Hip Hop impresario Jay-Z can now add “author” to his long list of accomplishments.
Co-written by friend and journalist Dream Hampton, “Decoded” will tell the story of the music mogul’s life, as well as the evolution of Hip Hop in general, by paying particularly close attention to the intricacies of Jay’s many brilliant lyrical offerings.
While being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about this latest project, Jay was asked about the experience of reviewing his own lyrics written down on the page (since, as you must already know, Jay-Z is famous for composing his lyrics in his head, rather than writing them down).
Hov’s response is priceless.
“Some [lyrics] become really profound when you see them in writing. Not “Big Pimpin.” That’s the exception. It was like, I can’t believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it is really harsh.”
I found this answer really funny…and telling. Hip Hop is probably the most verbose genre of music in the history of the world. In the same way that funk changed popular music by placing emphasis on rhythm over melody, Hip Hop forever altered the face of music by placing a similar kind of emphasis on vocal rhythm, as opposed to vocal melody. In spite of its wordiness and, at least initially, being performed almost 99.9% of the time in English, rappers have still received worldwide adoration and acclaim, oftentimes intoxicating the listener with flow and cadence alone.
I’m not saying that Hip Hop fans don’t know what their favorite rapper is actually saying. However, reading the lyrics to a song like “Big Pimpin,” without a beat or a flow or Jiggaman’s unique swag, is a completely different way of experiencing the song.
So without further ado, and for your reading pleasure, here are the lyrics to Jay-Z’s first verse on “Big Pimpin”:
“You know I thug ’em, fuck ’em, love ’em, leave ’em
Cause I don’t fuckin’ need ’em
Take ’em out the hood
Keep ’em looking good
But I don’t fuckin’ feed em
First time they fuss I’m breezin’
Talking ’bout what’s the reasons
I’m a pimp in every sense of the word, bitch
Better trust and believe ’em
In the cut where I keep ’em
‘Til I need a nut
‘Til I need to be in the guts
Then it’s beep-beep and I’m pickin ’em up
Let ’em play with the dick in the truck
Many chicks wanna put Jigga fists in cuffs
Divorce him and split his bucks
Just because you got good head
I’mma break bread
So you can be livin’ it up?
Shit I part’s wit nothin
Y’all be frontin’
Me give my heart to a woman
Not for nothin’ never happen’
I’ll be forever mackin’
Heart cold as assassins, I got no passion
I got no patience and I hate waitin’
Hoe get your ass in and let’s R-I-I-IIIIDE…”
Now these are certainly not the most misogynistic lyrics Hip Hop has to offer (ever heard the N.W.A. song “One Less Bitch”?), but damn, that shit is amazingly harsh. So harsh that Jay-Z himself has trouble standing by the song…and he wrote it.
And what’s even more amazing is that “Big Pimpin” is unquestionably Jay-Z’s biggest hit, and arguably the best single he’s ever released. It’s consistently ranked amongst the best Hip Hop songs ever made, and was even included in Rolling Stone’s recent “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. And honestly, it’s a personal favorite of mine.
Does that make the millions of people around the world (including myself) who know the above verse by heart bad people? Probably not. In fact, I think it only supports the potentiality that the youth of America is a lot smarter and savvier that Hip Hop’s opponents give them credit for being. The utilization of the “pimp” character in pop culture is nothing new anyway (ever heard of Dolemite?). All in all, maybe “Big Pimpin” is just good ole’ horseplay. Harmless fun.
Or maybe our culture is seriously, seriously fucked up.