My Melody. – sound recording reviews
Lesbians and gay men have always rewritten pop songs in their minds to suit their own scenarios. We’ve changed pronouns, heard hidden messages straights would never notice, and picked up on tunes that — intentionally or not — lend themselves to same-sex interpretations. Go beyond the classic queer-friendly favorites like Doris Day’s “Secret Love” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You) ” to hear the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” as a coming-out anthem or R&B star Usher’s recent smash “You Make Me Wanna… ” as a song about a young guy thinking about switching teams as he contemplates a love affair with his best friend.
Yet in the homophobic world of hip-hop, such willful interpretations are nearly impossible. Male bonding may be majority in effect, but the references to “punks,” “bitches,” and other hate-filled speech disavow what’s always simmering below the surface. So it takes crazy courage for a woman to reinterpret an R&B tune as a lesbian rap jam. Queen Pen — the rapper familiar to millions as the female rhyme jockey featured on Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” — has included on her debut album, My Melody, the first overtly queer mainstream rap anthem, ” Girlfriend. “
What makes the record even more remarkable is that her source material is “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night),” a tune about a heterosexual situation originally performed by lesbian icon Me’Shell Ndegeocello, who joins in on the new version. “If that’s your girlfriend, she wasn’t last night, “the pair rap and sing to a cuckolded male who wasn’t pleasing his woman the way she wants to be pleased. Queen Pen shows them all how such lovemaking should be done while boasting that she can pull you out yo’ closet” in the process. Homophobia is revealed as a product of jealousy: This Queen has men and women alike lining up to get with her, while rejected onlookers of both sexes bemoan sour grapes.
Queen Pen isn’t politically correct. She speaks of “bitches” and “niggers” as so many rappers before her have done. While you can’t condone her choice of words, you’ve got to admire her nerve to discuss lesbianism in a context designed not merely for the enlightened few but for the rap-loving masses. Like most of the album, “Girlfriend” is produced and cowritten by Blackstreet member Teddy Riley, one of the most influential and popular musicians of the past two decades. With guest appearances by such star vets as Phil Collins (on “Get Away,” a track about domestic abuse that heavily samples Collins’s “In the Air Tonight”) and Ronald Isley of the Isley Brothers, My Melody is meant to position Queen Pen in the same platinum-selling league as Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, and Foxy Brown, female rappers who simultaneously pander to stereotypes and stand tall in a male-dominated field.
“Girlfriend” represents a breakthrough for queer culture, for it reflects not only mainstream acceptance but also avid interest in our lives, from a community that has traditionally ignored us. Although it’s not yet a single, “Girlfriend” will undoubtedly be played in lesbian and hip-hop clubs alike both for its shock value and because the track is so damn funky — even more so than Ndegeocello’s original. Queen Pen may shy away from discussing her own sexuality in interviews, but her recorded milestone will tell it like it is louder than any printed word can.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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