Making Me High

When I was in Chicago a few weeks back I spent a really cool afternoon chilling with two old friends. My man was playing music off his iPhone when Prince's "Erotic City" came on. We started talking about a point which I think I've made here before: as a dude raised on hip-hop, I really appreciate the fact that when Prince is singing about sex, he's singing to women, not dudes. Or rather, without the hetero privilege, he's singing to the object of his desire, not to his friends/boys/competitors.


I confess that in my time, it was nothing like hearing Biggie's "One More Chance" in a club. But that song never really said much about how it felt to be really be attracted to a woman. If anything it was battle rap with woman used primarily as objects. There's a lot of hip-hop like that, presumably about women, but really only about women as things to be acquired like cars, jewels and homes. A song like "One More Chance" feels, lyrically, like it's actually for other dudes. There's very little hip-hop that I'd play and say, "Yeah baby, this is how I feel about you." I don't know, maybe "Ice Cream?" "Camay?" "You Got Me?" Anyway, I always thought that was major hole in the genre and something I really had to look to classic R&B to get. 

So we got to talking about how Prince sings about male desire for women, and is totally fine making himself powerless to that desire. And there's honesty and truth in that, because we've all felt that way. And we got to thinking about women who sung about men in that same way and came up with a few examples. 

But one that didn't occur to me until a few days ago is Toni Braxton's "Your Making Me High." I remember, when this came out, that it was a shockingly visceral song, and visceral in a way that, at least in that time, I wasn't really hearing. I'm struggling to think of a performer, in hip-hop or R&B, in the '90s, who made a hit while alluding to everything from masturbation to obsession. 

Every dude I knew loved this song. Because, well, she was singing to us. And then some of  it is the video. Braxton was always a dime, but this was the album where she came back rocking the new body. And then she brought some company: Tisha Campbell, Erika Alexander etc. Of course a lot of girls loved this video too. Old boy Bryce had 'em back then. One other interesting note--much like Shiela E's background vocals on Erotic City add an element, I think Babyface is playing a similar, if more subdued, role here.

 

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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