Tupac Amaru Shakur - Presse über ihn
"Ballin' With Tupac"
"How Do U Want It" (adult version)
Directed by Tupac Shakur and Ron Hightower
By Carol Cooper
November 6, 1996
Ah, the problematic marriage of sex and entertainment. When rapper Tupac Shakur decided to turn the video for "How Do U Want It?" into his interpretation of a Player's Ball, he and the members of Jodeci ended up with a simulated orgy even more raw and fleshy than the one in Prince's "Gett Off!" clip. As a woman who has seen enough commercial pornography to know that skin flicks don't normally turn me on, I would rate "How Do U Want It" a 5 on a titillation scale of 10, with the complete understanding that any heterosexual male would probably rate it several points higher.
There is partial male nudity here, but Tupac himself remains clothed throughout, whether he's in fetish leather astride a jiggling mechanical bucking bronc or wearing a basketball jersey in a limousine. There are, on the other hand, acres and acres of female nudity -- silicone- or saline-enhanced titties and hairless beavers galore. Imagine Apollonia's lakeside scene from the film Purple Rain amplified by a power of 10 and you'll get the idea.
What's most ironic about this adolescent stroke-fest is that it's specifically labeled "the adult version." Executive produced by controversial Death Row label-owner Suge Knight, co-directed by Tupac with Ron Hightower and actually produced by a woman (Tracy D. Robinson), "How Do You Want It" is an extremely odd cultural artifact.
What the hell does this intensely lewd and exhibitionistic clash of race, class and gender signifiers mean? Since gay discos, straight strip clubs, S/M venues and peep shows regularly commercialize simulated sex acts as theatre, then why should we be shocked when rappers choose to do it? Luke Skywalker of 2 Live Crew was famous for putting exotic dancers on his stage and throwing industry parties at which black radio and retail execs were "entertained" by these same women in various stages of undress. Too $hort based ten albums on an exaggerated pimp character rapping about the commodification of women's bodies. Ice-T named himself after the Iceberg Slim novels which glorified the pimp's world view. And before rappers, male rockers and jazz musicians habitually objectified female sexuality. Jimi Hendrix's "Dolly Dagger" and the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" illustrate two types of objectified female: the outlaw "bottom bitch" and the psychologically dependent "freak."
Jazz musicians were famous for pimping their girlfriends to support their art and drug habits: if you don't believe me, read Charlie Mingus' autobiography Beneath the Underdog. The truth is, as much as we might find the "adult version" of "How Do U Want It" crude and infantile in its presentation of female pudenda, Tupac is only falling in with a tradition far bigger and much older than his own comparatively puny career.
Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons used to cite a novelty record called The Player's Convention as a standard to which all great rap records should aspire. A collection of tacitly misogynistic odes to the ways in which pimps, prostitutes and johns interact, it was the inspiration for Slick Rick's cover version of the tune "Treat Her Like a Prostitute." The "Player's Ball" itself has been immortalized within a living tradition of prison folklore from which many rap, pop and blues musicians have drawn subject matter. Tupac may have become reacquainted with this folklore during his recent term of incarceration. According to legend, the Player's Ball is a real event in which pimps and their human property gather amongst themselves to celebrate the rituals and rewards of their chosen lifestyle. Public sex on demand was sometimes involved, but so were "pimp's toasts" -- ahave become reacquainted with this folklore during his recent term of incarceration. According to legend, the Player's Ball is a real event in which pimps and their human property gather amongst themselves to celebrate the rituals and rewards of their chosen lifestyle. Public sex.
Bay Area rappers Digital Underground helped launch Tupac's solo career by giving him his first cameo appearance on a rap record. Later, on the track called "Good Thing We're Rappin'," from 1991's Sons of the P, members of D.U. go into an extended pimp toast about their "mackin' years" running con-games from coast to coast with a willing prostitute named Cookie. So if we believe in guilt by association, Tupac might come by his pimping fantasies honestly.Of course the D.U. connection doesn't quite explain why the members of the singing group Jodeci are grabbing breasts and leering at naked crotches in "How Do U Want It?" right along with Tupac. My guess is that for Jodeci the video is pure wish fulfillment. These ex-gospel choir boys have -- like Tupac -- had their own brushes with the law and angry females in their rise to r&b stardom. Accused of manhandling a groupie while on tour a couple years back, these skinny brown southern boys were doubtlessly happy to grope ladies for free without fear of a lawsuit. Doing it on film would also show a doubting world that they didn't have to beg or force their way into sex.
Negative self-esteem issues are a big part of the dysfunctional attraction whores and pimps have for one another. Making "badness" and "freakdom" into relative virtues, these social outlaws build emotional attachments based on self-hate and us-against-the-world paranoia. All adolescent males and females have some of these same self-esteem problems, which sexual fulfillment and/or domination helps to resolve. The danger in transposing adolescent sexual insecurities onto overtly manipulative pimp/whore power trips is that it strengthens a negative, reactionary world view that is even harder for men in particular to grow out of. This is the real danger in Tupac and Jodeci's cynical appropriation of the black pimp's world view.
My own objection to this clip has less to do with what it shows than with what it doesn't show. Like what happens when the party stops. The vidiots cavorting to five-plus minutes of Tupac's manic commentary seem to be having a great time because the video doesn't deal with the morning after. In the short, brutal lives of most black pimps and prostitutes moments of wealth and pleasure are indulged in promiscuously because these marginal characters know they won't have long to enjoy them.
Viewed objectively, Tupac's video implies less physical violence than Madonna's "Human Nature" and shows no woman participating in anything she can't voluntarily remove herself from. The whipped cream shot onto a woman's face from between a man's naked legs is clearly whipped cream; the golden champagne which trickles from between a woman's thighs into a man's extended glass is clearly champagne. If people wish to use their imaginations to transform these scenes into analogous events, they are free to do so.
The video is obviously meant to be amusing, but it's just as clearly meant to affirm the universal male fantasy of having unlimited access to an endless supply of beautiful, horny, willing women.
But Tupac is clearly pushing the envelope, taunting both his fans and his detractors to question their own notions of propriety. What really is objectionable about this video? That the women are naked, or that they are naked and smiling? That black, brown and white women are all seen cavorting with black men; or that what's being depicted is group sex? Do we object just to seeing the naked breasts or to the fact that the men and women openly squeeze, stroke and jiggle them for the camera? Since nobody looks like they're being forced or hurt (not even what looks to be a pre-op transsexual), if we object it's as if we're objecting to the sight of mutually pleasurable erotic play. And if so, then what does that reaction really say about the viewer?
Of course the most pertinent question is where, exactly, does Tupac expect this video to be shown? God knows MTV and BET won't air it, and the Playboy Channel program which used to air X-rated videos submitted by big-name pop stars no longer exists. It's too short to sell by itself, and too dirty to package with any of his other video clips. Aside from certain nightclubs, obscure cable channels and the Internet, this particular video will be pretty hard to come by. Much harder, say, than copies of The Devil in Miss Jones or XXX-rated Japanese animation. So the clip won't reach anyone who hasn't already been "corrupted" by many other kinds of sexually explicit material.
What I do suspect, however, is that both Jodeci and Tupac will eventually regret being the male clowns in this carnivalesque celebration of the flesh. Young men may not mind looking silly in something as trivial as a music video (this is not, after all, Last Tango in Paris or Fellini's Satyricon) but by 40 (should they live so long), being immortalized on film alongside jiggling boobs, bimbos, and beaver shots will look considerably less heroic and more like an astonishingly stupid waste of Tupac's enviable access to mainstream media and serious public attention.