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This week’s Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics: “Ex-girlfriend” – Wu-Tang Clan

overanalyzing wutang

This week’s Over-analyzing rap lyrics comes courtesy of the always great Wu-Tang Clan. But as I was researching, writing, studying, and singing in the shower (my normal over-analyzing process) I made a startling conclusion:

Wu-Tang Clan wrote a Taylor Swift song before Taylor Swift was even Taylor Swift. And it’s called “Ex-girlfriend” and Taylor Swift is probably kicking herself (yes she can!*) for not having thought of it sooner.

“Ex-girlfriend”, primarily rapped by Method Man, is a song about a crazy ex who continues to plague the singer’s life even after they stop being romantically involved. Even though it has more references to guns and “boning” it can still be considered a prototypical break up song, the likes of which Taylor Swift has made famous. For example, at one point Method Man admits that he knew she was trouble when she walked in:

Shoulda listened when my momma told me, soon as I
turn my back you try to fuck my homies, that was then
this is now I got a new friend, ever since
I cut them loose ends you wanna bone me

Yeah, Method, you should have listened to your momma, but you couldn’t help yourself and got entangled with a person you knew was bad for you. Tsk Tsk.

"Preach it, Method." - Taylor Swift

“Preach it, Method.” – Taylor Swift

Luckily for Method, he realized what a “mean” person she was and so cut off the relationship, and wants this song to announce to his ex, “We are never ever getting back together”:

And used up, pull your shoes up, all you need’s affection
but you’re headed in the wrong direction
Tryin to make this nigga jealous, with other fellas
All up in my face actin overzealous
Like you want somethin from Meth, I hope it ain’t love girl
Cause I ain’t got none left for you, plus you miserable
Misery Love Company, shit I’m livin comfortably, don’t need no
nigga huntin me down for fuckin round, with his kitty
Talk to him, before my brother put a spark through him
Won’t be pretty, the situation got my whole attitude shitty
And got you actin high saditty with your slut committee

And because Method Man knows that happiness is the sweetest revenge for a lover scorned, he doesn’t hesitate to point out how happy he is with his – heavily armed – new girlfriend:

Let me find out that you fuckin with Boo, and y’all gon’ feel it
Waitin for the day that you front, and catch a lump
from my black butterfly, that don’t pack a lullaby
Sleep on her, she said you bitches tried to creep on her
in the mall and didn’t know she had the reach on her
Pearl-handled twenty-two, my Boo
She go ahead and walk her dogs, and represent Wu
to the fullest, you and hon can shoot the fair one
I’ll bring the bullets, knowhatI’msayin? Stop playin

It’s kind of like he’s saying his new girlfriend made a rebel out of a careless man’s careful rapper, and boy does it feel great. Also, he’s apparently really confident in her dueling ability, so sure in fact, that he even offers to provide the bullets. (Also, I think he’s suggesting she walks her dogs in the mall, which is probably not allowed.)

It goes to show that if you peel back the crude and vulgar veneer of a rap song, even one by Wu-Tang Clan, it exposes a commonality with simple human desires that anyone would wish for: to love, to live happily, and to be left alone by a crusty ass crew. Amen, Method Man. Amen.

"Word." - Taylor Swift

“Word.” – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift never seemed like a hardcore rapper but if she ever gets tired of winning 18 awards per Country Music Award show, she should consider trying her hand at the BET awards. I see a “Best New Rapper” award in her future, and even Kanye can’t argue with that.

[Author’s Note: I’m no stranger to intense research and exhaustively getting to the bottom of a topic that I plan on writing about, but the sheer volume of Taylor Swift’s body of work is stunning. I had no idea she was so prolific, not just in writing songs but also in making music videos for them. Having only picked up a rudimentary working knowledge of TSwift (kids call her “TSwift”) by simply being alive during the 21st century, I knew I had to do a closer examination if I ever hoped to write this article. That led me to her wikipedia page which… is probably one of the largest wikipedia pages I’ve ever seen. This thing is MASSIVE. Taylor Swift has apparently done more than the entirety of World War II. Her page is at least four times longer than U2’s Bono and about as long as The Rolling Stones’ entry. Next time you see that little “donation” bar at the top of the Wikipedia home page, just realize that 90% of donations MUST go to the massive, and constant, upkeeping and updating of Taylor Swift’s entry. Whether that causes you to donate MORE to wikipedia or LESS, that’s up to you.]

*If you get this reference you are A) nearly as pathetic as me and B) worthy of a prize. Name the song and singer in the comment section and I’ll be impressed and possibly give you a prize. Hint: the reference isn’t that hard, you’re just really unhip.

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This week’s Over-analyzing rap lyrics: “Men in Black” – Will Smith (or possibly, Agent J)

overanalyzing will smith

This week, I was planning on doing a Will Smith song. Specifically, I hoped to do something off of Willennium, the 2nd studio album by Will Smith and the one where he boldly predicts that the 21st century would go down in history as the Willennium. He also sings about Y2K because in 1999 that was a fresh and popular reference. Although there are tons of great songs on Willennium, including “Wild Wild West” which was based off the movie Wild Wild West, something still bothered me. There was something I was missing. Then I remembered this:

That’s the music video for “Men in Black” based off the movie Men in Black. It’s also insane. It’s also a lot of fun. It also has really poorly CGI’d aliens dancing some sort of variation of the electric slide.

