Over the years, pop music has established countless guess-and-check sort of systems for ascertaining whether or not a loved one has cheated. The Honey Cone took note of lipstick and perfume on the collar as sure signs that their man had strayed. Destiny’s Child analyzed vocal patterns and inflection over the telephone to arrive at their conclusions. Oran “Juice” Jones decided to cut out the middleman and followed his girlfriend around until she was caught in the act with her alley-cat-coat-wearing, Hush-Puppy-shoe-wearing crumbcake friend. These methods all had their strenghts and weaknesses, but were generally more effective than not.
However, these methods all liked a certain directness, a quality of just going directly to the source. Taraji P. Henson, playing the long-suffering Yvette in John Singleton’s 2001 urban drama Baby Boy—a spiritual sequel of sorts to his decade-earlier breakthrough film Boyz n the Hood, though the critical reception was a lot less rapturous second time around—does not beat around the bush in such a manner when looking to confirm her suspicions that her man Jody (played by R&B star Tyrese) of sneaking around on her. Instead, she demands that he unceremoniously drop trou so she can sniff the smoking gun first hand, resulting in the following scene:
The scene is hilarious and unforgettable for a variety of reasons. A lot of those reasons have to do with the interaction between Henson and Tyrese—the YouTube clip embedded above is entitled “Tyrese vs. Wifey,” and that’s not an unfair description of the contrasting countenances of the duo. (Except that at this point in the movie, the couple are still unmarried, thus making the title technically inaccurate.) Henson is infuriated to the point of near hysterics, snapping all of her sentences and getting more agitated as it goes on, but Tyrese couldn’t really be less concerned with her suspicions, casually answering her “You been fucking around?” with a “nooope” and looking kind of amused when she goes in to examine the evidence. Clearly, this is not Jody’s first dick-sniffing rodeo.
But of course, the primary reason this scene is so funny is because of Yvette’s self-assuredness that her method of philander-detection is foolproof. The fallacies in her approach are numerous: Obviously, Jody could’ve taken any number of simple precautionary measures to prevent his genitals from evidencing unfaithfulness, from wearing a condom to forgoing penetration while engaging in other sexual acts to simply washing himself upon completion—truly, only the most arrogant of cheaters would allow themselves to be caught in such a manner. (Yvette herself acknowledges this after her inconclusive examination, saying that he indeed probably just washed himself after the fact.)
This scene was always great, but perhaps not quite iconic until the emergence of Riskay. The R&B singer, known (at least according to her MySpace page) as “The Drama Queen,” came to prominence in the late ’00s thanks to a cheating anthem of hers that quickly became a viral sensation of sorts: “Smell Yo’ Dick.” The entirely straight-faced ballad largely captured the attention of the internet thanks to its instantly memorable chorus: “Something’s goin’ on / Can I smell yo’ dick?”
The song may or may not be directly inspired by the Baby Boy scene—if you believe Riskay, the song was based on real-life experience, which turned out to be a successful and conclusive investigation (!!)—but it is almost certainly informed by it. It’s damn near impossible to hear the mewing, hyper-dramatic ballad as the musical vocalization of Yvettes’s fears and insecurities in the Baby Boy scene, especially in the shrill way she pleads “Don’t play me like a fool / cause that ain’t cool.”
At the very least, song and movie scene are certainly the twin pillars of the “Smell Yo’ Dick” cheating investigation strategy in popular culture. Given its 50% success rate in the two representative examples–not a bad percentage, all considered—we can only hope to see far more of it in music and film in the future.