Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lil Wayne -- "6 Foot 7 Foot" (2010)

Young Money, Cash Money,
Paper chasin', tell that paper,
"Look, I'm right behind ya"
Bitch, real G's move in silence 
Like lasagna

Lil Wayne
I recently received an e-mail from a loyal "2 or 3 lines" reader, who was concerned about her daughter's obsession with rapper Dwayne Carter -- who is better known by his stage name, "Lil Wayne."

Actually, I received the e-mail sometime ago, but I am a very busy man, what with my high-powered Washington legal career, and my many children (none of whom have moved out of my house for good, even though they are almost in their thirties), and my hot (age-adjusted) French girlfriend, and most of all the burgeoning "2 or 3 lines" family of wildly popular blogs, which require considerable attention from their creator.

So while I love all the little people who read my blogs -- I honestly, truly do! -- and wish I had the time to respond to all their many questions and requests for autographed pictures, I really don't.  But I'm making an exception here.

Here is the reader e-mail:
I checked out Rapgenius.com [which is "The Official Rap Lyrics Interpretation Website of 2 or 3 Lines"]. . . . I made the mistake of checking out the lyrics to one of Lil Wayne's songs (I use the term "song" very loosely, in his case).  What a misogynistic jerk.  It aggravates me that [my daughter] is a fan of his.  Maybe that's the point, but I was hoping she was past that.

I am fascinated by rap music (or hip-hop, if you prefer), and currently listen to little else on the radio.  I'm accumulating a lot of new and classic rap songs on iTunes (thanks to my local public library, which really shouldn't be spending its money on this kind of stuff, but as long as it does I figure I might as well take advantage of it), and trying to expand my knowledge of the genre, which I will freely admit is quite limited.

A young Pynchon
But one thing I am sure of is that Lil Wayne is a brilliant rapper whose lyrics are just as complex and multilayered and full of clever wordplay as anything James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon ever wrote, and just about as difficult to decipher.  That's why I regularly turn to Rapgenius.com for help.

As for the claim that Lil Wayne is a misogynist, OF COURSE HE IS.  (He uses bad language, too.  Imagine that.) 

Let's not forget that popular music has a long history of misogyny.

I happen to know that the author of the e-mail quoted above is a fan of "classic rock," which can be very misogynistic.  For example, consider the Rod Stewart classic, "Stay With Me":

In the morning 
Don't say you love me 
Cause I'll only kick you out of the door
Won't need too much persuading
I don't mean to sound degrading
But with a face like that 
You got nothing to laugh about

And then there's the Rolling Stones.  I could spend all day quoting misogynistic lyrics from Mick and Keith and the boys, but I'll limit myself to just two examples.

First, from "Stupid Girl":

I'm not talking about the kind of clothes she wears 
Look at that stupid girl 
I'm not talking about the way she combs her hair 
Look at that stupid girl 
The way she powders her nose 
Her vanity shows and it shows 
She's the worst thing in this world 
Well, look at that stupid girl 
I'm not talking about the way she digs for gold 
Look at that stupid girl, etc. etc.

Second, from "Under My Thumb":

Under my thumb 
The squirmin' dog who's just had her day 
Under my thumb 
A girl who has just changed her ways
It's down to me
The way she does just what she's told 
Down to me, the change has come 
She's under my thumb 
Under my thumb 
A Siamese cat of a girl 
Under my thumb 
She's the sweetest pet in the world 
It's down to me 
The way she talks when she's spoken to 
Down to me, the change has come, 
She's under my thumb 
If you compare Lil Wayne's lyrics to those, does he really look so bad?  Actually, he looks much worse -- he really lets women have it.

But I have a feeling the Rolling Stones of 30+ years ago would have been just as bad as the Lil Wayne of today if they could have gotten away with it.  (I remember when a lot of radio stations wouldn't play "Let's Spend the Night Together.") 

Lil Wayne's "6 Foot 7 Foot" was released only last month, and is the first single he recorded after his release from prison on a gun possession conviction.  That's a good example of a malum prohibitum rather than a malum in se.  (If you've been to law school, or even if you've just seen the new version of True Grit, you'll know what I mean.)   

The song samples from the old Harry Belafonte song, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," which is a good example of just how imaginative Lil Wayne is.  I would have never thought to build a hip-hop song around a sample from a crazy old song like that one -- would you?

Nicki Minaj!
This song is pretty remarkable, even though it does not feature Nicki Minaj.  (Don't worry, I'm planning to feature some prime Nicki Minaj material in future posts -- they'll be more Lil Wayne as well.)

I'm not going to go through all of the lyrics to "6 Foot 7 Foot" -- I suggest you consult "Rap Genius" for a detailed explanation of the entire song.  ("6 Foot 7 Foot" has about 80 lines, and essentially no repetition.  Compare that to most popular songs.  I doubt that "Going Down," the blues-rock song featured in my previous post, has 80 words.)  But I will touch on the few lines quoted above to illustrate how Lil Wayne's mind works.

First, Young Money and Cash Money are two record labels that Lil Wayne is associated with.  

Next, "paper" is a synonym for money, so "paper chasin'" means trying to make money, and Lil Wayne is so successful that he is "right behind" loads of money.  (I doubt that Lil Wayne was referring to the 1970 novel -- which later became a movie and a TV series -- "Paper Chase," which was about Harvard Law School students desperately chasing good grades.  Ultimately, maybe that novel/movie/TV series was about trying to make money, too.)

"G" is shorthand for a thousand dollars -- also for "gangsta."  But the "G's move in silence like lasagna" puzzled me, however, so I asked Mahbod Moghadam of "Rap Genius" (assalamu alaykum, my brother!) for a little help.  Here's what he had to say:

The G Heard Round The World: "Real G's Move In Silence Like Lasagna."
Lil Wayne's first single off the forthcoming Carter IV [album] is, without a doubt, a display of lyrical mastery.
But one line stumped even rhyme cognoscienti.
I bet when you first heard this you were like: “WTF is silent about lasagna? Wayne is a moron!” Or you felt like ?uestlove from The Roots and thought: "Is there some pop culture reference I'm not getting?  Am I getting old?" 
When you pronounce “lasagna”, the "G" is silent (in English phonology; in Italian, however, the “GN” sound is similar to the “ñ” in Spanish).
Mahbod's e-mail closed with a fabulous non sequitur:

Furthermore, Garfield the Cat’s favorite food is lasagna (he likes to sneak up on it due to his predatory instincts).
But back to the "silent G" issue.  Lil Wayne's line has engendered quite a bit of controversy.  (Just Google "Is the g in lasagna silent?" and you'll see what I mean.)  The "G" in lasagna does affect the pronunciation of the word, but it isn't pronounced as a "G."  So is the "G" silent?

It appears that most experts who have opined on the question agree with Lil Wayne, but opinion is far from unanimous.

What is clear is that Lil Wayne -- with his tattoos, and prison sentences, and misogynist lyrics -- could be cited as "Exhibit A" in support of something a critic recently said:  "The toughest, coolest, most dangerous-seeming MCs [i.e., rappers] are, at heart, basically just enormous language dorks."  

Here's "6 Foot 7 Foot," with lyrics superimposed on the screen.  (WARNING:  very explicit lyrics, so view at your own risk!)

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from iTunes:

6 Foot 7 Foot (feat. Cory Gunz) - 6 Foot 7 Foot (feat. Cory Gunz) - Single

Here's a link you can use to buy it from Amazon:

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