Music is like sex. You have to ease into it.
And like sex, the best music is made when you and the musician have a little time to get to
know each other. Too often, artists are forced to have the musical equivalent of a hook up,
made to shave their songs into three-minute (three-and-a-half-minutes, if they are lucky) quickies of radio-ready
music to satisfy the insatiable hunger of labels, stations, and fans. What this really means is
that artists don’t have time properly lure their listeners, instead giving them a momentary flash in
the pan rather than a smoldering slow burn.
An age-old trick for extending soul songs (for your pleasure) was the spoken monologue. Before guest rappers or spoken word poetry breaks filled the world of R&B, the monologue was a
form of aural foreplay, drawing the listeners into the singer’s world. The build-up caused by this
extraneous exposition made you feel as if you knew the person who was talking to you through
your radio. Crazy, yes, but think about it. You could have been that friend listening to a homeboy complain about his
woman, as is the case in Bobby Womack‘s “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.” Or you could have been the
homegirl silently eavesdropping in on Shirley Brown‘s “Woman to Woman” conversation.
The spoken monologue could even have been a deliciously vengeful dig at a lover caught cheating. Take, for
example, the quintessential (and utterly comical) monologue from “The Rain” by Oran “Juice” Jones who gave us a front row seat to this hood soap opera.
First, he set up his lover with a honeytrap:
Hey, hey, baby, how ya doin’? Come on in here.
Got some hot chocolate on the stove waiting for you.
Listen, first things first, let me hang up the coat.
Yeah, how was your day today?
Did you miss me?
You did? Yeah? I missed you, too.
Then he went in for the kill:
I missed you so much I followed you today.
That’s right! Now close your mouth, ’cause you cold busted!
From there, he went on to elaborate how he COULD have showed his ass:
My first impulse was to run up on you and do a Rambo.
Whip out the jammy and flat blast both of you.
I didn’t wanna mess up this 3700 dollar lynx coat.
So instead, I chilled. That’s right. Chilled.
And then he exacted his revenge:
Then I went to the bank. Took out every dime.
And then I went and cancelled all those credit cards. Yeah.
All your charge accounts. Yeah.
I stuck you up for every piece of jewelry I ever bought you!
Yeah, that’s right, everythang! Everythang.
Nah, don’t go, don’t go, don’t go lookin’ in that closet.
‘Cause you aint got nothing in there.
That’s right. What was you thinking about? Huh?
What was you trying to prove? Huh?
You was with the Juice!
I gave you silk suits, Gucci handbags, blue diamonds.
I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce!
Now I can’t give you nothin’ but advice.
Cause you still young. That’s right, you still young.
I hope you learned a valuable lesson from all this.
You know. Gon find somebody like me one of these days.
Until then, you know what you gotta do?
Finally, he let his old girl know what time it is:
You gotta get on outta here with that alley-cat-coat-wearing,
hush-puppy-shoe-wearing crumbcake I saw you with.
That’s right, silly rabbit, tricks are made for kids, don’t you know
You without me like corn flake without the milk!
This my world!
You’ just a squirrel trying to get a nut!
Now get on outta here.
Scat! Don’t touch that coat!
Indeed, you should not touch the coat, nor should you cross the all-powerful Oran “Juice” Jones. If
you couldn’t tell by the sheen on his suit in the video, he is a powerful man and will not tolerate
alleycats disrespecting his sexy. And how do you know this? Because he told you. He didn’t sing it. He didn’t rap it. He didn’t try to sugarcoat it with a poem. He descended from his pedestal of musical glory to give the audience the nitty gritty, and
Perhaps the best known instance of a singer breaking it down so that it will forever be broke was in Lenny Williams‘ classic, “Cause I Love You.” Torn beyond belief at losing his woman, he went into explicit detail about the lovesick trance he found himself in (“I knocked on your door, and
my knocks went unanswered.” “I watched TV until the TV went off.”) upon finding that she was
nowhere to be found. Listening to Williams cuts straight to the heart-meat, and you literally feel
his cries of “oh-Oh-oh-Oh-oh-Oh-OH” wrack through your body. That kind of passion doesn’t
happen in less than two minutes. It is a papable tension, built up by the honeyed words and
yearnings of a lovelorn singer making his case for redemption by using a dose of real talk to titillate the
audience’s emotional core.