Around the age most young boys start to experience puberty and the changing of feelings for girls from “girl go somewhere” to “can I walk you home”, SWV’s debut album It’s About Time was racing up the charts, thanks in large part to the slow dance/crush on you classic “Weak.”
However as spring turned to summer in 1993, their next single turned the heat up in more ways than one. Sure, “Freak Me” by Silk was one song kids on the edge of junior high shouldn’t have been singing (a friend’s mom chased us around the block with a broom when we were singing that to girls walking by outside their house one day), but SWV took a page from the Millie Jackson playbook for “Downtown,” which became the slang du jour for oral sex performed on a woman.
Coko sang lead, as she did on most SWV joints, sensually declaring that it’s easy to “turn [her] world inside out.” So as the song pretty much goes, the way to “make it better” was to go downtown, please her orally.
Now you have to remember in 1993, this wasn’t exactly the height of sexual liberation for folks that were old enough to be doing that sort of thing, but the older neighborhood cats always said “Don’t do that.” I ended up like Richard Pryor on That N****r’s Crazy, but that’s neither here nor there.
The fact that a popular girl group in the early 90s, when the second wave of sexual revolution was still maybe a few years away, was telling a guy “You want to make things right? Get down there and do what you do” is brash and a serious gamble.
The gamble paid off as “Downtown” hit Number 2 on the R&B charts and helped It’s About Time reach top 10 status on the Billboard’s Hot 200 list.
“Downtown” probably won’t be remembered as making a so much of a grand statement that it singlehandedly got men to embrace oral sex for their women, but it at least gave the act a fun name. It didn’t sound as dirty as “Head” or “eating [vagina]” but it still had a meaning behind it. Where do you go to shop, eat and handle business more often than not? There it is.
It probably started women talking about their pleasure in songs, especially a couple of years later when Lil Kim rapped about men servicing her while she watched cartoons.
19 years later, I still can’t help but have that lil blush when Coko starts singing, but that’s probably the point of most sexually suggestive songs. To make you uncomfortable and make you think why do we think of sex in such dirty terms. Clearly SWV didn’t care. As long as you went Downtown.