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.