As many people might remember, a variation of this music video played at the end of Men in Black. So the movie ends, the credits start, and this…thing… happens. As a kid, watching Men in Black in the theaters, I swooned. Now, I scratch my head at its audacity. If R.I.P.D. ended with Ryan Reynolds doing an extended dance number with a demon or ghost or whatever I would roll my eyes, laugh condescendingly at this pitiful attempt at “fun”, and probably write a scathing tweet making fun of it. But, for whatever reason, with Will Smith and Men in Black, it was fitting.

It does bring up the unanswered question of how exactly we are supposed to contextualize this video in the larger make up of the movie. For example, is this Will Smith – beloved Hollywood icon and rapper – singing, or is it Agent J – wise cracking, world saving, agent working for the MiB?

The video offers some clues.

One thing is that clearly the Will Smith in the video is supposed to be playing Agent J, and he certainly has enough inside information about MiB to make the case that he is, in fact, the agent himself.

From the deepest of the darkest of night
On the horizon, bright light enters sight tight
Cameras zoom, on the impending doom
But then like BOOM black suits fill the room up
With the quickness talk with the witnesses
Hypnotizer, neuralizer
Vivid memories turn to fantasies
Ain’t no M.I.B.’s, can I please
Do what we say that’s the way we kick it

In this verse for example, Will Smith makes passing references to many of the agency’s highly guarded secrets. I doubt he had clearance for that. Then again, Agent J never did like playing by the rules.

The movie never hints at Agent J being any good at rapping though. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if Agent J was good at rapping, he had a way of carrying himself that suggested a casual, hip hip-ness, but no where in the movie did he express any interest in saving the galaxy through verse. The only connection between the Agent J in the film and the Agent J in the music video is the general arrogance and swagger that both seem to possess and need to remind us of at every turn.

"You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good...and I have to compensate for low self esteem with an air of runaway confidence."

“You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good…and I have to compensate for low self esteem with an air of runaway confidence.”

Another perplexing thing about the video is the location. Much of the song seems to take place in the MiB building itself. When was it filmed? How was it filmed? Despite it being a top secret government agency, I’m sure it has some form of governmental oversight that might view dancing around singing about being galaxy defenders with dozens of staff, agents, and one potentially dangerous alien, as a bit of a waste of tax dollars. Perhaps it was classified as an instructional video for the benefit of new recruits, although the teachability of that is questionable.

Instead, it appears the whole thing was done, without permission, by Agent J himself. He obviously didn’t get into too much trouble because he returned for two more adventures in Men in Black 2 and 3It still must have been frowned upon. How else to explain the fact that NO ONE in any subsequent movie makes any mention of the time Agent J made a preposterous rap song and video using the MiB facility and staff?  Whether that is out of respect for a great field agent who has saved the planet many times over or because bringing up the music video is simply too embarrassing for everybody involved, we’ll never know.

will smith stare

This week’s Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics: “The Message” – Nas

As far as I’m concerned, Nas is one of the greatest rappers alive or dead (like Schrodinger’s cat, Nas remains in a perpetual state of quantum uncertainty until we observe him). His “flows” are very flowy and his rhymes all rhyme. He even raps with a message, especially when he titles his song “The Message”. Now, I’ll admit, even though I’m considered hip hop’s “Giver”, bravely remembering the rap songs and lyrics that society has chosen to forget about, I still struggle understanding all of Nas’ references. So dense is Nas’ lyrics that I’ve often heard him referred to as the J.R.R. Tolkien of hip hop (usually in or around comic book shops).

overanalyzing nas

Nas’ song, “The Message” is especially tough. It was written as both a “call out” to many of the rappers of the day (Biggie, Tupac, Jay Z, Vanilla Ice probably, etc.), but also a warning to any scrappy up and comers who may have it in their mind that they could take what Nas thought was rightfully his. Throughout the song, he litters the verses with references, inside jokes, and subtle jabs that can leave many listeners going “huh?” Well, no more! I took all night and, piece by piece, dissected every line until I felt that I had a firm grasp on the entire song.

Fake thug, no love, you get the slug, CB4 Gusto
Your luck low, I didn’t know til I was drunk though
You freak niggaz played out, get fucked and ate out
Prostitute turned bitch, I got the gauge out

These first few lines are a shot over the bow of Tupac and his west coast crew. Nas is saying “Listen, Tupac, you…FAKE! You are a fake thug! and fake thugs get no love. Not only that, they also get the slug (meaning “bullet”)” Discerning readers will pick up immediately on CB4 which, if you’ve read the Star Wars expanded universe novels, you would recognize as C3P0’s brother. He’s basically saying Tupac is a cowardly machine.

96 ways I made out, Montana way
The Good-F-E-L-L-A, verbal AK spray
Dipped attache, jumped out the Range, empty out the ashtray
A glass of ‘ze make a man Cassius Clay

96 is the number of songs on Nas’ “Illmatic” album, so he’s basically saying “Neener Neener, I made 96 songs and they’re all awesome and girls made out with me after listening to them”, it’s childish but it gets the point across. Montana is, of course, Scarface. Tony Montana has become popular with hip hop artists who relate to a man who comes from nothing and makes millions illegally and apparently not one rapper has bothered to watch the ending of Scarface.

A glass of ‘ze makes a man Cassius Clay because “‘ze” is a dark, heady Merlot and Muslim’s can’t drink alcohol, so he’s saying Muhammad Ali would revert back to Cassius Clay if he imbibed the ‘ze. There is no proof that Muhammad Ali ever did, though.

