I’m a white guy who grew up in a Mormon-heavy part of Oregon, and have a solid history of attending schools with roughly the same level of racial diversity as a KKK meeting.
I have also never been a huge fan of rap music – which is not to impugn its legitimacy as a form of self-expression – and the bulk of my experience with it comes from what I’ve heard at college parties or on my friends’ car radios.
After four years, these are my impressions.
(No information included herein is intended to be offensive to the artists, fans, or Black People™. Also, I have a very broad definition of what ‘rap music’ is, so don’t take issue if my selections are actually hip hop or something, Jack Brazil.)
Replay – Iyaz
Shawty’s like a melody in my head
That I can’t keep out
Got me singing like
Na na na na every day
Like my iPod’s stuck on replay.
My iPod has had plenty of problems, but getting stuck on replay isn’t one of them. Usually, when my iPod gets stuck, it freezes while cycling between songs and refuses to turn on or off – on my drive to California over the summer it locked up outside Sacramento, forcing me to listen to the only available radio station in Yolo County, which consisted entirely of mariachi bands.
Of course, ‘Shawty forces me to listen to a music genre that I’m not crazy about’ doesn’t have quite the same message. I’m just saying, I don’t know how Steve Jobs feels about a song highlighting a potential hardware malfunction in one of his main cash cows.
I guess Apple is doing pretty well right now, and the publicity probably can’t hurt them. Thank God Sean Kingston didn’t target the auto industry:
Got me singing like
Na na na na every day
Like my 1977 Ford Pinto got rear ended and exploded, killing me.
99 Problems – Jay-Z
If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you, son
I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one!
Up until now, I had heard this lyric as ‘I got 99 problems, but the bitch ain’t one.’ Use of the definite article ‘the’ suggested that while Jay-Z had a bitch, their love for one another was so strong that in spite of all the various other problems in his life, he knew that at the end of the day he could come home to his bitch to relax and enjoy her company.
As I saw it, the only thing Jay-Z could count on was his bitch, and this song was about how lucky he was to have such a bitch in his life, whereas everyone else had to deal with girl problems because their bitches weren’t of the same caliber as his bitch. It was sweet. I hoped to one day meet a bitch who made me feel the same way that Jay-Z’s did.
You know what I mean? The sort of bitch you can take home to meet Mom and Dad. The sort of bitch you could see yourself spending the rest of your life with.
So imagine my surprise when I see that it’s a bitch – indefinite article – that isn’t one of his problems. The implication now is that bitches, were they to play a bigger role in Jay-Z’s life, would be just as big of a problem as racist cops and a fundamentally broken criminal justice system, which isn’t nearly as endearing a message.
I’m like, fuck critics, you can kiss my whole asshole
If you don’t like my lyrics you can press fast forward!
…well, if you want to make me cry, Jay-Z, then mission accomplished. Dick.
Can’t Tell Me Nothing – Kanye West
People suing me
I’m on TV talking like it’s just you and me.
With all due respect, Kanye, I’ve seen you on TV before, and the way you talk isn’t how you’d be talking if it were just you and me. If you were, in fact, talking on TV like it was just you and me, there would probably be lots of awkward pauses, and you’d spend most of your time trying to steer the conversation away from Battlestar Galactica. That said, it would still be one of your least embarrassing TV appearances.
Let up the suicide doors
This is my life homie, you decide yours
I know that Jesus died for us
But I couldn’t tell you who decide wars
So I parallel double parked that motherfucker sideways
Old folks talkin’ about back in my day?
Class started two hours ago, oh am I late?
You know I already graduated
And you can live through anything if magic made it.
So you start out talking about suicide doors, an outmoded feature on old cars, then move into self-determination before talking about Jesus and then something about deciding wars. Then it’s another automotive reference with the line about parking, something about old people, a Saved By The Bell gag, and then perhaps one of the most perplexing lines in music history, ‘You can live through anything if magic made it.’
You know what magic made, Kanye? The One Ring. And let me tell you, one hell of a lot of people didn’t live through that fiasco. Just ask Boromir.
Miracles – Insane Clown Posse
Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
Look, I was going to do this thing where I posted the Wikipedia definition of how a magnet works, but to be honest, I’ve been skimming the article on magnets for a minute or so now and I haven’t found a concrete explanation.
So I guess what I’m saying is, good question, Insane Clown Posse. Let me know if you find out!
Truman Capps awaits the inevitable accusations of racism.