Prodigy and Time Warner, Inc., the company that owns half of the label that released the group's groundbreaking 1997 techno-rock album, The Fat Of The Land, came under fire Thursday from the National Organization for Women for encouraging domestic violence with the group's latest single, "Smack My Bitch Up" (RealAudio excerpt).
"This teaches violence against women is a form of entertainment," Janice Rocco, NOW's L. A. chapter president, was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle to have said Thursday. "This message is damaging in general, but particularly to children."
The song -- whose entire chorus reads "Change my pitch up/ Smack my bitch up" -- appears on the group's multi-million selling album, The Fat Of The Land, which entered the U. S. charts earlier this year at #1. "That song is probably the most pointless song I've ever written," Prodigy leader Liam Howlett told Addicted To Noise this past summer. "But live, it works. It works well. Sometimes things can be so fucking simple and you
don't need an explanation of the lyrics. Why explain the lyrics? It either works or it doesn't. And for us, it works well live. It's a really exciting track and it's just a
good hard track."
The song was released as a single in America last week. It is currently getting airplay on a dozen or so modern rock stations in the U. S. A racy video for the song has also been created, but Time Warner apparently didn't finance it. The video
56K real video excerpts;
QuickTime), which MTV plans to air an edited version of, depicts an out-of-control English hooligan doing drugs, getting loaded and puking repeatedly, grabbing women, getting into fights and having sex with a stripper.
Howlett denied that the song was about beating women. He said that he had used a sample from an old Ultramagnetic MCs song as part of a kind of hip-hop tribute. "I was into hip-hop and I was into the fact that MCs could rap about anything,
they could rap about smacking women up and it'd just be more comical than anything else. You wouldn't actually take it serious. You wouldn't think the Prodigy are
about beating their girlfriends up and shit like that. It has a certain amount of b-boy style in the actual song. It's just basically bringing that through.
"It's obvious that 'Firestarter' [the group's first international hit] is not about starting fires. It's about [singer/dancer] Keith's [Flint] personality. I thought, 'Well, if people are going to kick up a fuss about this, then they're
really gonna kick up a fuss about "Smack My Bitch Up." ' It was kind of a joke on the English press in a way, as well. There's lots of different angles. The main
angle is it works and it's a simple track and it's got hard vibe. That's why I use that lyric. The other vibe is what I was saying about the press."
Howlett said he expected that the song would be taken the wrong way. "To be honest, we're
ready for whatever is thrown us," he said. "You can't not be ready and use a lyric like that. To be honest, people, if they think that song is about smacking girlfriends up, then
they're pretty brainless."
He appeared to be hoping the song would cause a ruckus. "I was mocking the English press. In fact, I knew, when I wrote that track -- it
wasn't the main reason -- but it became apparent to me afterwards, after I'd written the track, that it would be a real piss-take on the English press, the fact that they
will pick up on it and create something out of it. If you can create that much trouble in one vocal then let's create some trouble. For us, it's just about doing what we
want, doing it our way, having fun. That's our way of just having fun. But it's serious in other ways. It's not a joke. This song isn't meant to be taken like a joke.
It's a hard song. The sample just works. There's not really one explanation why I put it in there. When I was young and I was listening to Ultramagnetic MCs, Public
Enemy, Schooly D about guns, drugs and women, it just had a good vibe. I just liked the vibe it had and tried to pick some of that up in that song, really." [Fri., Dec. 5, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]