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.
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.
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.
Even though I try to be aware of challenges people different from myself experience (even “checking my privilege” here and there), it is to my great shame that I had never really given deaf people’s interaction with music much thought. If I thought of it at all, I probably assumed that there wasn’t much, that it was an experience wholly unknowable to a person who couldn’t hear. That misinterpretation was blasted away at extreme decibel levels last week when a video from the Bonnaroo music festival surfaced showing a American Sign Language interpreter KILLING IT along with the Wu-Tang Clan. Take a look:
What’s more embarrassing about my ignorance is how obvious it is that deaf people can still enjoy many forms of music. Duh. First, many of the deaf can still feel beats, giving them an experience of the tempo, rhythm and force of a song. Second, music (especially rap music) is often more about the lyrics behind a song than the notes played with it. A well written line can be just as powerful to a person reading it rather than hearing it (I should know, I have about a million books that testify to this). So it should be a given that musicians have hearing impaired fans too. Again: Duh.
After watching the video I looked up the woman behind the assume dance moves and ridiculously smooth signs. Her name is Holly Maniatty, a professional ASL interpreter who has made somewhat of a name for herself as being one of the best concert and festival interpreters around. And for good reason. The amount of time and effort she puts into researching an upcoming show is nothing short of awe inspiring. According to her own estimates, she spends around 50 to 100 hours researching the entire catalog of work of whatever musician she is working with. Along with that, she has to study the movements and style of each artists as well and tries her best to mimic it for the benefit of those watching her when not watching the artist him or her self. She describes it best here:
“[Eminem] has a very specific body cadence,” she said, “and if you’re able to mimic that, it almost looks like you are him. Jay-Z’s got a big boisterous chest-out way to rap sometimes. So you have to watch the different performers and watch how they move the body because the more genuine you are to their way of presenting themselves as an artist, the more equal of an experience the deaf person is going to have.”
While ASL at concerts and festivals is on the rise, I’m guessing the people don’t pay her anywhere near enough to deserve the kind of professionalism and energy she brings. But I’m glad she does it anyway. She represents a world I want to live in. It’s not enough to accommodate people who aren’t “like us”, they deserve more. We need to change the conceptualization of disabilities to one where they aren’t considered a separate group but instead that their needs are just another challenge that needs to be met when organizing events. We can do it, we just have to try and Holly Maniatty tries. Clearly talented, she is bringing concerts to people who for a long time were left out, not because of their own limitations but because, like me, the concert organizers didn’t stop to think or didn’t bother to ask the hearing impaired whether they wanted in. The organization that Holly works for is called Everyone’s Invited, and it seems like they are ensuring that everyone is. Duh.