In 2017 Billboard reported over two-thirds of their number one charting songs in their Top 100 had explicit labels attached to them. There is no denying that there has been a rise in popularity of explicit lyrics in songs as streaming services have taken over. Previously the main platform for consumers to hear music was radio which required clean edits of songs for them to be aired. With streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music providing both the clean and dirty edits of songs, listeners get to decide what works best for them.
Whether you simply enjoy the original lyrics or you are an activist for freedom of speech and artist expression, it may be tempting to play the dirty edits of a song. When you do play an explicit version of a song, you are limiting your scope of listeners. Our youth may already be cussing up a storm, but if your local high school requests a mixtape from you, you can bet that it won’t just be the students that give it a listen. When Principle Sally hears the unedited Cardi B blasting in your sample, you can probably kiss that job opportunity goodbye.
Many older folks prefer songs with limited explicit lyrics as well and this is not just because they are old. Before 1984, the only explicit song to chart on Billboards number one list was Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. Between then and 2001 there were only 5 explicit songs that charted number one. It makes sense that a song like I Love It by Kanye West (link is explicit for reference purposes) would be a bit shocking to your parents. Clean edits of songs allow you to incorporate them into your radio sets, family events, and not have to look away when your clients’ grandma is about to take in Cardi’s verse in Please Me.
Make sure to give that clean version a thorough listen as not everyone has the same perspective as what may be explicit. Pitbull has plenty of “radio friendly” songs that are still sexually explicit and may not be the best for that 10-year-olds birthday party. “To the window, to the wall, to the sweat….” your crowd will fill in the words so you don’t have to bother. Even in nightclubs, clean versions won’t end up offending anyone, but the same can’t be said about a dirty version. Most music sources such as the MMP Record Pool will provide both the clean and dirty version of songs. If you can’t find a clean version that suits your set, you can always make your own clean edit using software such as Ableton or Audacity. DJ platforms such as Serato have censor options that reverse a respective part of the song making it difficult to hear. There are many options to help make your sets and mixes universally acceptable and unoffensive. A general rule of thumb if to leave the explicit versions for personal listening pleasure.