Red dot plots, murder schemes, thirty-two shotguns
Regulate wit my Dunn’s, 17 rocks gleam from one ring
Yo let me let y’all niggaz know one thing
There’s one life, one love, so there can only be one King

Legally, every rapper is required to report what firearms they own in every rap song they sing. This is not just for the public safety but also for their own as it gives the ATF agents a loose head count of potential murder weapons. Nas reports that he has thirty-two shotguns, a Dunn (also known as the Dunn 6 shot), and 17 rock(ets). This is about average, nothing really surprising here.

The final line is a slap in the face of Biggie Smalls, who was under the impression that he, not Nas was King of the East Coast rap game. This is Nas saying, “nope, I am the King” and Biggie felt pretty stupid after that and had to throw away all of his business cards.

The highlights of livin, Vegas style roll dice in linen
Antera spinnin on Milleniums, twenty G bets I’m winnin them
Threats I’m sendin them, Lex with TV sets the minimum
Ill sex adrenaline

Nas here is contrasting the life he once led (poor and disadvantaged) to the life he now leads (cushy and full of linens). “Twenty G” refers to the amount of force ( 1 G = Earth’s normal gravity) one can experience before the average person passes out. He’s betting that he’ll pass out because he’s so humbled by the weight of his success. Brilliant line. Literally not one human being knows what “Ill sex adrenaline” means. Some have speculated that perhaps that is – as the Bible alluded to – the true name of God (where the Hebrews abbreviated it to “Yahweh”). But that would be crazy…right?

Wet any clique, with the semi-tech who want it
Diamonds I flaunt it, chickenheads flock I lace em
Fried broiled with basil, taste em, crack the legs
way out of formation, it’s horizontal how I have em
fuckin me in the Benz wagon
Can it be Vanity from Last Dragon
Grab your gun it’s on though
Shit is grimy, real niggaz buck in broad daylight
with the broke Mac it won’t spray right
Don’t give a fuck who they hit, as long as the drama’s lit
Yo, overnight thugs, bug cause they ain’t promised shit
Hungry-ass hooligans stay on that piranha shit

Informationless filler.

I peeped you frontin, I was in the Jeep
Sunk in the seat, tinted with heat, beats bumpin
Across the streat you was wildin
Talkin bout how you ran the Island in eighty-nine

In the second verse, Nas paints a picture of a typical day in the life of Nas. He see’s a guy “frontin” while he hung out in a jeep, probably catching the end of a fascinating episode of NPR’s This American Life because that always happens to me. Across the street he see’s YOU wildin* (*wildin is defined as a colloquialism for “dancing” or “showboating”). YOU apparently were bragging about how you ran “the Island” in ’89. The Island, of course, being Rhode Island.

Rhode Island: Also the "Gansta's Paradise" mentioned by Coolio

Rhode Island: Also the “Gansta’s Paradise” mentioned by Coolio

Rhode Island is America’s weirdest state because it doesn’t elect officials, anyone can “run” Rhode Island, assuming they have a large enough army of child soldiers and malcontents to impose their will. In this case, Nas has foreshadowed the rise of #Kony, the crazed warlord who took the framework for Rhode Island’s military dictatorship and said, “If it’s good enough for Rhode Island, It’s good enough for Africa”. Nas has nothing but contempt for, what he considers, the illegitimate rulers of Rhode Island, especially blowhards such as YOU.

Layin up, playin the yard with crazy shine
I cocked a baby 9 that nigga gravy mine, clanked him
What was he thinkin on my corner when it’s pay me time
Dug em you owe me cousin somethin told me plug him

A baby 9 is, of course, not a real baby. That would be insane. No, a “baby 9” is a 9 year old. In this case, Nas wanted (“cocked”) a 9 year old to rob a stranger across the street. But the kid refused, citing a moral objection to theft and murder, so Nas went himself.

He “dug em”, meaning he shoved him playfully. Then he said “you owe me, cousin” because, oh yeah, this was literally his cousin (skeeter).

Skeeter, Nas' cousin

Skeeter, Nas’ cousin

But something in the back of his head kept saying “plug him”, meaning murder him because Nas is basically the Son of Sam and his cousin Skeeter is the barking dog.

So dumb, felt my leg burn, then it got numb
Spun around and shot one, heard shots and dropped son
Caught a hot one, somebody take this biscuit ‘fore the cops come
Then they came askin me my name, what the fuck

Nas gets shot. He feels pretty foolish about it, but not for long. He quickly spins around and shoots indiscriminately, probably killing that 9 year old because only the good die young. He “caught” a “hot” “one”, meaning he got shot which is something he already said but sometimes in rap you have to repeat yourself to make things stick.

He tells his “crew” to take his biscuit. This part is actually often misrepresented. The correct lyric is “take THESE biscuits” because Nas has both a gun – which he refers to as a biscuit because its “hot”, and he also has a real, actual biscuit because breakfast is absolutely the most important meal of the day and the science backs me up on this.

Then the cops ask Nas his name, which he is surprised by even though that seems like a pretty obvious question to ask when you find a person lying in a pool of their own blood ranting about biscuits. I’m actually pretty sure that this is what the Police call “standard operating procedure”.

I got stitched up and went through
Left the hospital that same night, what
Got my gat back, time to backtrack
I had to drop so how the fuck I get clapped

While he is being rescued by the brave men and women who go to battle daily in this nation’s Emergency Rooms and ask nothing in return except massive amounts of insurance money, Nas wonders how he got shot. He had the drop on this guy, he should have been the one murdering somebody that day NOT almost getting murdered. It really wasn’t fair.

Black was in the Jeep watchin all these scenes speed by
It was a brown Datsun, and yo nobody in my hood got one
That clown nigga’s through, blazin at his crew daily
The ‘Bridge touched me up severely hear me?

