LIL’ FLIP / “Sunny Day”

Kalamu is always after me to do more hip-hop, and I’d like to, but unfortunately all my records and CDs are still in New Orleans. As a result, the music I usually talk about on Breath of Life is whatever I happen to be listening to at the moment. And as I may have mentioned before, I don’t listen to much hip-hop these days. That said, when I do listen to current hip-hop, it’s usually some ignorant-ass Southern rap stuff—probably not the sort of thing Kalamu has in mind. I’ve tried to figure out why I still like Southern rap while I find the glitzy East Coast stuff unlistenable and the gangsterish West Coast styles unforgivable. Maybe it’s because I’m from the South. Maybe it’s because these Southern cats, for all their sexism and materialism and machoism, are still doing what hip-hop did back when it was uniformly good—speaking to a local audience. Most of them aren’t trying to appeal to national audiences because they don’t have illusions of national success. Like Lil’ Wayne said once, he’s one sell-out record away from being famous…but unless and until that happens, he and his fellow Southerners are going to keep putting it down for New Orleans or Memphis or Houston or Baton Rouge or whatever other city they may represent. There’s something beautiful about listening to a rapper make references to things that only people from his city (or even his area of the city) really understand. As for me, I don’t have to understand to feel it. Sometimes, just knowing that there’s something there that means something to him and his people is enough to make me appreciate what a rapper is saying. There’s this other thing too. For me, a quality Southern rap record can be the gateway to existentialism. I know a statement like that requires explanation, so allow me to explain. Southern rap records seem to work on dual planes. The first is the obvious surface level. If the rapper is bragging about his cars and his women, then the meaning is, the rapper is proud of his cars and his women. Simple. But then there’s the tendency of Southern rappers to consistently drop non sequiturs. (A statement or inference that doesn’t logically follow its own premise.) It happens so often that a good Southern rap record sometimes seems like nothing but a string of words designed to connect one non sequitur to the next. project pat.jpg Check it. One of my favorite rap songs right now is “Should I,” by Project Pat of Three Six Mafia fame (or infamy, depending on your viewpoint). The chorus goes:

