I’m driving in the car with the kids when Cardi B’s new jam, “I Like It,” comes on the radio. It’s the first time we’ve heard it. My sons love Cardi B — and I love that their favorite rapper is a woman — so we car-dance, crack up at the lyric about the Balenciagas that look like socks, and generally have a great time. Until I hear Cardi sing the line, “Beat it up like piñatas.”
I’m glad I’m in the driver’s seat and my sons are in the back, because I’m pretty sure my face looks like that hollow-eyed scream emoji right now. I wait for the inevitable question from my ever-curious 10-year-old: “Mom, what does that mean?” and I wonder how in the hell I am going to explain this to him. I could just tell him it’s inappropriate for his age, but then he’s going to know it’s something naughty, and what if he Googles it when I’m not looking?
Luckily, just then, my six-year-old asks a question about Minecraft, and the moment passes. At home, I surreptitiously Google “beat it up like piñatas meaning,” and am relieved to find that SafeSearch really does what it promises: the list of results is pleasingly vague as to what the lyric actually means.
If my sons have questions about sex, I’m always happy to give them age-appropriate information. But this particular phrase has so many different layers of meaning — about sex, violence, consent, the female orgasm, hip-hop culture — and I know my kids aren’t ready for any of that yet. It’s like, they’re on Sex Ed 101, and “beating it up like piñatas” isn’t covered until Sex Ed 405, Senior Seminar.
Pretty much since the dawn of FM radio, DJs have played songs containing questionable lyrics. It’s a fact of modern life, it’s not going to go away, and generally, I’m OK with that. My kids will eventually understand these innuendos, just as I learned what Cyndi Lauper was singing about in “She Bop.” (Look it up.) Some of them are hilarious, especially when my kids mishear them: I think Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” would actually be a better song if it contained the lyrics “Last night you were in my room/And now my butt cheeks smell like you.”
Having said that, I’m not sure that it’s in my job description to explain certain concepts — for example, “f***ing hoes and popping pillies,”– to my 10- and-six-year-old. We can cover that stuff some other time, like when they’re 40. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here cringing and hoping they aren’t listening too closely to the following songs.
1. Dua Lipa, “New Rules.”
This sultry British pop diva sings, “You know you’re going to wake up in his bed in the morning/And if you’re under him, you’re not getting over him.” It’s a clever lyric; it made me chuckle when I first heard it. But I’m not particularly down with explaining the missionary position to my kids before we’ve even talked about the basics of sex.
2. Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow.”
It’s super awkward when your kids are rapping along with this song in the car and it gets to the line when she says “My p**** feel like a lake.” The radio bleeps out the P-word, but I don’t know if they know what’s under that bleep, and I definitely don’t want to get into it yet. Let’s get to 5th grade Sex Ed first, and then we can start discussing Bardi’s vaginal secretions, mmkay?
3. Ariana Grande, “Side to Side.”
Genius.com says this song’s title is about “the sore waddle sometimes following sex.” It’s also described as “walking like a cowboy.” My vagina hurts just thinking about telling my kids what this means.
4. Post Malone featuring 21 Savage, “Rockstar.”
I love me some Post Malone. I think he’s really weird, in the best possible way. That said, this 21 Savage lyric makes me literally duck down in the car in some kind of weird fight-or-flight response: “Hit it from the back/Pulling on her tracks/And now she’s screaming out ‘No mas.’” If the kids ask, I’m going to say I have no idea what is happening here. Also, the pillie-popping: maybe I’ll just tell them Post Malone has a headache and needs some Advil.
5. G-Eazy, “No Limit.”
A$AP Rocky raps this song’s chorus, which goes, “If I hit it one time, I’ma pipe her/If I hit it two times, then I like her/If I hit it three times, I’ma wife her.” On a scale of one to 10, 10 being a garbage fire of misogyny, this song gets a 12, and a swift click as I change the radio station. I actually think this can be used as a teachable moment — as in, I’m going to teach my sons to never, ever treat women like this. But again, this is Sex Ed Senior Seminar material: we need to cover a lot of ground before we get here.
There’s no way to escape hearing risqué songs, unless I turn the radio off when we’re in the car, or always insist we stick to predetermined playlists. I don’t feel the need to do this: my kids will hear these songs one way or another, and they’re still going to wonder what they mean. My job is to explain things when it’s appropriate, and bury my head in the sand when it’s not. Right? Isn’t that my job?
Kidding. If my sons ask about lyrics that are too advanced to get into at their age, I’ll tell them exactly that: we need to shelve this topic for the time being and revisit it when they’re older. (They can Google it all they want, now that I’ve made sure SafeSearch works.)
But I’m hoping they don’t notice what most of these songs are talking about, because honestly, I’d rather pull out my teeth than explain to my children what “Boolin’ with a thot-thot/She gon’ give me top-top” means.
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