Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kanye West's Roses (Commonplace Book)



I was thinking of this song this week since Kanye West's mother died. Here are some of the lyrics from the first verse:

Hey chick, I'm at a loss for words
What do you say at this time?
Remember when I was nine?
Tell her everything gone be fine?
But I'd be lying,
the family crying
They want her to live, and she trying
I'm arguing like what kind of doctor can we fly in
You know the best medicine go to people thats paid,
If Magic Johnson got a cure for AIDS
And all the broke muthafuckers past away
You tellin me if my grandma's in the N.B.A.
Right now she'd be ok?


I just wanted to point out the simplest thing here. In this verse West is on his way to playing a game a lot of rappers and hip hop artists enjoy -- seeing how many lines they can punctuate with a single rhyme, often by coming up with smart unexpected words or word combinations and playing with pronunciation. Here "time," "nine," fine," "lying," "crying," "trying" and "fly in" get us started, but then it suddenly stops, thudding on the word "paid." West gets a subtle emotional charge here, as we realize why he cannot play that game now -- because in playing he will not be able to avoid the obvious word, the unsaid word that got him on this rhyme scheme in the first place, a word he does not want to say out loud in the hospital where his grandmother is being treated: "dying." This time the cliche holds: You have to listen to the rhymes he is not using.

2 comments:

Darius Kazemi said...

Nicely put.

Voice Of The Eagle said...

Because we're on the topic, I'd like to introduce the greatest lyricist in rock and/or roll music today:

The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

It began when they come took me from my home
And put me on Dead Row
Of which I am nearly wholly innocent, you know
And I'll say it again
I am not afraid to die

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner meals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
All things either good or ungood

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth
An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die

Interpret signs and catalogue
A blackened tooth, a scarlet fog
The walls are bad, black, bottom kind
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath gathering at my hind

I hear stories from the chamber
How Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
Died upon the cross
And might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that's what I'm told

Like my good hand I tatooed E.V.I.L. across it's brother's fist
That filthy five! They did nothing to challenge or resist

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of his Testament is stowed
A throne from which I'm told
All history does unfold
Down here it's made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away

Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
So I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And anyway I never lied

My kill-hand is called E.V.I.L.
Wears a wedding band that's G.O.O.D.
Tis a long-suffering shackle
Collaring all that rebel blood

And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this weighing up of truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway there was no proof
Nor a motive why

And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smoking
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this looks of disbelief
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway there was no proof
Nor a motive why

And the mercy seat is smoking
And I think my head is melting
And in a way I'm helping
To be done with all this twisted of the truth
A lie for a lie
And a truth for a truth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die

You have to hear him sing it for the full effect:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPhUQUDe_jw&eurl=http://www.google.com/search?q=The+Mercy+Seat&client=netscape-pp&rls=com.netscape:en-US