So much time is spent examining entire albums or merely analyzing singles or songs off of those albums. A lot can be gained from being more analytical and isolating key lyrics from a song. Sure, this is micromanagement – total music nerd shit – but there’s greatness that can be unveiled. Throughout 2015, there have been many eyebrow-raising lyrics that raise larger issues or have greater meaning when they are isolated from their parent song. Here are 12 eyebrow-raising lyrics that stand out in 2015 so far.
1) Jazmine Sullivan, “Mascara” (Reality Show, 2015)
“Yeah my hair and my ass fake, but so what? / I get my rent paid with it and my tits get me trips / to places I can’t pronounce right / he said he’d keep it coming if I keep my body tight / and them bitches stay mad cause I’m living the life”
“Mascara” is a bigger message about what some females will do to cover up imperfections and to atone for self-consciousness. This quote lifted from the beginning of the song truly sets the tone of record, and its one that Sullivan suggests this is how she’s become ‘successful.’ The success of which Sullivan sings of here is merely superficial, and eliminates bigger aspirations and hard-earned, legitimate success.
2) Sufjan Stevens, “All Of Me Wants All Of You” (Carrie & Lowell, 2015)
“You checked your texts while I masturbated…”
Throughout the course of Carrie & Lowell, Stevens’ relationship with his mother (Carrie) and his reaction to her death in 2012 are the centerpiece. The most shocking part of the quote is the fact that Steven uttered something as taboo as masturbation. Ultimately, this quote is as sexual as it appears out of context, as it is yet another reference to the fragmented relationship between Sufjan and Carrie. It’s likened to a dysfunctional relationship where two people aren’t as unified as they should be.
If you want to get real interpretive – possibly beyond what Stevens had in mind when penning this song – the same could be said in death, given the fact that a living person can’t form a personal relationship with a deceased person, so he has to ‘stimulate’ what memories he does have.
3) Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker The Berry” (To Pimp A Butterfly, 2015)
“I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015 / when I finish this if you listenin’ then sure you will agree…so why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? / When gang banging make me kill a n***a blacker than me? / Hypocrite!”
Kendrick Lamar is one of the best rappers in the game, transcending pettier rap trends of drugs, money and sex. On “The Blacker The Berry,” he speaks about the state of the black community, but also suggests that the black community is hypocrites. They are upset about the improprieties committed against them (rightfully so), but the community doesn’t look within their own internal problems either, specifically killing each other – their own. Sure, when it comes to a tragedy like Trayvon Martin or the events that went down in Ferguson, Missouri the community embraces a mantra of “We Take Care Of Our Own” to quote Bruce Springsteen, but within our own self-contained communities, that’s not always the case.
Again examine this big-picture, and the sentiment of which Kendrick Lamar speaks isn’t solely limited to murder. There are an assortment of social issues within the black community that often prevent embracing a mantra of “we take care of our own.” Maybe Kendrick was limiting “The Blacker The Berry” to violence, but it also serves as the springboard to an assortment of larger, relevant issues.
4) Father John Misty, “Bored In The USA” (I Love You, Honeybear, 2015)
“Oh, just a little bored in the USA / save me, white Jesus”
With this isolated quote from Father John Misty’s “Bored In the USA,” you can interpret it in a lot of ways. One is that Misty is poking fun at the idea that most people – particularly those who lean more conservatively – consider Jesus to be ‘white.’ Another interpretation is that Misty is making a jab at people’s affinity toward religion and the belief that Jesus can save them from everything, particularly on a small-scale being “just a little bored in the USA.”
In a larger picture and different interpretation, being “bored in the USA” actually speaks to the numerous problems in the USA that do indeed exist despite being considered “the greatest country in the world.” Even with that read, the “white” characterization opens a can of worms.