Should I stay? Should I go? Or should I leave her? You ‘bout to turn this into some Ike and Tina
There’s so much incongruity and sophism in these two brief lines that it’s hard to know where to begin. First, Pat asks, “Should I stay” or “should I go?” A fair enough set of questions—over the course of time, legions of men have wrestled with the very same. But Pat follows up with, “Or should I leave her?” Thus creating a conclusion which—remember our definition—doesn’t logically follow its own premise. It’s a textbook non sequitur: Should I do ‘A,’ should I do ‘B’ or should I do ‘B’? In other words, it makes no sense at all. It also presents a question of significant existential complexity. That being, can one ‘go’ without leaving? Discuss amongst yourselves. Moving on to the second line of Pat’s couplet. I won’t address Pat’s sudden shift from the first person (“should I leave her”) to the second person (“you ‘bout to turn this…”)…rappers do it all the time and while it amuses me to no end, it isn’t directly relevant to the issue at hand. Said relevant issue being, how the hell can a woman confronted by her pissed off man be accused of creating a physically abusive situation? One wonders if Pat saw the same movie the rest of us saw. I’ve spent quite a few days driving around San Diego pondering the existentialist issue at the heart of this line. The question is: can a woman effectively beat her own ass? No matter how I approach the issue, I always come back to the same answer. That being, no. What does this mean? It means, in only twenty words Pat somehow manages to introduce not one but two wholly-formed and thoroughly entertaining non sequiturs. Even if the rest of the song was as dull as your average Top Five rap hit, those two lines from the chorus would be well worth the price of admission. But trust me, the rest of the record is just as perplexing…and for the same reasons. I love it.
* * *
lil flip.jpg Another master of the non sequitur is Houston’s Lil’ Flip, although in Flip’s case, it’s a little more difficult to sum up his lack of logic, mostly because it’s usually more difficult to figure out what the terminally mush-mouthed Flip is actually saying. With Flip, you’re in trouble coming and going: in both pronunciation (approximate) and meaning (uncertain), he tends to leave you guessing. “I got a Cartier,” Flip raps on a track called “Sunny Day,” “But have you seen my Rollie?” OK, let’s discuss. I’m assuming dude knows where both of his watches are. Meaning, I don’t think he’s asking us to help him look. It’s probably more like, “I own a Cartier, but I’m particularly proud of my Rolex.” Which seems at least slightly incongruous because everybody has a Rolex. (By ‘everybody’ I don’t mean everybody. I mean every rapper. Supposedly.) The slightly odd phrasing of that line is raised to near-Shakespearian levels when one considers the entire couplet.
We ball everyday like Cuttino [pause] Mobley I got a Cartier, but have you seen my [pause] Rollie?
First, the pauses are brilliant. If you, like me, have only the vaguest idea of what a ‘Cuttino’ might be, the oddly-timed pause gives you an extra fraction of a second of time to consider the possibilities. Imported rims? Some new designer drug? A fashion line? You admit to yourself that you don’t know and right then Flip says, “Mobley.” Which clears up nothing. Now you have two words you don’t recognize instead of one.* The matching pause Flip throws in before Rollie is nice for symmetry, but also misleads you into thinking he’s about to say something of particular interest. I happen to know that Cartier is one of the world’s more expensive and exclusive brands, mainly because every time I hesitate near the entrance of the Cartier store at the Fashion Valley Mall, the suits who work in there look at me with the white male equivalent of “Negro, please.” (And given the state of my finances, they’re right. They’re so right.) So, as I wait for Flip to finish his rhyme, I’m wondering what magical item he might have in store for us. Some previously-unknown and highly esoteric luxury brand, no doubt. I’m sitting there ready to fire up Google to see exactly how many zeroes our corn-rowed hero dropped on his latest piece of shiny exotica and he says…Rolex. Rolex?! Jeez. Everybody has a Rolex. So the line makes no sense. There’s a theme emerging here.
* * *
Leaving aside for a moment the illogical nature of the lyrics, let’s discuss another element of Southern rap aesthetic. That being, Southern rappers’ 100% disregard for even the appearance of propriety. By which I mean, these dude’s are really truly not giving a fuck about impressing either their critics or other rappers. (On second thought, let’s make that Really Truly Not Giving A Fuck, in caps. It’s not an adjective, it’s an ethnology.) How does this R.T.N.G.A.F. ethic translate to the music? First, it results in a relatively low level of homicidal shit-talking. There’s nothing that spoils my good humor faster than some rapper talking about how many niggas he has, or will, or would like to, or will get his homeboys to kill. But thank God for codeine and chrome: most of my favorite Southern rappers are too busy getting high and making sure their rims are all sparkly to worry about shooting at people. Of course, if shot at, they’re entirely too willing to shoot back. Then again, what are the alternatives? Place a call to the authorities? For a multitude of reasons that I don’t think I actually have to state, that call just isn’t going to get placed. A second effect of the R.T.N.G.A.F. ethos is to be found in Southern rappers’ attitude towards women. Conscious sisters, don’t get your hopes up—these cats are just as, if not more, misogynist as every other breed of rapper. The difference is…well, hard to define, actually. It has to do with intent, I think. Listening to Flip or Pat, you get the feeling that these dudes really don’t know any better. (That’s an observation, not a defense.) They also tend to be quite funny, as opposed to demented and borderline sociopathic like the well-known ‘I hate bitches’ (with ‘bitches’ being a synonym for ‘women’ in general) stance of most rappers on the West Coast or the ‘hold my drugs and go to jail for me’ East Coast variant. Check out this immortal Lil’ Flip couplet:
I stay high, like a telephone pole** And I roll on Vogues and pimp yellow-bone ho’s
I roll on Vogues and pimp yellow-bone ho’s? Good Lord. That’s so goddamn ignorant it’s funny. I’m sorry, you can call me what you want, you can force-cancel my subscription to Utne Reader and ban me from Whole Foods, but that’s funny stuff. It just is. Not that I don’t have a problem with it. I just happen to be the multi-faceted sort of individual who can find something funny and morally reprehensible at the same time. The layers of ignorance in that one line run so deep, you have to peel at the thing like an onion just to get to a decent starting point. Let’s give it a shot anyway. I get the feeling that Flip, if pressed, would accept that ‘ho’ is a generally unacceptable way to refer to a young lady that he, um, dates. But as we’ve already established, he is Really Truly Not Giving A Fuck and therefore doesn’t care whether his preferred terminology is acceptable or isn’t. Along the same lines, I get the feeling that Flip views ‘yellow-bone’ as simply an adjective, no more no less. Trying to explain to him why that particular choice of words is pretty much just as offensive as ‘ho,’ would probably get me nowhere. Then there’s the whole thing about making a list that includes drugs, wheels and women…as if all three are of equal importance. (Actually, I know lots of guys of various socio-ethnic backgrounds who wouldn’t quibble with that list. Maybe it’s not just a Southern rapper thing.) And I won’t even get into the history of color consciousness in Black America or into what Flip’s preferred type of [cough] ‘ho’ might mean for him, for rappers, for our society, blahblahblah. Those are my objections. I’m still laughing though.
* * *