Now, Black could either refer to a friend of Nas’ or Lewis Black, outspoken comedian and political lightning rod. Let’s assume it was Nas’ friend. Black mentions to Nas that a brown Datsun fled the scene and nobody in his hood had one of those (they are taboo). Also, apparently, the man driving it was a clown or in clown make up or had clownish features, the lyrics here are intentionally vague. We, as the audience, are meant to imagine OUR OWN clown, enabling us to relate more deeply. Nas swears that guy is a goner. He also blazes at his crew daily which is not very nice.

The “Bridge” refers to Queensbridge, the neighborhood that Nas grew up in. He’s saying, “my neighborhood has severely touched me and I will DIE protecting its honor, and also I hope I make enough money to never have to go back there”.

So when I rhyme it’s sincerely yours
Be lightin L’s sippin Coors, on all floors in project halls
Contemplatin war niggaz I was cool with before
We used to score together, Uptown coppin the raw
But uhh, a thug changes, and love changes
and best friends become strangers, word up

Shameless Coors plug that netted Nas 10 million dollars in sponsorship money. He also mentions, although briefly, his plans to enlist in the military, perhaps as a way of straightening his life out. He contemplates going to war and decides he was “cool” even before being a soldier so he doesn’t need that to be cool. He also reflects on how life changes people, even ones you thought were close friends.

The song ends, not with a bang, but with a “word up” because, yeah, word up…

How true to life is the movie version of “The Conjuring”

The-Conjuring

This weekend, I took time out of my busy schedule of channel surfing and checking twitter to watch “The Conjuring”, the latest in a string of “based on true events” exorcism movies that have been coming to theaters near you (or RIGHT BEHIND YOU AHHH) for years now. I suspended my disbelief and enjoyed the movie for its creepiness, inventiveness and downright cinematographic artistry (yeah, it really does have some beautifully shot sequences). I really liked this movie, but I also didn’t know much about the story behind it before sitting in that darkened theater.

The film tells the story of a family, the Perrons, who arrive at their freshly purchased house (they got it cheap at an auction…DUN DUN DUN). The family, a loving husband and wife and five daughters including an impressionable little girl and an angsty teen because every family needs one of each. Almost immediately it becomes clear that all is not well at this house. I actually admire the way the story doesn’t slip into a “what was that? Ah, probably just the wind.” cliche that makes audiences pull their hair out as they watch the family confront the obvious and miss it time and time again. In this movie, all pretense that this house is just eerie and not definitely haunted is gone in about a day. After that, it almost shifts entirely to a fight for survival because, even after consulting the paranormal fighting duo we learn is the Warrens, it’s clear that this house has it out for the family. The movie itself is remarkably unoriginal and yet somehow doesn’t feel that way. The scares are straightforward and obvious but you still find yourself jumping when the inevitable “AHHH” moment happens. I also give credit to a few of the sequences that are just plain fun for an audience. In one scene, a girl is convinced that a ghost is lurking just beyond the shadows as her sister stands in front. Nothing happens for a long time, but as the young girl’s terror mounts, our eyes scan frantically around the shadow darkened room trying to catch a glimpse of something, anything, that could confirm our suspicion that something sinister is in that room with those two girls. It’s great fun and the payoff is amplified by making us do our own work.

After I got home, curious to see what “really happened”, I tried to do some research on the real ghost hunters: Ed and Lorraine Warren (made famous for investigating – or inventing – the Amnityville haunting). Ed and Lorraine Warren are a husband and wife team of paranormal investigators who started a private practice of sorts of going into creepy, wooden houses and explaining what was going bump in the night. They’re Catholic so, spoilers, it was usually satanic demons. As a story concept, I love the Warrens. A husband and wife team, hunting demons, he a demonologist, she a clairvoyant. That could totally be a movie… and in “The Conjuring” it finally is. While Ed has passed away, Lorraine is still alive and consulting on various paranormal investigations and/or publicity stunts, including “Paranormal State” the eye roll inducing paranormal investigation show where guys standing around in the dark with night vision goggles taping themselves freaking themselves out and calling it “science”.

Unfortunately for MY paranormal investigating into the truth behind “The Conjuring”, the details are hard to come by. That is because, like I mentioned earlier, the film has so thoroughly marketed itself around this story that the ACTUAL story is hard to find. Goggling “true story of The Conjuring” gets you about a hundred links that mainly talk about the movie and the spooky stuff that happens in it. Apparently, most people are under the impression that this was a documentary (hint: it’s not even close). Even the articles that talk about the actual crime frame it in such a way that it reads as if an intern for New Line Cinema wrote it. Look for lines like: “While all the creepy events that happened in the farmhouse can’t be shown in a two hour movie, the filmmakers were able to give an accurate portrayal by condensing and streamlining the haunting.” Thanks for nothing.

Also, one of the daughters who experienced the events in the farmhouse, Andrea Perron, self published a book about it which, instead of illuminating the facts, makes them more dubious. If you’re keeping score, we now have three parties (The Warrens, Andrea Perron, and the filmmakers) who all have financial and reputational stakes in this thing appearing real and terrifying. As a cynical stick in the mud, that doesn’t give me much confidence in the treatment of the source material.

Further stifling an honest look into the haunting is the premise that the Warren’s put forward (and the movie’s advertising exploited) that this haunting was simply too traumatic or too scary for it to be talked about for 30 years. Yeah, right. But because of that, little has been researched or written about this particular “case”. The Amnityville haunting gets much of the attention – having already been made into a famous horror movie – so even the Warren’s wikipedia page does not include a mention of “The Conjuring” case.