5) Lupe Fiasco featuring Billy Blue, Buk of Psychodrama, Famlay, Glasses Malone, Trae Tha Truth & Trouble, “Chopper” (Tetsuo & Youth, 2015)
Few rappers do socioeconomic issues better than Lupe Fiasco. The same could be said about “Chopper,” namely this quote, which characterizes the hook. Let’s break this down into each part. “Filet mignon with my food stamps” suggests that folks are given a great amount of ‘wealth’ from food stamps and welfare. Because of this, people receiving such aid eat good, even if filet mignon might be an exaggeration. Still, when one goes to the grocery store and a person has EBT, they often purchase their groceries once they first receive it and have substantial items.
Moving on, “Car cosigned by my mama,” suggests Mama will be responsible/is paying for the ride. “Medical card from Obama” falls in line with the reference to food stamps, but also has a connotation of ‘enabling’ mediocrity as opposed to ‘enable’ folks to better themselves. Finally, the key line is “background check for a chopper,” which has been a huge problem not only in ‘the hood,’ but across the United States. Numerous instances have found guns falling in the wrong hands, with the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and the Aurora, Colorado Theater Shooting being two prime examples.
6) Madonna, “Holy Water” (Rebel Heart, 2015)
“Baby you should get down low / and drink my precious alcohol”
We’ll keep this one short – Madonna is being freaky. Specifically this track is blasphemous because “Holy Water” is by no means anything like communion wine. No, Madonna is referencing sex, and we’ll leave this eyebrow raising line at that.
7) Kendrick Lamar, “King Kunta” (To Pimp A Butterfly, 2015)
“B*tch where you when I was walkin’ / Now I run the game got the whole world talkin’, King Kunta / Everybody wanna cut the legs off him…”
Kendrick Lamar brilliantly makes reference to the Kunta Kinte, the slave that was the protagonist of Roots. He likens his stature in rap to Kunta Kinte ‘running the show’ and folks wanting to “cut the legs off him.” Kendrick Lamar has blown up so that haters – likely many of his colleagues that are less gifted – want to end his remarkable rise and run.
8) Rae Sremmurd, “Sex Sex Pay Checks” (Sremmlife, 2015)
“Safe sex, and paychecks / that’s what it’s all about, don’t forget about”
Basically, these young dudes want money and sex. At least they are all about “wrapping it up.” The shock value isn’t that two young men want to make bank and hook up with girls – ask most young men and they’d concur.
The shock value is that life has been oversimplified to money and sex, when there is so much more depth beyond both things. But again, these are young guys and maybe the maturity factor has yet to kick in. Judging by Sremmlife itself, that seems to be the case.
9) Björk, “History of Touches” (Vulnicura, 2015)
“Every single f*ck / we had together / is in a wondrous time lapse”
Cascada said it best: “Every time we touch / I get this feeling.” In the case of Björk, she thinks back on her intimacy with her ex (Matthew Barney) and it reopens both the good times and the wounds of the relationship. It’s all about reminiscing – memories.
10) All Time Low, “Something’s Gotta Give” (Future Hearts, 2015)
“Maybe I’m a f*cking waste / filling up the empty space / I’ve been here way too long”
This one is easy. Besides the fact that “Something’s Gotta Give” is completely over the top, basically, the band suggests they are tired of the status quo. Sure, this song is overblown, but what is true about what Alex Gaskarth sings is the fact that things get old, and a change of pace can be like a life saver.
11) Ludacris, “Beast Mode” (Ludaversal, 2015)
“Uh, if rappers want it, they can get it / flow tighter than four fat b*tches sittin’ in a Civic”
“Beast Mode” is definitely a ‘return to form’ for Ludacris. He’s never been subtle so the best track from his comeback album isn’t subtle either. But still, “flow tighter than four fat bitches sittin’ in a Civic?” Luda, Luda – you know how small a Honda Civic is man!
12) Common & John Legend, “Glory” (Selma, 2015)
“Selma is now for every man, woman, and child / even Jesus got his crown in front of a crowd…”
The march in Selma occurred back in 1965, but as John Legend reiterates throughout “Glory,” “the war is not over.” That’s the sentiment that Common evokes in the rhymes from his second verse, suggesting that in order to repair many problems within society, everyone must continue to fight and work towards attaining “glory.”