young bleed.jpg

Another thing I love about Southern rap records is how accidental the presentation is. Songs begin and end at random. Rappers start and stop rapping not when they should, but when they feel like it. And the accents tend to range from a lazy drawl to a lazy drawl. The master of the slipperiest diction south of the Mason-Dixon Line is Baton Rouge’s-own Young Bleed. This man is capable of recording entire songs where he never pronounces an actual consonant. Couple that with his supine yet oddly dexterous verbal style as well as his reliance on virtually impenetrable slang and you have a recipe for some serious head-scratching. At the beginning of “A Fool,” Bleed unleashes this mind-bending series of words and sounds:
Whatever, my nigga ‘Cause young niggas still dyin’ Hollerin’ ‘bout, “Hanh? Nigga, what? “Hanh? Give a fuck / Nigga, what?”
Only on a Southern rap song could something like that actually be considered a lyric. And I’m still trying to figure out what Bleed is getting at. My best guess is the whole thing is intended to communicate the attitude of the young niggas who are still dying. The “hollerin’ ‘bout” would be a colloquialism communicating that what follows will be a quote and the “give a fuck” is probably a truncation of, “I don’t give a fuck.” In the King’s English:
It’s hard to care, my friend Because so many kids are still being killed And their attitude is, “What did you say? What? “I don’t care about you or anything else”
If that’s not it, I give up. Trying to figure out Bleed is enough to give you a headache. This is, after all, the same dude who describes himself (in the same song) as “a funkadelic, psychedelic reinterpretation of the third kind walking around the world blind trying to touch something.” Now if that’s not a ‘Hanh? Nigga what?’ moment, I don’t know what is. —Mtume ya Salaam * I’m just kidding about the Cuttino thing. He is, or was, the starting two-guard for the Houston Rockets. I say ‘was’ because he got traded to Orlando. And then to Sacramento. And then he signed a big free-agency deal with the Clippers. ** Now I don’t mean to nitpick, but the only part of a telephone pole that actually is high is the top of it. I guess Flip could’ve said, “I stay high like telephone wires,” but that wouldn’t have rhymed. Result? Non sequitur #4,080.           I rest my case          Exhibit A (read Mtume’s brief above). And, though this case is without any redeeming social value, nevertheless, dear members of the jury, in your deliberations please consider how funny and fascinating are Mtume’s descriptions of the intellectual wizardry and wordplay of Southern rap, thereby directly illustrating why I want Mtume to write about rap more often. If he can make an existential argument for this shit, imagine what he could do with some real music. I rest my case. —Kalamu ya Salaam P.S. Mtume, you ever consider that my man might have been (subconsciously or, more likely, accidentally) using a double entendre with the telephone pole image: 1. As a simile to denote how much intoxicants, stimulants, or hallucinogens (or combination thereof) he uses (and probably was using at the time of the recording). 2. As a phallic symbol to denote the size and firmness of his physical endowment. I only think that way because I’m a poet and therefore can make a case for almost anything, no matter how trifling! ;->)  

