I love hip hop and rap. There, I said it. And as a 31 year old woman, I have heard ALL of it. From RunDMC to whatever seems to be happening on the radio right now, I have tried to experience as much as possible.
My local radio station runs old school type songs in the early afternoon, and they played “Dear Mama” by Tupac the other day. This song never fails to remind me to believe in the rap industry. The story, the words, the music, everything comes together to create a picture of what is was like living as an African American in the projects. It makes me to get involved, and to be angry about the conditions so many African Americans continue to live in today. Having a black president may have been a major milestone for this country to have achieved, but we are far from achieving equality in this country. But I digress…
Watch the video. I specifically posted a video with lyrics because I want you to understand that this is a story that needs to be understood through Tupac’s performance. Enunciation is key. You probably don’t even need the lyrics to understand what he’s saying and to get the gist of the story.
Now, at the risk of sounding like an old person shaking their cane at the newfangled music those kids listen to today, I present: I’m a Stoner by Young Thug. You’re going to need the lyrics. I was riding in the car on my to campus for one of my last classes when this gem came on the radio. If you can make it through the entire thing, you are a stronger person than I. All I could think was “Why is this song happening to me?” It was like I was Stan in that episode of South Park where everything looks and sounds like shit to him. But then Beyonce was on and everything felt normal again.
There is literally NOTHING entertaining about this song. The music is so boring. Not Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” boring that you would want to get high to, just BORING. You could sit at a piano and hit three keys over and over again and have this song. Maybe my issue with the song is that he repeats himself over and over and over and over. And sucking bananas and eating pudding? Please. Just say what you mean and make your song even a little controversial. There is no lyrical creativity here at all. Is there a creative song about getting high you might ask? THERE ARE MANY. Purple Haze. Puff the mother fucking Magic Dragon. And even these guys could come up with a funny song about getting high that we can understand.
What a bunch of lazy goofballs! Wage garnishment is hilarious! Evading the cops and getting in a terrible accident is super funny! But what’s important here is we can understand what is happening because the words are understandable.
Now you might be ready to say, “But Amanda! Ebonics! You don’t understand because you’re not speaking their language!”
This is not ebonics. This is a bunch of words thrown together with just enough about sex (bananas and pudding), fine things (putting something on his wrist), bitches and hoes, and drugs to attract the attention of what seems to be the increasingly lowest common denominator majority. What Young Thug doesn’t understand is that those of us who aren’t stoners can still appreciate his music, if he could only make it good.
I’m not saying every song has to have a story, I’m not saying every hip hop song has to lay bare every inequity of the African American experience. Even Snoop Dog, in his hey day, was rollin’ down the street smokin’ and drinkin’ with Dr. Dre, but we can understand what he is saying and doing in the song. A good hip hop or rap song must be able to be understood. It is the rhythmic form of the spoken word which, as Notorious BIG once said, was meant to be a lyrical thesis. Whether that thesis is that cops aren’t to be trusted, or that you have the most banging sneakers, or that you are a stoner, it must be clearly stated and supported by lyrical evidence.
And so Young Thug, your songs will always cause me to change the station until you either up the musical ante so I can enjoy the beat and ignore what is coming out of your mouth (a la Little John) or you make what you are rapping about mean more than just repeating a bunch of words that you and your two closest buddies can understand (a la Pharrell).