Smack My Bitch Up
This is the Prodigys third single from The Fat Of The Land, released on November 10, 1997. The most controversial single in Prodigy's history. It has been blacklisted by many US and Canadian radio stations. British BBC Radio 1 also banned Smack My Bitch Up for radio playing because the lyrics of the song. Last time something like this happened was 1987 when George Michael's song Your Sex was banned too.
Only a lyric-free version was played on Radio 1. On the chart rundown, other tracks from the single release were played, and the title "Smack My Bitch Up" was not mentioned. On BBC World Service radio chart run down it was mentioned as "Smack" and was not played. Yet on the first episode of Top of the Pops in which it charted, the DJ Hype remix was played over the Top 10 countdown, including the offending lyric of "Change my pitch up, smack my bitch up."
The Chart Show refused to display the name of the song when the video was played during one of their episodes. Usually aired at 11.30am, the show displayed the on-screen graphic as simply "The Prodigy"; the title of the song would usually appear underneath.
Also some feminist are trying to fight against the Prodigy because of the lyric "Change my pitch up, smack my bitch up" That's one of the reasons why the track became well-known all around the world. Wal-Mart and K-Mart pulled the album and the single from their shelves because of the scandals in connection with the lyrics.
In 2010, the song was voted as the most controversial song of all time in a survey conducted by PRS for Music.
The song reached the top 15 in several countries, for example Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. The song performed best in Finland, securing The Prodigy their third Finnish number-one hit alongside Firestarter and Breathe. Although not reaching the top 20 in those countries, "Smack My Bitch Up" was a hit in the Netherlands peaking at #22, in Australia reaching #41, and in the United States reaching #89.
The lyrics "Change my pitch up / Smack my bitch up" are repeated through the whole song. The band defended the song, saying that the lyrics were being misinterpreted as misogynistic and the song actually meant "...doing anything intensely..." The song led to a publicised disagreement at the 1998 Reading festival after the Beastie Boys asked the group not to play the track.
The vocals are sampled and altered from the Ultramagnetic MCs song "Give the Drummer Some". The original lyrics, performed by rapper Kool Keith, are: "Switch up change my pitch up" / "Smack my bitch up, like a pimp,...". Kool Keith had previously been sampled by the Prodigy in the track "Out of Space".
The female vocals in "Smack My Bitch Up" were performed by Shahin Badar. Badar's vocals and harmonies are based on "Nana (The Dreaming)" performed by Sheila Chandra. Initially Liam Howlett used a direct sample of Chandra's song, but later had the vocal resung after sample clearance issues. The track also contains samples from "Funky Man" by Kool & the Gang, "In Memory Of" by Randy Weston, "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine and "House of Rising Funk" by Afrique.
"People take things too literally. If you said to a girl change my pitch up, smack my bitch up - she probably wouldn't understand what change my pitch up means. It just works. It's just a hook. That's the only thing behind it. The bitch is the music, not a girl thing. A lot of the girls I know say that's their favorite track. There is no message in Prodigy music really, it's just an expression of hardness. We're not trying to put messages in about 'It's cool to beat up women,' because that's just pathetic. " - Leeroy
No woman can listen to
this song and not know that it depicts abuse and torture
This teaches violence against women in a form of entertainment. This message is damaging in general, but particularly to children. " - Janice Rocco from National Organization for Women
I am not a prude, and
I think the Prodigy are a very good group, but they
should think about the message they are putting out.
... [the single is] particularly offensive and particularly
in the sense of violence against women.
Barry Gardiner, Member of Parliament (Labour Party)
While the lyric in question was never intended to be harmful or disrespectful to women or any other group and we sincerely regret that it may have been misinterpreted, the possibility that some will be offended or disturbed by any creative work is a risk inherent in any artistic endeavor.
"That song is probably the most
pointless song I've ever written. 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" - Liam
"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. " - Liam
"It's obvious that Firestarter is not about starting fires. It's about Keith's 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. " - Liam
"There's a very funny balance to them really, because they revel in people objecting to things they do. If we don't go ahead it won't be because we've bottled out of being controversial, it'll just be because the band didn't like it. " - A Prodigy spokesman
playing relatively out-of-the-way places recently.
They've developed this style of nipping off and playing
places where only the locals turn up. They're in the
enviable position of sticking a pin in the map and
going where they want. " -
A Prodigy spokesman
XL RECORDINGS EXPLAINS 'SMACK MY BITCH UP'
Perhaps inevitably, there has been a certain amount of controversy surrounding the Prodigy track "Smack My Bitch Up". As always, it's important that when controversial issues are discussed, they are discussed intelligently and with full regard for the facts of the case. For the record :
The phrase "Change My Pitch Up / Smack My Bitch
Up" is not a lyric, it's a sample, taken from
an old hip hop track called "Give The Drummer
Some" by Ultramagnetic MCs. The vocalist is Kool
Keith, aka Dr .Octagon. "Smack My Bitch Up"
is instrumental apart from the use of this phrase.
- Given that there are no more words than that, it's impossible to say that the song exhorts, glorifies, or even describes anything at all.
- The aggressive impact of the sample is carefully balanced by a beautiful female Indian vocal perfomed by Shahin Badar.
- In Prodigy songs, "bitch" doesn't always refer to women - "Firestarter" has Keith singing "I'm the bitch you hated"
- Despite their extreme image, Prodigy are categorically opposed to violence against women - or indeed, any kind of gratuitous violence. Journalists who interview them in person routinely comment about their relaxed, easy going and entirely unconfrontational manner.
- However much the media want to make an issue of this, the fact remains that Prodigy credit their audience with enough intelligence not to literally interpret or act out their song lyrics - no-one committed arson after hearing "Firestarter" (or hyper-ventilated after hearing "Breathe").
Story behind the cover and the release delay
The original artwork featured a photograph of a VW Beetle wrapped around a lamp post. The release date of single was scheduled to October 27 but because death of Diana, Princess Of Wales it was delayed. So they changed the original cover to this seen on top of the page. Liam Howlett, who is well-known for his love of VW Beetles and camper vans, told: "It was the right sleeve at the wrong time. "
A Beetle crashed into a pole which was said to be the front of Smack My Bitch Up.
News Of The World Dec 08, 1997 Kmart Joins Ban Of Prodigy's
'Smack My Bitch Up' by Michael Goldberg
Melody Maker January 1998 (The Prodigy Explain The Meaning Of SMBU...)
MTV September 3rd 1998 Beastie Boys Battle Prodigy Over 'Smack My Bitch Up'