Have you ever listened to songs you heard as a kid years later and realized that you had absolutely no idea what they were talking about because it was WILDLY INAPPROPRIATE? There are cases of misheard lyrics (Starbucks lovers, anyone?), but I'm talking about hearing the lyrics correctly and thinking they have an entirely different (and more innocent) meaning.
Sometime in the early 90s whoever makes rules over music started putting labels on CDs that said "WARNING: Parental Advisory, Explicit Lyrics." According to the CDs I had at the time, this pretty much meant the following:
"Do you say 'fuck' at any point in your album?"
"Alrighty then, you don't need a label, have a nice day."
Back in 1993 my favorite singer was Janet Jackson and my favorite album was her "janet." CD - you know the one where she's topless and an unseen guy is holding her boobs from behind? Yeah maybe that should've been a tip-off at the time. Anyway, it's a fucking fabulous album, still to this day. It was back in the days of music videos and a couple of the songs had the best choreography in the history of music videos, so even if you didn't own it you're aware of some of the songs.
The popular ones were "That's the Way Love Goes" and "If" - which to me were just simple love songs to a good beat. I thought such lines as "go deeper, baby, deeper" meant EMOTIONALLY deeper (I'm not kidding here, I was a REALLY naïve 11-year-old). Seriously, go look up some of the lyrics. I'll wait.
One particularly hilarious memory was brought up when I re-discovered the album sometime in law school and listened to it with adult ears. "This Time" wasn't a single, but I liked it because it was very epic - with an opera singer (who I was convinced was Janet at the time) and what sounds like a full orchestra in parts. But the best part was the lyrics:
"You runnin round with those nasty hos, how long did you think I would take this?"
Obviously the song is about her boyfriend cheating on her and her leaving him. I caught on to the part that he was a shitty boyfriend, but not for the reason she claims. I actually legitimately thought he was assaulting her with garden tools. Hoes. I'd never heard "hoe" in another connotation, and I was aware of abusive relationships, so I just thought he happened to be a little more creative in his abuse tactics.
11-year-old me was like "Yeah, you go Janet. You leave that guy - no one should take being beaten with a hoe. You're such a good role model."
25-year-old me was like "Well then. Probably best I didn't know what that meant."
As I listened to the whole album, there were probably two songs on the whole thing that were actually appropriate for all ages, and one was sad (fuck sad songs, man, fuck sadness). The rest were pretty explicitly about sex, but without saying "this song is about sex" my young brain turned them into relationship metaphors. It turns out that pretty much everything I heard on the radio or really anywhere before high school I had absolutely no idea if something was inappropriate unless I could hear the words "fuck" "shit" or "ass" (and ass has always been questionable).
So when Tupac, reasonably angry because he got shot, screamed "Fuck Biggie, fuck Mob D, fuck Bad Boy as a staff, record label, and as a motherfuckin crew, and if you wanna be down with Bad Boy, then fuck you too" I probably shouldn't have been as shocked as when I basically listened to Janet Jackson eloquently describe her sex life in 1993.
Ignorance is bliss...