One of hip hop’s selling points is that it has retained the sense of danger that rock n’ roll lost years ago. Hip hop is music to scare your parents, loud, angry, profane, and as frightening and unwelcoming as the neighborhoods that rappers claim to come from. One of the downsides of this is that hip hop is not the safest or most inviting place for a lot of people, particularly women. This is especially true for female MCs. How do you compete in an arena where you are categorically degraded and put down, where “bitch” is used so commonly it isn’t even considered derogatory? Most female MCs have responded by either trying to be badder than the baddest boy, by being a vamped up sex machine, or both.
Enter Merril Nisker, aka Peaches, a Canadian artist who mashes up hip hop, electronica, and rock, and infuses it all with a healthy dose of estrogen. Her philosophy (and schtick) are clearly defined on her first single, “Fuck the Pain Away.” Over a dirty Roland MC-505 beat that sounds straight out of “Push It,” Peaches raps:
“Sucking on my titties like you wanted me
Calling me, all the time like Blondie
Check out my chrissy behind
It’s fine all of the time
What else is in the teaches of peaches?
Like sex on the beaches – huh? What?”
All of this leads to a chorus of “Fuck the Pain Away.” That is Peaches in a nutshell: rudimentary, crude, crass, and sexy. In 2001, this sounded like a revolution to a lot of women I knew. Peaches spoke to all of the women who were grounded in feminism but tired of feminism’s perceived tendencies towards victimization and prudishness, and tired of not having a space to express their sexuality in ways that weren’t tied to male fantasies. After years of addressing the painful and seemingly endless ways in which sex and sexuality are used to oppress women, there were a lot of ladies who wanted to fuck the pain away. Kathleen Hannah echoed the sentiment in Bikini Kill’s “I Like Fucking”: “Just cuz my world…is so fucking goddamn full of rape/ Does that mean my body must always be a source of pain?…I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe.”
Peaches addressed sex from a woman’s perspective, steering clear of the jailbait image of singers like Britney and Christina, or the porn star chic that was becoming all the rage. Peaches didn’t care about getting the boys off; she was too busy worrying about herself. The result was lyrics that were sexy without tying women to being Barbie doll sexpots. Peaches may be on the plain side, but she is decidedly 100% natural. On “AA/XXX” she delivers an anthem for small-chested women:
“I like the innocent type
Deer in the headlight
Rocking me all night
Flexing his might
Doing it right
Keeping me tight
Taking a bite out of the peach tonight
I’m only double-A, but I’m thinking triple X”
Men remain a necessary evil in her music, and Peaches treats them with the respect that most rappers have for women. She orders them to go down on her (“Diddle My Skittle,” “Suck and Let Go”), and on “Hot Rod,” exclaims “Give me your rod/Show me what you got/Rub it against my thigh.” “Teaches of Peaches” is clearly a woman’s show, made for and by females sick of being relegated to the role of video ho, eye candy, or baby mama.
To be honest, Peaches isn’t really a hip hop artist, and I don’t think she considers herself a rapper. She is more a performance artist, mixing up styles as they suit her to create her own pastiche. Her later albums have seen her veer more towards electronica and cock rock, but “Teaches of Peaches” is firmly rooted in “Licensed to Ill”- era beats. She is as complicated musically as she is lyrically, which means that her beats have two modes: uptempo and dirty, and downtempo and dirty. In fact, all of the songs basically sound the same, which is to say awesome. I wish more artists would reference that old Def Jam sound in their beats. Of course, Peaches wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if she were just another white hipster ironically flirting with hip hop. Trust this: Peaches ain’t faking it. She’s the real deal, as nasty as she wants to be, hardcore for the hardcore.
To me, “Teaches of Peaches” will always be the album that taught SF hipsters that it was ok to get their freak on, and allowed a lot of women I know the opportunity to tap into their inner horndog and feel good about it. When civilization gets you down, when you hear a rapper use “bitch” one too many times, when you are feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired, put on Peaches and be happy being dirty.