Say what you say, but give me that bomb beat from Dre
Famous ’cause we programmed
I just discovered how one of my favorite booty shaking songs of all time, from an artist who I admire tremendously is actually a super effective enforcer of the harsh, unsustainable culture of #manboxrules on men.
I love the work of Tupac Amaru Shakur. He was a truly amazing artist.
I don’t agree with everything Tupac had to say, but as John Gorman wrote the other day, this remarkable man’s life-force was brilliant, mesmerizing, and oh so plugged in.
He definitely had the IT factor. Oh and how I loved to dance to his music!
Pac’s lyrics and delivery are so far superior to the other rappers on the track, I don’t even really truly notice what they are saying in their verse. Not even Dr. Dré’s verse really stands out.
You just FEEL the music in your soul! Right?
But as I started to look at the lyrics, especially fresh from reading The Little #MeToo Book for Men, which shines a light on the way this language indoctrinates men and women alike from a very young age, and…
If you haven’t watched the video yet — stop and do that before you read on.
I had forgotten that they placed the video in the dystopian desert landscape with all the black leather and tribal imagery. Most people experience this song played, rather than seeing the video, of course. But the video itself is yet another layer of the reinforcement of what it means to be a MAN! Black leather, chains, and maybe an eyepatch.
But let’s just look at Tupac’s verse itself.
Part I — Set the Setting Of How Powerful He Is (Lines 1–4)
Out on bail fresh outta jail, California dreaming
Soon as I stepped on the scene, I’m hearing hoochies screaming
On his first, magnetic drop, we are presented with a vibrant and young rebel, alone and freshly released from jail on bail, about to step on stage and receive the screaming energy of a bunch of sexually loose women. Hmm…
Is the “hootchie” created by the sexually alive woman who thrills to the vibrations of life? Or is the “hootchie” a measure of currency that men use to bolster their value in the eyes of other men? The more hootchies, the more power?
Fiending for money and alcohol
The life of a west side player where cowards die and the strong ball.
The next two lines — fiending for external reward mechanisms and declaring strength is the only way you’re going to be likely to survive…
What is he actually saying here?
That only really “strong” men, who rely on addiction the pernicious habits of addictions to “money” and “alcohol” are going to make it in this harsh, harsh world.
What measure of success is it to be addicted, drunk, and at the top of the strongman pile? What is this celebration of HATE all about?
Where did this messed up way of thinking come from?
According to social researcher and author Riané Eisler, as well as other scholars, this curve in our collective development happened in the far past.
She breaks it down way back in the 1980’s, and what she’s saying here sounds like she’s part of the current news cycle.
Civilization started to move slowly toward a more DOMINATION-based mindset, and away from the Partnership oriented mindset of the earlier, more fertile areas of the globe during the development of early civilizations.
Part 2 Set the Setting Of How Bad THEY ARE (Lines 5–12)
Only in Cali where we riot not rally to live and die
In L.A. we wearing Chucks not Ballies (that’s right)
So the whole Chucks vs Ballies thing is about the kind of sneaker you were wearing.
I couldn’t find a picture of Ballies shoes that was labeled for reuse, so I can’t show you, but they look almost exactly alike.
Why is the shoe you wear worth noting in the verse where you brag about how bad your crew is? It’s because corporations have preyed forever on the desire of people to belong. To fill their inner voids with external trappings. To put a lot of value into the symbolic appearance of things that you have to PURCHASE. And to downplay the value of anything beautiful you can make for yourself.
Dressed in Locs and khaki suits and ride is what we do
Flossing but have caution we collide with other crews
This can be encapsulated in this video below. The first 30 or so seconds you’ll see what this activity looks like. Definitely getting out to be seen.
Famous ’cause we programed
This line breaks my heart.
He is here, admitting that he has FULLY been programmed by this brutal worldview. And this is why he is so famous. Because he’s the best, at being the worst.
Before my ‘Pac fans start hating on me here, I know this song is simply ONE in a canon of songs that explore themes from ALL different angles and with all different levels of wisdom. This man was a complex artist, and the comments I make here are leveled at the lyrics, and not at the man himself.
Worldwide let ’em recognize from Long Beach to Rosecrans
Bumping and grinding like a slow jam, it’s west side
So you know the row won’t bow down to no man
He’s calling out to the world, but really he’s shouting across a big neighborhood. Declaring his defiance, and crowing his refusal to “bow down” to any other man.
This right here is the essence of the #manbox.
Part 3 — Call Out To All The People In the Hood (Lines 13–17)
Say what you say, but give me that bomb beat from Dre
Let me serenade the streets of L.A
From Oakland to Sacktown
The Bay Area and back down
Cali is where they put they mack down give me love!
In these lines, he’s defining his tribe. His geographic network. The places where people can cheer for where they’re from.
While a certain pride in place is a good thing, these folks are cheering for the spirit that stays alive in these places because they’re really, in many ways, such hard places to live. They’re so brutal.
This is where the Black Lives Matter campaign has roots and origins, going back to the political movements of earlier eras, where people were standing up and demanding their rights, but violently.
Anyway, the call out is a way to rally the troops. And that is clearly what the song is seeking to do.
Part 4 — Booty Shakin’ Dance Anthem Bit (Lines 18–25)
California, knows how to party
California, knows how to party (c’mon baby)
In the city of L.A. (L.A.)
In the city of good ol’ Watts (that’s right)
In the city, the city of Compton
We keep it rocking (keep it rocking)
We keep it rocking!
Now make it shake
These lines lead into the synth heavy space of the main chorus, which definitely makes you want to get up and dance. You just can’t help yourself.
Or can you?
This is why story, language, and art are so important.
Shifts in our lyrics are an important metric to track. If you’re a project manager for the cultural transformation project we’re all working on, this is a KPI you want to be tracking.
Play Dirty Computer
Click Yes to the question you are asked on the left side of the screen. I love the concept, but wonder how well it works on mobile. Technology!
Upon clicking YES, you are launched into a 48:37 video production of this remarkable woman’s voice and perspectives.
She’s definitely shifting the language. Can you feel it? Mmmmmmm… It’s scaring the old guard witless.
Baby, you just can’t dim the sun.
Here is the inimitable Gina Hatzis, a.k.a. The Too Much Woman.
Are you fired up yet?
If you didn’t know — there’s something else remarkable happening right now. Have you seen this interesting reflection by Sandy Doyle yet -
For the first time in history, the Democratic primary field is mostly female — and completely revolutionarymedium.com
We the #equalists are coming, and we’re talking good, clear, common sense. We are building a new system. Part of this is the language we are choosing to use. Part of it is about the platforms we’re starting to leverage for connection, communication, and the common good.
With that, I’ll bid a rather fond and lingering farewell to the ability to ever shake my booty in quite the same way to the infamous California Love again.
But maybe that’s for the best.
I think Tupac actually would have WANTED to live in a world where he could have applied his formidable lyrical and delivery skills to a much better place. Just imagine.