Social (and Entertainment) Commentary:
by Jamal Sharif
Last Saturday afternoon, while suffering through a moderate case of writer's block, I decided to busy myself with the most mindless, anti-thought provoking activity I could think of.
So - while washing a trillion loads of laundry and watching music videos on BET, I was delighted when R. Kelly's latest video "Half on a Baby" pranced across my screen. Viewing it apparently gave me something to write about, which consequently, also relieved me of having to fold another load of towels.
I'm no die hard R. Kelly fan; though his vocal skills are appealing enough, and he certainly 'aint too hard on the eyes, provided he keeps those shades on. The "Half on a Baby" video is visually inviting, in a romantic sort of way. For those who haven't seen it - zoom in on our man R. Kelly, outfitted in semi-sheer drawls and flowing robe - roaming around solo through his enormous castle of a home. The fireplace is burning; Kelly is crooning to the starry sky out on the balcony, longing, yearning, calling for that special lady, as harps angelicly play in the background. The whole vibe is mellow; soothing.
So, as I began to listen in - I mean really listen - I heard Kelly's astute declarations that he has "….half on a baby, and all I need is your body next to me..."
Now hold up. Initially, I'm thinkin' - man this R. Kelly brotha sure does get around. Here is he, advertising his half on a baby, and just ten minutes prior, I saw him getting busted for creepin' with Kelly Price's best friend - subsequently getting chewed out by Mr. Big. Again. Okay, I've probably been watching too many videos. But, in the immortal words of Mr. Kelly himself - wait a minute, lemme finish. On to my point.
From the physical perspective, I think I see where R. Kelly is
As adults, most of us have the ability to hum along with R. Kelly's lyrics, and place no significance on them whatsoever. However - what about our black youth, who are easily influenced by almost anything having to do with sex, and whose minds aren't as discerning?
This baby-makin' stuff sounds cute, and it's a documented fact that most teens tend to get 'caught up' in the fairy tale aspect of having a child -- and lyrics like "Half on a Baby" conveniently assist them in overlooking the magnitude of the real deal. I don't know about ya'll, but the thought of some gum-smacking, starry-eyed, hormonal adolescent buying into this "..I got half on a baby.." jive certainly gives me the chills.
First of all, these lyrics glamorize the very subject we're trying to get our black youths to take seriously. In the age of AIDS, other STD's, and teenage pregnancies, the lyrics breeze right past the notion of sexual responsibility. Unless I missed it, I didn't hear R. Kelly singing about going half on some condoms.
Secondly, I'm growing a tad weary of all these 'let's-make-a-baby' songs; they just flat out send the wrong message. "Half on a Baby"'s lyrics are cute, and even a little catchy, granted ("…like a hotel room, girl, I'm checkin' into you.."), but they also romanticize the notorious 'baby's momma/daddy' phenomenon, which regrettably, seems to have become quite hip.
Marriage and parenting are serious issues, people. The challenge of creating and maintaining solid black families is even more serious. In the "Half on a Baby" video, R. Kelly's got a fortress of a home, I'm assuming a good job (the castle is decorated, with creepy-looking oversized furniture, if I may add), and he's definitely got his half on a baby, but, well -- can we get half on some matrimony? Half on some premarital counseling, even? Nope. Not even half on a ring, which sounds pretty cheap, but it would at least be the right idea.
Impressionable black teens (and even some of us grown folk - hello) need to understand that having "half on a baby" physically, even financially, is simply not enough. Teenagers have no concept of the time, energy, and responsibilities that go along with having and raising a child. R. Kelly may have "half on a cute little boy or girl" - but do the young ladies realize that he sure 'aint got "half" on some very whole, complete labor pains? And we should be asking the young fellas - do you have "half" on the other commitments that go along with raising a child? I mean, over and above the sperm donation? Do you have half on the number of times somebody has got to get up and feed Junior at 3AM? Do you also have half on clothing expenses? Medical insurance? Art lessons and ballet and football? College tuition? Someone has got to remind our teens to look past the moment, and help them focus on the bigger picture when it comes to having sex and having babies. There's more to it than the over-publicized frolic between the sheets. Our teens need to realize that it 'aint as easy or as cute as it looks, and in regards to R. Kelly's song - as it sounds.
So, I'm all for helping these youngsters get half on some common sense. My suggestion for them: Get both halves of a college education, first. Save your "half" on a baby for much, much later.
And I'm not hatin' on R. Kelly, I'll still listen to the song, though definitely not in front of my son; and probably not in the presence of my nineteen year old sister, if I can help it. And if I catch either one of them singing "Half on a Baby" like it's some kind of anthem, they won't be spared the twenty minute lecture on all the reasons why they shouldn't.
Oh - and if anyone wants to go HALF on the purchase of R. Kelly's new DOUBLE CD, just let me know.