NEW YORK — Given all the barely clad women that are booty-shaking, grinding and gyrating on BET during the day, it’s hard to believe things could get any wilder after dark.
But as the rap group Whodini once rhymed, “the freaks come out at night.” And on BET — already criticized for showing videos with a high T&A quotient — the videos become even more graphic during the wee morning hours on “BET Uncut.”
While outright nudity is blurred out, the clips still contain enough sexual content to make R. Kelly blush. There’s Ludacris’ “Booty Poppin”’ video, featuring close-ups of jiggling posteriors as women take it all off in a strip club. And in Nelly’s “Tip Drill” video, women shake so wildly that bikini bottoms pop off, and a posse of leering men grab various body parts. Later, the women simulate sex acts with themselves.
“Everybody’s doing them. I think it’s a helluva promotional tool,” said Luther “Luke” Campbell of 2 Live Crew fame, widely considered the godfather of scandalous music videos. “It gives an artist a chance to express themselves a little bit more.”
In the hip-hop world, sex has long been part of that expression. Campbell’s early ’90s videos had bikinied women doing the butt-jiggle when “dirty dancing” was considered shocking. Tupac Shakur’s “How Do You Want It” video in 1996 featured real porn stars (although they didn’t have sex on camera). And these days, everyone from Snoop Dogg to Lil’ Jon to G-Unit’s Lloyd Banks are promoting videos that are actually X-rated.
Before, artists were mostly making sexually oriented material for the underground market — providing them to strip clubs, or selling them as part of videos or DVDs. Now, they’re bringing them directly to television, through places like “BET Uncut” and the Playboy network. And more outlets are growing for those who want to see more — or less — than a bikini.
“It’s almost like the other videos are like foreplay and the uncut videos are the act themselves,” says video director Nzingha Stewart, a woman who has directed clips for artists ranging from ODB to Common to Joss Stone.
Another outlet for artists
“We all want to see videos uncut,” says music producer Jermaine Dupri, who makes a cameo appearance in Nelly’s “Tip Drill.” “We hate making clean versions — I do. So 'Uncut,’ they don’t let us play the lyrics, but they let us do videos however we want to do it, so, it’s another outlet for us.”
Explicit videos aren’t exclusive to rap. There were topless women on Motley Crue’s 1987 video “Girls, Girls, Girls,” which was recently featured on an uncensored rock videos DVD from Interscope. Madonna’s “Erotica” video from 1992 featured the singer completely naked, obscured only by strategically placed black bars. (MTV played it, but only in the early morning hours.)
But the videos on “BET’s Uncut” make Madonna seem as tame as Clay Aiken.
They typically feature full-figured black women dirty dancing at a frenetic pace. Close-ups are reserved not for faces, but for voluptuous posteriors. In Nelly’s video, he swipes a credit card between a women’s buttocks.
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Even Big Boi of OutKast — an avid strip-clubber who had a stripper pole built into his house — has been taken aback by some of the content.
“Some of it is getting really distasteful — it’s like giving it a bad taste, it’s really exploiting women,” he says. “What they’re doing now it’s kind of like soft porn. I saw some (stuff) the other day. ... I didn’t even know they could do that on TV.”
The show started in September 2000, and airs Wednesday through Friday at 3 a.m. ET.
Stephen Hill, a senior vice president for BET, said “Uncut” is for adult eyes only — a disclaimer runs before the naughty videos air. “Any kid up at 3 o’clock in the morning, their biggest problem is not BET,” he said.
Nothing new to TV
Hill insists that “nothing that we run on 'Uncut’ is not seen in prime-time television.” There is plenty of blurred nudity on regular television today, from CBS’ “Survivor” to MTV, which has even shown naked couples licking whipped cream off each other.
Typically, though, such content is not presented in such a raw fashion.
“BET just gets more of a rap for it because critics focus more of their attention on BET,” Hill says.
But Stewart complains that uncensored videos promote negative stereotypes.
“I don’t think there should necessarily be censorship of the images of women, but it’s an extremely one-sided look at women. There’s no other images to counteract it,” she says. “I can’t tell you the last video I saw where a black woman had a job, and that’s really more our experience than black women being strippers.”
More is on the way — the Playboy network started their “Buckwild” show this year. Hosted by Ken “Buckwild” Francis, it plays uncensored videos with full nudity in between saucy segments with various hip-hop artists.
“There’s always a demand to get anything without censorship,” says Francis, who also produces his own line of “Buckwild” videos, sort of like a black “Girls Gone Wild.” “When you put a blur there, you create a demand, because people are nosy by nature.”
And the Playboy network plans to start a block of hip-hop programming called “H.Y.P.E” later this year, as a precursor for a network of the same name (Universal Music Group was reported to be starting its own uncensored music video network, but a spokeswoman called that premature).
“If you’re 21 years old, you’re ready to see the videos the way they were meant to be,” says Tracy Lawrence, President of H.Y.P.E. TV. “You don’t need to have them edited like they are for outlets where they have teens watching.”
Mirroring the lyrics
Lloyd Banks of G-Unit, fronted by 50 Cent, says uncensored videos allow the artists to make videos that mirror the content of their lyrics, which typically carry a parental advisory.
“If we were to shoot the 'Groupie Love’ video, there would have to be an 'Uncut’ video. If you’re not thinking of sexual acts, there’s something wrong with you,” says Banks, who’s coming out with an “interactive” porn DVD later this year that allows the viewer to choose what sex acts women do.
Artists have made videos for sexually explicit songs for years. Why are the videos finally catching up?
“People want more. The sex is definitely in the music, and sex is in all aspects in the music,” says Campbell.
He credits underground videos like his “Luke’s Freak Fest,” a popular video series featuring nude women, and Snoop Dogg’s foray into hosting porn videos with injecting soft porn into videos.
Whether we’ll ever see Britney Spears “Uncut” is doubtful. But BET’s channel already has fans among the mainstream set.
R&B hitmaker Usher, who counts himself as a viewer, says he might even consider doing one — but only if its “tastefully done.”
Still, he admits it’s a guilty pleasure: “You’re kind of in the wrong for even watching it.”
“Then what’s crazy about it, after it’s off, the inspiration of the day comes on,” he says, referring to the BET’s block of religious programming, which starts at 4 a.m.
“I guess you’ve got to get 'prayed up’ after watching it,” he laughed.
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