Finally, I found a website that at least had a few facts about the actual case, and how they were expressed in the movie. Over at Chasingthefrog.com, an article was devoted to filling in these blanks. While the article still does little to shine a hard light on the events it does contrast the two stories: The one that was told in 1971 and the one being portrayed in the movie. For example, in the movie there is a doll named “Annabelle” which becomes possessed by an evil entity and whose role extends beyond the separate case and into the actual Perron one (I guess demons help each other out, their satanic entities not monsters!). In real life, that case was a separate one entirely and never the two did meet. (Again as a cynical stick in the mud, I can’t help but think that this doll and the role it plays in the film is more about stoking the ego of Lorraine Warren by personally injecting her and her family into the drama where they would normally only play a supportive role. Whether this was done by the Warrens themselves or by the filmmakers trying to spice up the later act of the movie I was never able to uncover although I will update this article should I come across an answer.)

Another example, and this one is probably the most telling in terms of how a movie can dramatize a nebulous conjecture, is the entire premise of the haunting. If you haven’t seen the movie, this next portion contains some spoilers.

In the film, the Warren’s pinpoint a witch, named Bathsheba Sherman for some reason known only to her parents, from the 1800s who lived on the farm that the Perron family now resides. It appears she was caught sacrificing a young child to Satan (because why not?) and eventually hung herself from a tree in the backyard of the property. This lady or demon or ghost or whatever now possesses the house as if possessing a person (because if you’re a self professed clairvoyant, you can say things like that with a straight face and no one can really disprove it) and it attaches itself to the humans that enter it. It is this demon that must be exorcised by Ed Warren at the climax and it’s really suspenseful in the movie and… well, almost entirely made up by Ed and Lorraine Warren in a reach so far that it trespasses into Miss Cleo territory.

miss cleo

Please don’t call Miss Cleo now.

In real life, Bathsheba really did exist. Unfortunately, she never sacrificed a child to Satan. Instead a child died in her care, and the townspeople assumed it was from some sort of sacrifice because in the 1800s “townspeople” were idiots and literally stopped going to school after 5th grade to work on farms. She was even acquitted for the crime in a trial. She then lived well into her 70s and metaphorically hung herself by dying of an age related illness. But those creaks in the floorboards at the farmhouse (which, by the way, wasn’t even where she lived but next to it) are definitely Bathsheba’s ghost, guys.

Pictured: Bathsheba as imagined by Ed Warren

Pictured: Bathsheba as imagined by Ed Warren

So, sadly, unlike the movie the real events at the Perron’s house was much less overt and much more “drafts” and creaks. Ironically, the obligatory “skeptic” in the movie, a police office who for some reason needs to accompany the Warrens on their investigation, gets made fun of throughout for his laughable belief that what was happening could be the work of air flow and a house shifting under its weight. If anyone should be vindicated for what happened there it was this (fictional) guy. Good on him for holding out for a rational explanation while everyone else played a figurative game of “bloody mary”. Maybe while the rest of the group panicked and stoked conjecture, he had the sense to look up who the supposed witch was. Armed with that knowledge, I bet he could exorcise the demon more thoroughly than any Catholic ritual, and all he’d need was some WD-40.

This week’s Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics: “Forgot about Dre” – Dr. Dre feat. Eminem

rap lyrics dre

This week’s Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics is the lyrical smackdown that is “Forgot about Dre”. As a reminder to rappers, and the white suburban kids who buy their music, that Dr. Dre was indeed still alive and rapping, Dre and Eminem released “Forgot about Dre” to set the record straight. While Dre’s two verses are stinging, fun, and genius, the portion I want to focus on is the insane, threat laden non sequitur that is Eminem’s verse.

Let’s have a listen (Eminem starts at 1:25):

“Forgot about Dre” came out in 2000 to critical and popular success. It was also during Eminem’s “controversial period” that last from roughly the time he sold his first record to about 2008 (with the release of his middling “Relapse” album, that was not as controversial for the simple reason that mom’s in Nebraska probably didn’t even realize it was out). Way back in 2000, though, “Slim Shady” was ruining America.

Slim Shady, or Eminem, or Marshall Mathers, or Rabbit, or that guy who is ruining America, was knee deep in a cultural backlash for his violent, profanity laden rap style that shocked parents and delighted their kids. It was an image he was both aware and cultivator of. Much later, perhaps as his daughter grew up, he became more reflective, mature and… actually still pretty vulgar. In 2000, he worked on a song with friend and mentor, Dr. Dre, but I’m completely blanking on the name (and yes, I’ve been waiting to use that joke for 13 years).

So what do you say to somebody you hate
Or anybody tryna bring trouble your way
Wanna resolve things in a bloodier way
Just study your tape of NWA.
One day I was walking by
With a Walkman on
When I caught a guy giving me an awkward eye
And strangled him off in the parking lot with his Karl Kani
I don’t give a fuck if it’s dark or not
I’m harder than me tryna park a Dodge
But I’m drunk as fuck
Right next to a humongous truck in a two car garage
Hopping out with two broken legs tryna walk it off
Fuck you too bitch call the cops
I’ma kill you and them loud ass motherfucking barking dogs
And when the cops came through
Me and Dre stood next to a burnt down house
With a can full of gas and a hand full of matches
And still weren’t found out
From here on out it’s the Chronic 2
Starting today and tomorrow’s the new
And I’m still loco enough
To choke you to death with a Charleston chew
[Record scratch]
Slim shady hotter than a set of twin babies
In a Mercedes Benz with the windows up
And the temp goes up to the mid 80’s
Calling men ladies
Sorry Doc but I been crazy
There is no way that you can save me
It’s OK go with him Hailie

"Whatchu talkin' bout, Em?"

