Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rap Academy: T.I. Edition

Fact: Rappers are the poets of our generation. The names Mathers, Wayne, and West will someday be interchangeable with Frost, Keats, and Emerson. Sadly, like many poets of the past, some rappers won't truly be appreciated until after their death (probably gang-related) because their lyrics are too far ahead of their time. The layman just isn't willing to spend the time deciphering and analyzing these urban geniuses' rhymes to discover the beauty and insight within. Lucky for you, I am willing. Thanks to my liberal arts degree and my hoodrat upbringing, I possess both the skill and the desire to translate these modern classics into something that's a little easier for the common man to understand.

First up, T.I.'s transcendent What You Know. I'll give you snippets of the lyrics, followed by my translation:

don’t you know I got
key by the three when I chirp shawty chirp back
Louis nap sack
where I holding all the work at

What you know about that?
What you know about that?
What you know about that?
I know all about that
Loaded 44s on the low where the cheese at
Fresh off the jet to the Jects where the G's at
What you know about that?
What you know about that?
What you know about that?
Hey I know all about that

T.I. begins his masterpiece by establishing his street credentials. He has three kilograms of cocaine because he is an expert at selling drugs. He then seamlessly transitions into his personal life; when he calls (chirps) a girl (shawty), they call him back, because he's T.I. and all ladies admire him. He then deftly reminds us of the large amount of cocaine in his possession and that, get this, he is carrying it in a designer Louis Vuitton bag. T.I. repeats three lines in this, the chorus, welcoming any and all haters to compare gangster resumes with him. The question is clearly rhetorical, as T.I. already knows that none of his opponents can compete with his hoodrat credentials. For emphasis, he then explains that he has a gun and knows how to use it and that furthermore, he can transition from a rich lifestyle (jet) to a poor lifestyle ('jects) like the one in which he was raised. It is quite clear at this point, that T.I. is a bad, bad man.

See me in ya city sitting pretty know I'm shining dawg
Riding with a couple Latin brawds and a china doll
And you know how we ball
Riding in shiny cars
Walk in designer malls
Buy everything we saw
You know about me dogg
Don’t talk about me dogg
And if you doubt me dogg
You better out me dogg

Having already made his point, T.I. uses the second verse to show off his technical skills with a difficult A, A, A, Aye, B, Aye, C,  Dogg, Dogg, Dogg, Dogg rhyme scheme. In this verse, he explains once again that he is the best rapper in the industry and also that he is fond of latino and oriental women, who are no doubt fond of him as well. He drives the best cars and shops at the finest stores, where he buys whatever catches his eye. He continues the stellar second verse with another message for his rivals: DO NOT speak ill of T.I. because he will best you in a fisticuffs. DO NOT doubt it either. If you MUST try, it is quite imperative that you take him out of the equation, otherwise T.I. will add you to his list of fallen adversaries.

I'm throwed off slightly bro
Don’t wanna fight me bro
I'm fast as lightning bro ya better use ya Nike’s bro
Know you don’t like me cause
Yo bitch most likely does
She see me on them dubs
In front of every club
I be on dro I’m buzzed
Give every ho a hug
Niggaz don’t show me mugs
Cause you don’t know me cause

The verse continues by relating that even though T.I. may be slightly inebriated, he is still an unflappable foe. He uses the simile "fast as lightning" to depict that he is indeed an adept athlete and that running away is really the only sure way to keep your life intact. T.I. then gives us some background information on why his opposition dislikes him. It is because the hater's lover prefers T.I. over the hater. It hearkened back to the first time she saw him in his fancy car in front of a series of clubs. She was rather impressed with T.I.'s behavior, including his intoxication due to marijuana and his ability to attract other women. T.I. masterfully concludes the verse by restating that it is impossible to understand his inner-workings

Candy on the '64
Leather guts and fish bowl
50 on the pinky ring just to make my fist glow
Ya bitches get low
Because I get dough
So what? I'm rich ho
I still pull a kick-do'

After another resounding chorus, T.I. takes it upon himself to describe his beloved car, a 1964 Chevrolet with a fine leather interior. His car doubles as a place where he and his friends can enjoy marijuana. Oh, T.I.! He also mentions that he spent $50,000 on a pinky ring to signify that money is of no object to him. Women seem to particularly like this. Also, even though T.I. is extraordinarily wealthy, he is not afraid to perform dangerous, illegal acts.

What you talking sh*t fo’?
gotta run and hit fo’?
Got you a yelling and I thought you put out a gun hit fo
But you’s a scary dude
Believed by very few
Just keep it very cool
Or we will bury you
See all that attitude’s, unnecessary dude
You never carry tools not even square, he cube
You got these people fooled, who see you on the tube
Whatever try the crew, they’ll see you on the news

T.I. now calls into question the credibility of his naysayers. He states that though his enemy may think himself formidable, he is not feared by anyone, the least of which T.I. himself. T.I. goes on to suggest to his detractors that they should refrain from attacking his pristine reputation as a gangster and instead shine the light of scrutiny upon themselves. Failure to do so could very well end up in their demise.

Fresh off the jet to the block
Burn a rubber with the top popped
My partner bustin' shots, I tell em' stop, he'll make the block hot
Ya label got got
Cause you are not hot
I got the top spot
And it will not stop
A video or not that will bust it to the glock stop
Drag ya out that Bentley Coupe and take it to the chop shop

T.I. begins the last verse with the dichotomous scene of transferring from his private jet to his convertible and driving fast through the ghetto, once again displaying that T.I. has not lost touch with his roots. Ever the pragmatist, he then warns his friend not to commit any unnecessary crimes while in the projects, lest the police get involved. He then transitions to explaining to his rapping enemy that he feels contrition toward his enemy's record label because he is indeed such a poor rapper that the label failed to get the returned value, both monetary and critical, that they had hoped. Also, for good measure, T.I. deems it necessary to tell him that he will unload an entire gun clip into the rapper and strip his car for parts.

Partner, we got ya'll
If it may pop off
I’ll answer the question “Will I get ya block knocked off?”
And what it is bro
Look I will kill bro
I’m in your hood, if you a gangsta what you hid for?
Somebody better get bro for he get sent for
You say you wanna squash it what you still talking sh*t for?

The last 8 lines of T.I.'s masterpiece continue to focus on his haters. He delineates once again that he is superior in every way to his enemies, especially in a physical manner. In fact, T.I. feels he could take out this particular man's entire neighborhood single-handedly. Given this fact, T.I. ponders as to why this rapper would choose to continue to say derogatory things about him. The foe is obviously not as good at rapping, fighting, or being a gangster as is T.I.. The final line of What You Know poses the obvious question: given all the ways in which T.I. is superior to all of his detractors, why do they continue to communicate their feelings about T.I. in such a negative and hurtful way?