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Butthole Surfer

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LE SHAUN

"WIDE OPEN"

(TOMMY BOY)

Free market capitalism is the darnedest thing. While an unfettered marketplace promises a variety of choices, in practice companies attract the greatest number of consumers by keeping their products culturally shapeless and uncontroversial. That's one reason conservatives revere the free market as if it were the Baby Jesus, and why radical artists spend so much time honing their grant-writing skills. But as any reflective rock 'n' roll fan knows, capitalism can also produce music that makes both conservatives and radicals do a double take. Designed to do no more than make a quick buck, these records are more consumer friendly than any art project denied NEA funding, and yet so culturally inflammatory they could make Dan Quayle soil his Brooks Brothers shorts.

In the case of the recent single "Wide Open" by female rapper LeShaun, the subject matter could make our favorite Hoosier clamp down his sphincter so tight he might never shit again. At first this catchy light rap single seems perfect for any urban crossover format. The song opens with LeShaun and a friend checking out a hot young stud on the corner, and her youthful, flirtatious vocal is matched by an equally enticing R & B arrangement--there's a cute fluttering sax, a catchy girl chorus, a smooth beat syncopated to a background organ, and a clean little guitar figure breezy enough for a Curtis Mayfield or King Sunny Ade record. But when the cocky 17-year-old fellow approaches, thinking he'll bag an easy trophy, he gets slapped with something neither he nor the listener expected. "You's about to get stripped / Wide open, for sure / So let me tell you what I have in store." With a quick breath, she drops it in a coy question, "Have you ever, ever, ever in your long-legged life / Had a sneaky, freaky finger make that butt feel so nice?"

LeShaun doesn't pause for an answer. She goes on to describe in friendly detail her lubricant ("Cocoa butter coated or some Vaseline"), how far she'll stick it in, and how loud he'll scream. By the second verse, they're back at her place and she's telling him, "Ooh, let's get it started." We then hear the play-by-play, complete with his groan and final submission to her question, "Whose stash is that?"

"It's mine," she coos with satisfaction. "You're wide open."

After you've picked up your jaw from the floor, you might ask, "Well, what could be more capitalist than pornography?" True, in its tone and detail the song is as prurient as anything on a 2 Live Crew or Lydia Lunch album (or, for that matter, anything in Penthouse Forum or Blueboy). But who is the intended audience? Hip hop usually isn't an arena for male submission fantasies. LeShaun stated flatly in a Village Voice interview that she thinks the song is a put-down: "I don't have any respect for anybody who'll let me do that. . . . I done brought out the bitch in you. How could you be my man?"

For all the enticing pornographic detail, LeShaun's real audience is women and her real subject is revenge. A comparison of the three versions of the song on the CD single makes the point obvious. In the "radio version" quoted above and on the coarser "LP version," she makes it clear that her pleasure lies in his humiliation, in being able to do to a man what men so often do to women--make penetration an act of conquest. (On the "LP version" she overidentifies with the male viewpoint and becomes contemptuous of her own gender, by changing lines like "I'll turn a brother to a punk" into "I'll turn a nigga to a bitch.") And though the fudge packing is dispensed with on the "clean radio version," she plays up the role reversal to the hilt, so to speak, as she lists all the humiliations she'll heap on him. This time "wide open" means, "I got you strung, hon," and she promises to "Kiss you off and piss you off as much as I can" because "Shit, it ain't cool if I can't make a man drool / And follow me around like a love hungry fool."

I don't have a problem with her scorn, but I'd rather hear about the rim job again. No matter how narrowly she conceives of the act, it doesn't change how inviting the "radio version" makes it sound, and that's what's most audacious about this song--the sweet-and-sour mix allows the listener to turn it into whatever his or her hot little libido wants. This record may be doomed to commercial failure, but think what would happen if it lived up to its title and got on the airwaves. It could bust things "wide open" in more ways than LeShaun imagines.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/TAR.

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