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 26th, 2006 at 1:08 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “LIL’ FLIP / “Sunny Day””

hardCore Says:
November 28th, 2006 at 12:31 am

60 Things That Killed Hip Hop:

mic ratings
black on black crime
mtv cribs
big name video directors
rolls royce
size 4XL white tee shirts
the “i don’t write my rhymes down” myth
video vixens
tell all books
r&b samples & hooks
car detailing
platinum plaques
scarface the movie
corn rows
keeping it real
hot 97 FM
drug dealers
madison avenue
the ipod
ghost writers
name dropping
studio gangstas
alias names
representing record labels
radio singles
release dates
rapper endorsed clothing lines
the forbes money list
the 40 o.z.
ring tones
double albums
super head
wendy williams
the red carpet
gang banging
the n-word
high school drop outs
the hood
suburban america
superstar producers
guest appearances
throw back jerseys
pro tools
wack concerts
the sound man
sell outs
seven album record contracts
no publishing
rap snacks
playa haters
BET uncut
and finally

Tuta Says:
November 28th, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Mtume, as you well know – I think you take shit too serious. Trying to explain these lyrics is bullshit, ’cause most of the time, they don’t mean shit.

If you ask Project Pat about his lyric, I bet you he’ll tell you that he pronunced “leave” as “leav-uh” because it rhymed good with “Tina”. If you listen to Project Pat’s music, he always throws in a extra syllable or two to make his shit rhyme (just like when he said he was a Gorilla-luh).

Just enjoy it without trying to make sense of it…

reny Says:
November 30th, 2006 at 7:51 am

“Should I” is from The Roots Phrenology sessions and it’s like their joint with e badu with more bpms and misogyny

ReppinTEXAS Says:
March 27th, 2007 at 11:47 pm

your should fucking do some research on the LIL FLIP thing though man, Cuttino Mobley is an NBA basketball player, FUCKING ignorant people man, and the "yellow-bone" hoes, damn, hes just talking about hoes man, like fucking low life bitches

     Mtume says:      

Next time, try reading all the way to the bottom, Texas. Like I said in the original write-up:

"I’m just kidding about the Cuttino thing. He is, or was, the starting two-guard for the Houston Rockets. I say ‘was’ because he got traded to Orlando. And then to Sacramento. And then he signed a big free-agency deal with the Clippers."

And, Flip’s not "just talking about hoes." He’s talking about a specific…. You know what? Forget it. I can’t believe I was actually about to try to explain what "yellow-bone" means.

Money Makin Texaz Says:
April 8th, 2008 at 8:12 am

Mann dawg, stay off of everybody’s nuts…just cause you like those liitle fantasy raps and dancing those bullshit dancing songs don’t mean that everybody should like them too. Like Pimp C said, “you can eat a dick”…..and “QUIT HATIN THE SOUTH!!!!!!!!!!!”

Jays Says:
November 19th, 2008 at 6:27 pm

okay smart mouth you make a rap song that rymes and makes since.. you think to hard….. so tell me wat came first the egg or the chicken..

tmac Says:
October 24th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

This is the funniest post from top to bottom, that I have read in a while. The comments are just as funny. Thank you for your efforts and contributions

dark indie music Says:
December 2nd, 2014 at 6:17 pm

This is just a fantastic site

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