Listen I had to do something with this analysis of Niggas in Paris

I would like to take the following few lines, dear reader, in order to respond to Andrew Ketchums review of the Kanye West and Jay Z song “Niggas in Paris” on the (now not so) recent episode of Nice Tunes “Bjork – Debut”. Andy for some reason takes a few minutes to do a mini review of this song, and although he says nothing “wrong” ‘per’ ‘say’ he does make a few misguided comments, and I would like to expand his discussion of that song (or text if you prefer (snark mark)).

First of all, Andy does say that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about when it comes to hip-hop, that’s cool. It’s a good disclaimer because what he says doesn’t really make sense. He says that he doesn’t like the style of rapping on the song which is a fine enough comment to make, but then he goes on to say that it sounds like they’re just yelling stuff which I have to rebuke. I’ve listened to rap where the lyrics are yelled, and neither Jay Z or Kanye West prescribe to that style at all. Jay Z has a smooth flow most of the time, and Kanye too has a pretty standard and, at times, almost sing songy style. If Andy wants to listen to rappers that yell he should listen to Wu-Tang(RZA, Ghostface, Raekwon…), or The Beastie Boys(who are the kings of yelling as far as I’m concerned).

Tim then chimes in with something to the effect of “mumble mumble…braggadocio”, which is sort of right, but I don’t think that braggadocio fits the whole bill. There is something far more interesting going on here than there appears to be which is where the song’s brilliance lies. If you examine Jay and Kanye’s lyrics you will see that in fact: yes they are not rapping about anything, really. Jay Z devotes his bars to watches, basketball, and money. The hook is about “balling”, I suppose in a general sense. Kanye’s verse is about a girl not used to living like a superstar: “what she order? fish filet”, and just general bragging about how awesome he is which let’s be honest is not out of place in a Yeezy track. However West ends his verse with the lines: “Got my niggas in paris and they going gorillas” followed by the infamous blades of glory sample:

“I don’t even know what that means / Nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative… gets the people going.”

Now we could take this analysis a few directions(no one knows what “nigga” means, no one is able to understand Kanye because he’s on another level), but I think there is evidence that supports this as a subversive move. Since the track has thus far been so much about “nothing”, the listener really can’t make much of the song. West is turning the pop song around on the audience and laughing. He’s saying of course you don’t know what it means, “nobody knows what it means”, but you like it don’t you – it gets you going. This is in service of an entrance, a real entrance to an album because “Niggas in Paris” is not just a hugely popular song, that sample and the following outro is welcoming you to the whole Watch the Throne album.

To make this point I will have to go into the album more as a whole(and at this point I realize yes, this has nothing to do with Andy’s argument). So the album starts with this incredibly thematically dense song about religion and sex and race in which the rappers more or less ascribe themselves as a new religion. And then that’s followed by a vapid song about success with their bae Beyonce. So when “Niggas in Paris” comes on the next track and it ends with their “You are now watching the throne” they are saying: this is what we are. We are pop songs yes, but we are also going to talk about some rougher stuff, and we might hide it in layers of pop, but we know it and we own it. And I think that holds up for the rest of the album. With “Niggas in Paris” they prove, “These other niggas is lyin, actin’ like the summer ain’t mine” and then they do the summer their way.

Empty Wrapping

This is the sixth in a series of short stories written to music. Empty Wrapping was written while listening to Public Enemy’s album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back

 

Come on, turn it up

Can I get a crowd to turn up

Making the music for none

Rocking and rolling my way through the slums

The way I act you could say I ain’t a nun

Fucking bitches making um want more of um

Me

That’s what they see

When their heart goes flutter

Sticky sticky in my butter

Yeah they all know me but her

friends are all lauging bout it though

wanna make um wait until they see my show

maybe then they won’t boo no more

 

Jared’s felt something on his arm, and he swiveled his body around. There was this guy with his hand out. Jared took one of his earbuds out playing the Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe instrumental that he’d been rhyming with.

“You’re good,” said the man. Deep lines in his brow showed age.

Jared looked up and down the alley. He didn’t think anyone else hung around here. He didn’t like other people listening to his unfinished… whatever, he just had to get out of here.

“Do you have any change?”

Jared shook his head. God this was really bringing him down. This what fiends look like?

“No, course not. You’re all rapping about money and women so fleetingly, and none of ya’ll got a piece for Al.”

“Whatever, man,” said Jared. Just looking at the guy made Jared squirm. He was ready to get out of here.

“Why don’t you take a hand at talking about something else for once? Why don’t you,” he said sticking his finger into Jared’s chest, “say something decent.”

“The hell you talking to me anyway?”

“Who else am I gonna talk to. I figured I might as well try and help someone out before I go.”

“What you got the bug or something?”

