What the Fuck Happened to Clean Rap Versions?
There’s no better time for young ones to dive into hip-hop — but where have the edited versions gone?
When I imagined myself growing old, I thought I’d become one of those parents who listened to rap music with his kids. I envisioned road trips where Aquemini, Black on Both Sides, and crunk-era hits blasted from the speakers while I told the youths about my favorite memories and what the music meant to me. I thought I’d be the cool dad, the one who listened to the same contemporary rap my kids were into, sharing in the experience and being along for the ride as they developed their own musical tastes.
Of course, in my mind, my family would be riding out to edited versions of the music, at least until they were old enough to hear all the F-words they wanted to in my presence. But there’s a problem: It’s hard to listen to rap with my kids. Unlike when I was coming up, edited rap music is much harder to come by.
When I was a kid, I had all sorts of options for cultivating my rap palate in a way that fell under the rules my parents had. This was crucial because I had to figure out my tastes on my own: By the back half of the ’90s, just as I was figuring out what music I liked, my older siblings were out of the house. And my parents were just from a generation before they had any interest in hip-hop. All they cared about was that I wasn’t listening to a bunch of curse words.
As an adult, I’ve carried on the no-cursing rule in my own house. But despite an explosion of ways to hear music — between streaming services and YouTube, any song you can imagine is at the other end of typing its name — my kids’ options are even more limited than mine were.
There were options. My days were filled with the edited music videos Joe Clair and Big Lez played on Rap City. I could find edited versions of most singles at the…