“Whatchu talkin’ bout, Em?”

I have a theory about what happened:

Eminem wrote this verse without having seen Dr. Dre’s song. Probably, Dre told him he wanted him to contribute to a song that was a “screw you” to the haters but that he didn’t have it written yet, and so, out on tour somewhere or perhaps in court divorcing his estranged wife for the 15th time, Eminem wrote his verse. If that isn’t the case then the verse makes absolutely no sense in the context of the song. It doesn’t even have the same vibe. Where Dre confines himself to bragging about his success and gently reminding that he is a legend in the rap game, Eminem departs from that theme to explore an altogether trashier hypothetical. It’s a narrative about himself as he paints the town red with unprovoked violence, drunk driving and attempted pet murder. If anything, it shows a level of immaturity that kinda makes me want to forget about Dre and Eminem. Biggie and Tupac dying in a silly, “west coast vs. east coast” pissing contest was tragic, but Eminem and Dre going to jail for life because they burned down a house and killed a barking dog is pathetic. Although Slim thinks that they “still weren’t found out”, I imagine it wouldn’t take much for a young, scrapping, enterprising prosecutor to connect the dots.

“And do you admit that it was you, Marshall Mathers III, who was seen by SEVERAL witnesses holding a can full of gas and a handful of matches the night of the fire? And might I remind you that you are under oath, sir!”

Eminem has made a career out of being a braggart. Even before he had anything to brag about, even on his first album, he spent the entire set list acting like he was entitled to more credit than he was being given. For a while, that credit went underserved, even as he sold a trillion records (citation needed). He eventually earns the credit he always felt he was due, but this song is a rather odd deviation. I don’t know, maybe he had just awoken from a night of drinking, driving, and arson and he remembered the old adage, “Write what you know.”

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Pay no attention to the little green line: A writer’s lament!

green lineSometimes I hate Microsoft Word. I wish I could tell it that I’m not writing a thesis paper, or perfecting my cover letter, or typing up a congressional report: I’m making ART. It’s going to be messy. I’m going to use fragments. My fragments are going to fragment. I’ll throw in a run-on sentence where it’s needed. Jackson Pollock didn’t have to deal with this crap.

Jackson-Pollock-1943-Mural-631

Pictured: Fragment (Consider Revising)

If that little anthropomorphized paper clip were still around I would give him a serious talking to (I’m a writer, I don’t need to justify what I do at my writing desk. I’ll talk to a virtual paperclip if I please!). I’d inform him that maybe he should focus more on making sure I don’t accidentally use “there” when I mean “their” (yeah, I do it sometimes. Arrest me, grammar police!), instead of underlining every other sentence in obnoxious, judgmental green. “Um, stop writing please. You’ve got a fragment here. Consider revising.” Hemingway would have killed Clippy. He wouldn’t have put up this.

Clippy

What’s the opposite of a muse? Clippy!

Don’t get me wrong, I bet Microsoft Word has really helped cover letter authors, thesis writers, congressional interns, but putting “Slaughterhouse-Five” into a word document should be considered high treason, such is the offensiveness. That masterpiece of a book would stand no chance against the silent, heartless, soulless grammarian that is this programs internal algorithms. Ignore the power. Ignore the sentiment. Does it violate “noun+verb=sentence”? Then, sorry Mr. Vonnegut, it appears you’ve got some fragments. Consider revising. So it goes.

Even if they can’t articulate it, I bet there isn’t an author on the planet whose favorite color is that shade of green. On some primordial, intangible level, that shade of green represents stagnation, interruption, and – the authors worst foe of all – doubt. How could an author love a color that represents such antipathy towards the creative process. Clippy is clearly not a writer, but surely he can relate. We, like him, are often ignored. Our egos are paperclip thin. We both tell inconvenient truths if we’re doing our jobs well. So back off. Let me write. If you think I need a semi-colon, wait until I’ve finished my thought. If you notice a fragment, consider that maybe it’s important. Maybe it’s exactly where I want it. Right where it belongs.

I know. I know. Just turn off “spell and grammar check”, some will say. It’s not that simple! That feels like cheating. If I did that, then I’d be wondering where the green lines would be. I can’t work under such fascism. Instead, I plead for understanding. Heck, maybe even give me some encouragement. When I write a particularly good line, grammar be damned, underline it in yellow. “Great alliteration!” that yellow line would say. “Wow, powerful stuff!” that yellow line would say. “Cool opening paragraph, but a bit contrived don’t you think?” watch it yellow line, don’t ruin this.

I doubt Microsoft can, or will, change Microsoft Word just for us writers. It’s sold in Microsoft Office for a reason. It’s for TPS reports and interoffice memos, not short stories and unfinished novels. Besides, the word “office” implies jobs and authors don’t have jobs (haha… aw), so it’s up to us – the authors – to soldier on, ignoring critics from without and, sadly, within. Like we always have. So it goes.

Why I’m not in “Grown Ups 2”: An article by Rob Schneider

rob schneider

Rob Schneider, star of many bad movies

Hey gang, remember me? Rob Schneider? You know, that guy from every Adam Sandler movie? Turn on your tv right now, go to Comedy Central. More than likely it will be playing “The Hot Chick”. Yep, that’s me.