“Maybe. Listen, all I’m trying to say is that if you want your work to mean something you gotta put something real in it. You feel me? It’s gotta be one hundred percent you.”

He rammed his finger into Jared again.

“And,” he continued, “if you ain’t real enough to put yourself out there, then who’s gonna fuck with you?”

“Yeah, cool man. Whatever.”

Jared shook his head and popped his earbud back in. He bobbed his head and tried to get back into the rhythm.

#

“Naw, man,” said Carlos laughing. “Naw, naw it’s like he’s just sitting there with this like mound of coke just staring into the camera. It’s whack.”

“Yeah, yeah. Hey did you see Nikki’s new video. It’s, Jesus man, you see the way Drake was looking at that booty! Ooooh, boy looking like he praying to god.”

The room bust into laughter. This place was their sanctuary. A red walled room filled with junk, empty wrappers, and comfy enough chairs.

“Anyway, you brought a new beat right Chris?” said Jared.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Chris. “You know I got some new synth kinda work I got in there.”

Chris jacked his laptop into the sound system. Then the beat started. Bass rumbled through Jared’s system. He closed his eyes and listened for the boom bap. Feel it. He tapped his foot along. He found the beats groove. It was alright. He could jam to it, but he wasn’t sure it was good enough. It was kind of flat. It didn’t have that kick that the best beats brought.

“Dude, this is awesome!” said Carlos slapping the arms of his recliner.

“Um,” said Jared.

“Yeah, we’re def using this,” said Jay.

Chris grinned and bobbed along with the song.

“So Chris, you still got that connect right?” said Carlos.

“It ain’t no fucking connect, just a fucking dealer dumbass,” said Chris.

“Yeah, I know you know but it sounds real cool when we call it a connect. Like all Reasonable Doubt or whatever.”

“I’m reloaded!” yelled Jay.

The room bust in to laughter. Jared smiled and shook his head.

“Whatever motherfucker, yeah I got your ‘connect’,” said Chris waving his hands in the air. “Hungry motherfuckers.” He chuckled.

As Chris handed a package out to Carlos and Jay, Jared thought about their set. What the hell were they doing.

“Hey, what do you guys think about rewriting some shit.”

“Huh?” said Carlos.

“Like all our songs are about the same shit. I’m thinking we should like just change it up a bit.”

“What are you talking about?” said Jay.

“I mean, like how we gonna get noticed if we’re just like everybody else.”

“Listen motherfucker you wanna write some new shit do it some other time,” said Jay. “I got us a show tonight, not next fucking week. We on stage tonight baby!”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Jared. “Just an idea I guess.”

#

The Chronic wound down and Jared stuck his earbuds in his pocket. This was the place. The stone here in the alley was old. Jared really didn’t know anything about the history of the city.

Jared looked around. He didn’t know why he thought that old dude would be here again. He probably didn’t live around here anyway. Jared kept his head down and went on down the alley.

“Yo motherfucker give it up!”

Jared froze. He heard the sound of a beat down. A scream. He turned his head to look. Two guys were beating on somebody.

“Come on motherfucker! Think you can put one over on us!”

Jared’s heart was on overdrive. Every scream put him on edge. He couldn’t take his eyes away. The old dude was here. He was on the ground. Getting pulped. Jared swallowed hard. His body was telling him a million things at once. Run. Fight. Everything in between.

Jared wished he could do something, but he knew that wasn’t him. He’d never been in a fight in his life, and he wasn’t going to start like this. Jared’s feet won out. His heart clenched. He dashed out through the alley. He didn’t look back, but his mind wouldn’t stop going over it. He didn’t stop running.

#

“Yo motherfucker where you been at?” said Carlos.

“Shit look at this motherfucker thinking he so cool he can show up whenever,” laughed Jay.

Jared kept his head down, his hands in the front pocket of his hood.

“Yo… what’s up,” said Carlos.

“Nothing,” said Jared.

“You ready to tear it up out there, hey! I seen plenty fine bitches out there you know?” said Carlos.

“Yeah boy!” said Jay dropping into a stance and throwing a few punches.

“Nah,” said Jared. “You guys go on. I just came by to tell you guys, I’m out.”

“What?” said Jay.

“The fuck you talking about?” said Carlos. “You the best rhymer in the group. I got this gig showing um your cut you pussy bitch.”

“I can’t rap those fucking lines,” said Jared. “their fucking shit. I don’t know about you but I never been in a fight. I’ve never held a gun motherfucker. Those rhymes aren’t me, you feel me.”

“Their lies? Whatever fucker it’s what they want to hear,” said Carlos.

“Hey, yo, you guys have a good show.”

Jared turned around and smiled. He through up his hood and walked out.

Now he just had to figure out who he was.