OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES: IS AN AD AGENCY’S VIRAL VIDEO TROLLING OR TRUTH?
As recently as two weeks ago, a Los Angeles-based advertising agency called Amusement Park Entertainment posted a video on YouTube depicting pre-teen aged children reciting lyrics from some of the most popular Hip Hop songs of 2013. Young children no older than 10 are seen in the video rhyming the lyrics to the controversial Rocko song “U.O.E.N.O.” featuring Rick Ross, “Birthday Song” by 2 Chainz featuring Kanye West, and “F*ckin’ Problems”, also by 2 Chainz and featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky. The agency made a point to have the children recite the parts of the respective songs that are considered to be the most vulgar, sexually explicit, violent and unfit for youthful ears. Children in the video repeated all of the following lines, along with several others:
“I love bad b*tches, that’s my f*ckin’ problem/And yeah I like to f*ck, I got a f*ckin’ problem…”
“Put a Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/ I took her home and enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it…”
“All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe…”
Jimmy Smith III and Jarrel Smith, both of Amusement Park Entertainment, created the video, which has now garnered slightly fewer than 32,000 views on YouTube since it was first published two weeks ago. In an interview with fastcocreate.com, the Smiths stated:
“We just wanted to hold up a mirror to the types of messages we pump into our heads all day. We hope this film pushes some of our favorite, super-talented artists to push themselves toward more honest and balanced art…”
As with many online videos these days that are intended to incite controversy, garner traffic, gain views, get people talking (essentially, going viral), the “Kids” video, which can be seen on the agency’s Amusement Park Entertainment TV YouTube channel, is doing it’s intended job thus far. It’s been featured on one of the Internet’s leading entrepreneurial magazine websites with fastcocreate.com as well as on the formidable Hip Hop music site HipHopDX.com. And the YouTube responses alone have made for some pretty passionate and polarizing discourse, from adamant support, such as the following:
“Great message! Great video! Music is so potent it shoots straight to the soul and these kids are the ones listening to it.”
To scathing indictment and shaming, such as:
“Directing kids to quote lyrics and use vulgar terminology into a camera is hardly the way to fix the issue. It’s exploitation.”
In all honesty, the controversy that could potentially surround Amusement Park Entertainment and their viral video is reminiscent of another song and video that went viral in 2007 and also satirically harped on what is wrong with Hip Hop. That video, entitled “Read A Book”, was created by Bomani D. Armah, who describes himself as “not a rapper, I’m a poet with a Hip Hop style.” His animated video for the song “Read A Book” gained so much attention that it was eventually played on popular BET music countdown show 106 & Park. And though many people for its explicit lyrical content called it into question, it also did its intended job of inciting controversy and getting a dialog rekindled.
The main difference between the two instances is, of course, that there are real live children reciting questionable lyrics in the “Kids” video. And ultimately, the real question with Amusement Park Entertainment’s video is this: Is it exploitation of children and shameless Internet trolling on the part of the advertising agency, or is it truly the company holding a mirror up to Hip Hop and presenting a harsh and disturbing truth? In the humble opinion of this journalist, it’s a little of both. It’s important to realize that this is essentially a viral video created by an entertainment/advertising agency credited with commercials for Nike, Pepsi, and Gatorade. So there’s little doubt that there’s at least a twinge of attention-seeking commercialism in the works. After all, that’s part of the foundation of advertising as an industry.
But many of us that are fans of Hip Hop music know good and well that the lyrics in many popular mainstream Hip Hop are not meant for children. However, it’s also a stark reality that not only do our children hear, internalize and repeat these lyrics on a daily basis, but many songs similar to “Birthday Song”, “U.O.E.N.O.” and “F*ckin’ Problems” subliminally marketed to children, and are marketed quite effectively. And judging from the small but intense response the video has gotten thus far, the creators and principals at Amusement Park Entertainment are severely aware of all of facts.
The company is also well aware of the fact that it will be pretty painful, disturbing, eye-opening and heart-wrenching for at least some adults that are fans of Hip Hop, some of which may have children of their own, to watch and share the “Kids” video. And though they will be praised as saviors by some and railroaded as self-serving, grandstanding exploiters of children by others due to this controversial video, the message is clear: it is necessary for people that call themselves “fans” of Hip Hop music and culture to keep the dialog going and continue to challenge the desensitized status quo that pervades mainstream Hip Hop in it’s current state.
In the end, they may have done it in a way that’s left a bad taste in lots of people’s mouths, but at least Amusement Park Entertainment did what they’ve intended to do to get us asking questions of ourselves as Hip Hop fans and of the music and culture that we hold so dearly. The ultimate question from here is: What are we going to do about it?