Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, and J-Kwon.
Perhaps this is obvious to everyone, but I finally realized that the powerful and brilliant lyrics in J-Kwon's hit single "Tipsy" exist as the latest entry into a long, esteemed tradition of poetry that, while it can stand alone on its own singular merits, craftifly recalls and responds to historically significant poetry and art. J-Kwon, in his call for human celebration and transcendance above mortality, does intentional homage to everything from the Bible to Dickinson to commercial jingles.
Following are the lyrics to J-Kwon's "Tipsy" with my inserted comments about their provenance and references.
Tipsy :: J-Kwon
1, here comes the 2 to the 3 to the 4,
[While this SOUNDS like a child learning to count, I contend that this is a reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, symbolizing conquest, war, famine, and death. The lyrics in the rest of the song bear out that this is a heavy meditation on the vagaries of existance and the wages of sin.]
Everybody drunk out on the dance floor,
Babygirl ass jiggle like she want more,
Like she a groupie and I aint even on tour,
Maybe cause she heard that I rhyme hardcore,
Or maybe cause she heard that I buy out the stores,
[Here J-Kwon tackles the issue of celebrity and its demands. His line "babygirl ass jiggle" is a clear reference to Emily Dickinson's lines on fame:
FAME is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate,
Whose table once a Guest, but not
The second time, is set...
Men eat of it and die. ]
Back to J-Kwon:
Bottom of the 9th and a nigga gotta score,
If not i gotta move on to the next whore,
[Need I say it? A reference to "Casey at the Bat" - a poem about a doomed baseball game in the 9th inning:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville-- mighty Casey has struck out.
Of course it's about so much more than baseball. It's about the loss of innocence and life after wartime - which echoes back to one of the four horsemen.]
Here comes the 3 to the 2 to the 1,
Homeboy trippin' he don't know I got a gun,
When it come to pop man we do shit for fun,
You aint got one nigga you betta run,
[The word choice and cadence of this verse call to mind the cheeky sarcasm of one of Dorothy Parker's:
If I had a shiny gun,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folk who give me pains.]
Now i'm in the back gettin head from my hunz,
While she goin down i'm breakin down what i done,
She smokin my blunt sayin she aint havin fun,
Bitch give it back now you don't get none.
[J-Kwon, ever the Christian, is reminding us of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.]
Now everybody in the club gettin tipsy,
everybody in the club gettin tipsy,
Now everybody in the club gettin tipsy,
Everybody in the club gettin tipsy.
[It goes without saying that this chorus is a modern version of the Bible verse:
"A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry."
(Ecclesiastes 8:15) Again, the central thrust of the song is a summons to rise above petty issues and celebrate your oneness with all humanity.]
The song has two more verses, but they only reiterate the same basic points. I'm sorry if I'm just regurgitating what everyone already knows about this awe-inspiring song. It's so much more than just a song. It's too bad we have to wait 24 years for J-Kwon to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Here's what the young J-Kwon (18) has to say about his success:
"I got two kids," the self-appointed "Teen President" said last week in New York. "My reason for paper is not like everybody else's reasons for paper. My reason for paper is not to just ice me down or Sprewell my car up which I did do some of those things, I'm not gonna sit up here and lie and act like I'm all perfect. But my kids mean a lot to me. My kids be like, 'Daddy, daddy,' but the game be like, 'I'll drop your record.' My kids are with their mother, I thank her for holding that down. All I can do right now is send money. I know money ain't enough, because love is the most important. I'mma keep my kids on the tour bus or something." (from MTV.com - J-Kwon)
A true humanitarian.