for them by any means necessary. What people think about you, and how you actually are rarely coincide when you’re in the spotlight and I’m sure that is an especially difficult task for our young people to handle. On one hand. I want to ask some of our young and even our adult artists- what are you doing? Where are your parents? How do you think people will look at you after they hear this song? On the other hand, why should it matter to our kids, our adult entertainers and even the loud “ghetto” girl on the street how people who don’t know them personally look at them? Should we be teaching them to be the best they can be and do what makes them happy with themselves in mind, or teaching them that they have to be twice as good/ smart/ pretty/ well dressed/ manner-able as someone with a different complexion to receive the exact same accolades? Sometimes it’s hard to call it.
What do you think of the OMG Girlz new video “Gucci This?”