Anyway, a lot of my die hard fans (they call themselves “schnei-hards”) will have noticed that I’m not in Adam Sandler’s new movie Grown Ups 2 despite the fact that I appear desperate to play in any movie projects that comes my way. Literally anything. Well, sorry to disappoint but I could not, in good conscience, appear in Grown Ups 2.

You see, just like Jim Carrey, said about Kickass 2, I feel that my movie roles mean more than simply playing a character on the screen for belly laughs. I have a responsibility as an influencer of pop culture to use my power for good. After Newtown, the Boston bombing, and Paula Deen, I couldn’t be a part of Grown Ups 2.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Adam Sandler has shaped Grown Ups 2 into just the kind of awful, unfunny, scatological groan fest that I would – up until recently – kill to be attached to. Heck, I’ll probably plop down the ten bucks to go see it if somebody lets me borrow ten bucks (I’ll get you back, I promise). I had a blast making the first one and watching it do really well despite how objectively terrible it was. I can’t wait for Grown Ups 2 to do the same. In fact, if it does do well and thereby assures Adam Sandler’s career continues despite all logic, I’m totally game to do another project with him, especially if it pays me ten dollars or more.

As an actor of some note, I have managed to walk the fine line between celebrity and privacy. My wife and I just recently welcomed a child into our life and TMZ didn’t even ask for exclusive rights to the first pictures of the baby. But sometimes it’s important to use your larger star power as a vehicle for awareness. In this case, I plead with viewers to think of the crimes against humanity that are occuring daily in Syria while watching Nick Schwardson poop his pants in a movie you paid money to see. We can learn from this. Also, I’m sure Adam Sandler has like a charity or something so when you buy a ticket for this movie you’re probably giving money to charity or something. But again, I am NOT in this movie because I’m against genocide and even though one has nothing to do with the other, I think I owe it to the world to ask, “what if it does?”

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Jesus, this movie looks bad

Until then though, I think it’s better to take my absence from the movie as a symbolic protest against mass shootings, or terrorism, or racism, or maybe something else. I think we owe that to the victims of our nation’s insane gun culture, or maybe to the victims of sexism, or something else entirely. Look, I’m not here to tell you WHAT you take my absence from Grown Ups 2 to mean, that’s up to you. It’s a free country. But just know, while you’re watching that movie and wondering how a movie with that many poop jokes got made, that I turned it down.

Oh, and immunization shots cause autism.

XOXO,

Rob

Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics: “Hypnotize” – Notorious B.I.G.

I’m starting a new weekly segment called “Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics” where I over-analyze rap lyrics, picking one song by one rapper to over-analyze.

This week, we’ve got “Hypnotize” by No! No! Notorious! B.I.G.!

overanalyzingraplyrics_biggieNow, there are many segments of this song that I could choose from: He throws a lot of references out at us – only half of them I understand – and I could spend an entire day over-analyzing the criminal way Puff Daddy (as he was probably referred to at that point, although maybe it was “Puffy”) tries to steal the lime light in literally every single scene he’s in during the music video, but the verse I want to focus on comes about half way through the song. Let’s take a look (skip to 2:40):

Pretty intense, huh? But in case you were too caught up in the rhymes or distracted by Puff Daddy doing everything he could to get attention, here’s the lyrics:

I put hoes in NY onto DKNY (uh-huh)
Miami, D.C. prefer Versace (that’s right)
All Philly hoes, dough and Moschino (c’mon)
Every cutie wit a booty bought a Coogi (haaaaah!)
Now who’s the real dookie, meaning who’s really the shit
Them niggas ride dicks, Frank White push the sticks
on the Lexus, LX, four and a half
Bulletproof glass tints if I want some ass
Gonna blast squeeze first ask questions last
That’s how most of these so-called gangsters pass
At last, a nigga rappin bout blunts and broads
Tits and bras, ménage à trois, sex in expensive cars
I still leave you on the pavement
Condo paid for, no car payment
At my arraignment, note for the plaintiff
Your daughter’s tied up in a Brooklyn basement (shh)
Face it, not guilty, that’s how I stay filthy (not guilty)
Richer than Richie, till you niggas come and get me

Now, obviously putting hoes in DKNY and Versace isn’t a crime, nor is rapping about blunts and broads, tits and bras, menage a trois, OR EVEN sex in expensive cars but whatever it was, Biggie ends on the revelations that he has clearly been arrested for something. That’s terrible. How are you going to get out of this one Biggie? Especially since you don’t even deny having done whatever crime it was that they charged you with.

Well, Biggie goes on to explain that you needn’t be worried because at his arraignment, he or one of his crew hand a note to the plantiff that explains that his or her daughter is tied up in a Brooklyn basement. The Plantiff, fearing for his daughters life, makes the sensible decision to drop the charges and allow Biggie Smalls to remain richer than Richie. Hurray!

richierich

Although, to be fair, Richie Rich did lose most of his fortune when the housing market crashed.

But hold up a second, big guy. Your plan is literally insane and certain to fail. You just sowed the oats of your own future conviction.

Let’s think about this:

The Plaintiff arrives at the trial of a Brooklyn gang member, presumably with fairly solid evidence against him (or why else would Biggie take such extreme measures). At the arraignment, the defendant hands him a note that says “I have your daughter tied up somewhere in Brooklyn”, the Plaintiff panics, dropping all charges…

… and then what?

