Rap and word Play

There are many elements of modern day rap or hip hop that can be appreciated.  Probably one of the most profound me is the word play and metaphors that certain rappers like Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and, dare I say it, Lil’ Wayne use in their verses.  Listening to a hip hop album is similar to watching a movie for the first time.  Take the movie Inception for example, when first watching the film, there’s a lot to take in.  After the film is over, you’re either confused or genuinely pleased with the production; either way, you still have not understood the full essence of the film just from watching it the first time.  Hip hop is the same way, when listening to an album, you may be able to take in the melody of the songs, and maybe pick up on the general flow of the artist but it will take a few more rounds of listening before you can catch the wordplay and metaphors of the track.  Take for example: Jay Z’s : Brooklyn (Go Hard). When first listening to the song, one could get caught up in the beat, maybe try to figure out who’s singing in the background, maybe trying to decide which song is being sampled, while completely overlooking this line:

“I father, I Brooklyn Dodger them, I jack, I rob, I sin, ah man I’m Jackie Robinson ‘cept when I run base I dodge the pin.”

In this line, Jay makes a reference to Brooklyn Dodger baseball player Jackie Robinson, robbing the bases during a game while at the same time he references his drug dealing days. In the same line Jay Z talks about robbing, sinning and selling drugs (‘run base’) while ‘[dodging] the pin’ (avoiding getting caught and ultimately going to jail.

Another rapper who has had creative double entendres that are not always immediately picked up on is Drake, my personal favorite of his coming from a song he did with Rihanna called “What’s my name”

“The square root of 69 is eight something right? ‘Cause I’ve been tryna work it out”

Here, Drake combines arithmetic with raunchy lyrics. If one were to do the math, the square root of 69 is around 8.31, in more colloquial terms, ‘eight something’.  Coincidentally if one were to perform the sexual act of 69, they would literally be…well I’ll let you figure that one out yourself.

One of my absolute favorite rap metaphors comes from a rapper who is somewhat new to the business, Kendrick Lamar.  Kendrick is known for having more meaningful versus, not always rapping about making money and having sex with a lot of girls.  One could say that Kendrick Lamar’s song “Money Trees” is a modern hip hop version of the O Jays’ ‘For the Love of Money.”

In his song, he talks about how coming into money can cause people to change their ways. In particular, the second half of the chorus of this song hints toward this:

“Money trees is the perfect place for shade and that’s just how I feel,  a dollar might just f*** your main b***h that’s just how I feel, a dollar might say f*** them n****s that you came with that’s just how I feel, a dollar might just make that lane switch that’s just how I feel…”

In this, Kendrick raps about how money can cause people to leave their behind their girlfriends and their true friends.  When he refers to making a “lane switch” he is talking about a person changing their ways, acting differently.  Additionally his phrase “Money trees is the perfect place for shade” is my favorite, he is basically saying that money can cause a person to act shady, weird or sneaky.

So, the next time you’re listening to a rap song, i would be cool to actually listen to the song and actually think about the lyrics that you’re hearing because metaphors and word play certainly bring about a new appreciation of the genre.

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