It isn’t any secret hip-hop is becoming a huge media market and is being accepted by various audiences around the world. Hip-hop surely isn’t a fad; it’s a relatively fresh culture, which keeps developing every minute. This new way of life has impacted society and brought evolution in the process. There are modern dances like the Crip Walk and the Harlem Shuffle, fresh fashion like fuzzy Kangol Hats and throwback jerseys, and of course, a new vocabulary. Hip-hop allows people to create new words (like fo’ shizzle) and turn negative connotations into compliments (like ill, bad and nasty). This has also left many questions up in the air … questions I will attempt to answer and mysteries I will try to solve.
Every single genre of music has stereotypes. Along with the dubs, there are certain questions that have been (and always will be) asked because answers may seem unbelievable. In rock music, it’s “Which drug are you using?,” in pop music, it’s “Are you gay?,” but in hip-hop, there really isn’t one set proposition because the artists’ backgrounds vary. I have heard some dope songs, but was left thinking, “Wait a second … what’s the deal with this?” Therefore, I am about to confront some demons that have been running wild in my head and get to the bottom of the bottle. I’m interested in the deeper meaning of melodies and how some of these new-school phrases came into existance.
Without a shadow of the doubt, Jay-Z’s The Black Album provided tons of insight into the rapper’s life. However, in his song, “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” I’m trying to figure out how he got dirt on his shoulder. I mean, did Jigga play a lot of football back in the day? Did he like rolling around in the mud? Did someone throw dirt on his clothes? Sure, I can understand dandruff or dust, but dirt? I’m not sure about this one. Maybe he means he had to work from the ground up to get where he is today (like doing some dirty work) and now, since he finally made the bigtime, he can get that dirt off his shoulders. If that’s not the answer, then “brush your shoulders off” must be a meaningless catchphrase (but still cool, nonetheless).
In addition to “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” Jay-Z comprised another hit single off The Black Album; non other than the notorious “99 Problems.” Although Rick Rubin produced the song, the video is more controversial. MTV and BET sparingly show the video during daytime television. It isn’t only due to the footage of a funeral, violence and prison, but because the New York emcee is murdered, thanks to several gun shot wounds. That’s why networks are very hesitant to air the clip but Jay-Z sees different. He claims the fatality in the video symbolizes the death of Jay-Z and the rebirth of Sean Carter as an artist. After much debate, a compromise was reached whereas the video would be introduced by MTV News Correspondent, John Norris, who explains what is featured in the video and asks no one to mimic it. The question here obviously isn’t why Jay-Z gets shot; he already answered that. The real mystery here is, “Does Jay-Z really have 99 problems?” After listening to this song several times, I counted about 17 problems and a bitch wasn’t one. Either he isn’t telling the people about the other 82 or he is using 99 as a metaphor, which respresents a lot of dilemnas. Jay-Z also spits, “If you’re havin’ girl problems, I feel bad for you son.” I’m sure he had girl trouble in the past, but I’m assuming Beyonce is the problem solver.
The North isn’t the only place that can coin phrases. Look at the South, in particular Lil’ Jon. He has given a new edge to “Oooookay,” “Wwwwwhat,” and “Yyyyyeah!” He even made “crunk” a mainstream word. Lil’ Jon jumped on a track with his good friends, the Ying Yang Twins to add some flavor to one of the most popular songs of 2004, “Saltshaker.” Everywhere you go or any club you enter, I am sure you will hear the words, “Shake it like a saltshaker.” Why though? “Why shake it like a saltshaker?” Maybe the Ying Yang Twins really like supper (after all, most Southerners ask for seconds)? Or maybe they have a high sodium count? Come to think of it, isn’t shake it like a saltshaker a tongue-twister? I would love to hear someone say that ten times fast. Judging by the rest of the song, it’s easily recognized that the Ying Yang Twins are demanding (not asking) women to move their booties. It’s just odd going from “She’s leakin’, soakin’ wet” to “shaking salt.” Why not “Grind it like a peppergrinder?” That is more sexual. This way, you can look and touch.
Last but not least, there’s this one-hit wonder sensation, Kelis. This smokin’ lady sings and wiggles to “Milkshake,” a real catchy tune. The lyric goes, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard/And their life is better than yours/Damn right, it’s better than yours/I can teach you, but I have to charge.” This is extremely exotic, but seems a little fishy. The first issue is crucial: “Does your milkshake bring any girls to the yard and what happens at the yard?” I’m hoping Kelis doesn’t discriminate against females. All humans are created equal. Don’t play hate when you can participate. The next dilemma bothers me just as much. “Does Kelis really think her milkshake is better than Baskin Robbins?” Honestly, has she ever been to there? They make a pretty mean chocolate shake. I knew I would have to do further investigation. Eventually, Kelis revealed the significance of the milkshake on MTV2’s Slanguistics. According to her, the milkshake is whatever you do best, whether it’s making love or dancing in a Karoake Bar. See … straight-up hip-hop right here! Giving new meaning to a word. No wonder why Nas is dating her. Sadly though, as captivating as this song is, I am willing to bet sometime in the future, some conglomerate like Starbucks is going to take this lyrical artwork and use it as some sort of jingle. I can picture it now. It’ll probably be something like, “Our java brings all the peeps to the yard, damn right, it’s better than yours.”
Nevertheless, there are many unsolved mysteries still roaming the hip-hop world. Tupac’s murderer is still unknown, the Notorious B.I.G.’s killer is unknown and the amount of times Suge Knight will be thrown back in jail for doing something stupid is also unknown. Although every music genre has their own unanswered questions (Did Courtney Love kill Kurt Cobain? Is Clay Aiken gay?), hip-hop will still evolve and bring new elements into its’ culture. Jay-Z, the Ying Yang Twins and Kelis have certainly solved something: don’t take everything for face value … read between the lines. Case closed.