Notorious B.I.G. has to let the girl go. If he doesn’t, then the Plaintiff will not only go to the police (under the ghetto code of “you kidnap and murder my daughter, I have you arrested and put in prison for life”), but will have fairly strong circumstantial evidence supporting the idea that Biggie Smalls was at the very least an accessory to kidnapping and murder. But let’s say Biggie isn’t stupid and let’s the girl go. She stumbles out of that Brooklyn basement and into her mother and father’s embrace and after a long few minutes where they let the relief wash over them…

… the plaintiff can again go immediately back to the judge and explain the situation, thereby ensuring that Biggie Smalls is NOT ONLY re-charged with his original crimes but now gets to go through the whole process with “kidnapping”, “wrongful imprisonment”, and “extortion”, tacked on.

Not to mention, Biggie’s mom would probably be so disappointed in him.

My verdict is that Notorious B.I.G. would NOT want to do this if he wanted to stay richer than Richie. Instead, he should hire a great defense attorney with the money he got from his hit record (or sell his yacht) and perhaps get into the kind of robbery that’s legal: say, investing in Wells Fargo.

wells fargo rapRepresent.

Orson Scott Card’s “apology” is pathetic

As the Ender’s Game movie adaptation release date edges nearer the heat is turning up for the writer of the book whose vocal homophobia is coming back to haunt him. While Card has never shied away from saying just what he thinks of homosexuals, the increased support for gay marriage and the timing of his movie have had the combined effect of making him rethink his image if not his position.

In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, Card provides the rationale for why you should not boycott his latest cash cow and, if anything, feel sorry for a man who just wanted to publicly express his intolerance in peace and without fear of backlash:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Orson Scott Card

orson scott card

“So are we cool?” – Orson Scott Card

The statement isn’t long so I think it would be apt to discuss it all. It’s amazing how its sheer concentration of condescending offensiveness allows us to get such a clear picture of the way Card’s mind works. I guess that’s why he’s a great writer, he really knows how to get to the core truths of a person, even himself.

Part one, or Denial: Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

The apology opens up with a flat out denial that Ender’s Game could even possibly touch on homosexuality or gay rights because gay rights didn’t exist in 1984.

StonewallSign

To the uninitiated, that statement might seem… well… insane, but if we take a step back and look at through the lens of Orson Scott Card it is completely logical. That’s because Orson Scott Card still believes that homosexuality is a choice, and furthermore, that it’s a choice that people make specifically to subvert traditional “society”. Gay people want to destroy our society and they won’t stop loving each other until every corner of America is reduced to rubble. You got to hand it to Card, he does have a pretty strong view on the power of love.

Part two, or resignation: With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

You win, gay people and society haters. Chicken Little has thrown in the towel. While I do think, and hope, that he is right and eventually every state will recognize gay marriage (perhaps, unfortunately, in the unheroic but still effective way Pennsylvania is currently paving the way towards gay marriage), Card seems to think that because his side “lost” (as if civil rights should have sides other than “what’s right”), the battle is over and therefore he shouldn’t be persecuted for something that happened so long ago, way back to like a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps Orson Scott Card hasn’t seen this map:

Although, considering gay rights didn’t even exist until at least 1985, I guess he probably considers this a bit too fast.

Part 3, or victimhood: Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

If Orson Scott Card had simply published the first paragraphs I probably would have wrote him off as just another out of touch bigot who doesn’t deserve to even be given a response, so idiotic is his position, but this last part seems to be a more and more common position now that homophobia is becoming viewed as what it is: pathetic and shameful. The Onion’s AVclub satirized this ludicrous response better than I ever could, but I’ll take a swing at explaining it.

Now that more than 50% of the country views gay marriage as a civil right and ethically justified, the old position of institutionalized bigotry that had gotten used to being unchallenged and culturally encouraged is starting to make its proponents look kinda bad. Even worse, when one of its most vocal proponents has a new movie coming out which is now threatened because of the terribly offensive things the writer said about homosexuality, it’s all together unfair. I mean really gay rights supporters, isn’t boycotting a man who has given support in time, money and writing to preventing gay people from marrying because of his personal views laying it on a bit thick? Stop persecuting Orson Scott Card just because he has made it a priority to persecute others!

Ignoring the part where Card thinks that this issue has somehow been completely resolved, the premise that homophobes are in danger of being victimized is preposterous. For proof, we should look to another instance in our history that required us to rethink the way we conceptualized marriage and how people were allowed to participate in it: Let’s think about interracial marriage. Or rather, let’s think about the fact that other than overt racists and octogenarians, no one thinks about the legality of interracial marriage as a divisive issue. But it was. But now it’s not. It’s called progress, and what’s crazy about progress is that unlike the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, you can change your mind on an issue. That’s what most of America is currently doing. That’s what Obama did. That’s what Orson Scott Card doesn’t want to do. Which is fine, but don’t expect to not experience some embarrassment when you express a view that everyone else has evolved away from.

evolution of gay rightsDon’t worry, Orson Scott Card, I still think Ender’s Game is a pretty great book but your personal views leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe those views (which, you just proved you still believe in, having learned absolutely nothing while the world moved on) will affect ticket sales, maybe they won’t, but that’s not intolerance, that’s you getting left out in the cold because you were too busy having a temper tantrum and forgot to grow up.

Not in my back yarn! Episode 2

This week on Not in my back yarn! we have a very lively and roundabout discussion on the nature of writing and how we, as mere mortals, ever conceive of an interesting story, character or both. We also veer widely into several tangents that, I think, explore some interesting ground such as the tricky, scary world of storytelling in video games (the concept for a future episode perhaps?). Broad in scope, bulging in all the right places, this episode is all about the origins of ideas. Hope you enjoy and as always, have a happy new year!