Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hidden Politics

As discussed today, many songs and poems have political references and implications, even if they are not said outright. The example used in class was "Niggas in Paris"; it was said today that this song has risqué political implications, particularly as it was released in a time of economic recession but brags of disposable wealth and possibly mocks poverty.

One could reply to this in two ways. Either Jay-Z and Kanye West rap the lyrics of a song that does have the intentions of mocking the recession and poverty by demonstrating their wealth in an excessive manner, or it is simply a song that consists of bragging of wealth like many other rap songs that coincidentally was released during a time of poverty and recession.

If one analyses the song with the first reaction, it implies that the song is truly making a mockery of poverty, or it is a parody of the economic situation on how certain individuals managed to maintain great wealth while others had very little. If the song is making a mockery of poverty, is it only those who are not affected by poverty that understand this underlying mockery, implying those that are in poverty do not understand this mockery due to education? If this is true, wouldn't we see more resistance to this song and the artists? If this is a parody mimicking the attention brought to the separation of wealth in America, it could be argued that "Niggas in Paris" exemplifies this as it points out that others are living in minimal underprivileged ways, e.g. ordering a fish fillet, while Jay-Z and Kanye live luxuriously in Paris spending $50,000 without hesitation. If this is the case, this may be read as a criticism of the American economy, but ironically it would be Jay-Z and Kanye that the majority of the population would economically criticize.

If one analyses the song with the later reaction, that it is simply a rap song with the common theme of exposing wealth and braging about a lifestyle, it could be argued that "Niggas in Paris" has no underlying political meanings or implications. This statement could be supported by the arguement that both Jay-Z and Kanye West have rapped and bragged about their wealth and lifestyles in previous songs before the recession occured. Although, there has always been poverty and one could argue that any song bragging about money has the political implication of mocking those who have less.

As viewed in class today, there were many different opinions and views towards what the intended goal of the song is. Therefore, the political implications of "Niggas in Paris", or any song for that matter, can be read based on the listeners views, education, and socio-economic status.


  1. Although much of our class is about giving rappers more credit than they deserve and finding meanings in songs that could potentially be coincidental, I like the idea that Kelvin proposes that "Niggas in Paris" could simply be a rap song without any underlying political meanings or implications. "Niggas in Paris" sure has a club-banger beat and tons of braggadocio lyrics, so there is a strong chance that the song is just about two black males having a motherfucking good time in the famous city of Paris and blowing money like it's nobody's business.

    Like we talked about in class, by consciously making a mockery of poverty, Jay-Z and Kanye West are alienating audiences by insulting the poor through this song. However, I don't believe that this is the case. After all, Jay-Z started off in poverty (and maybe he still associates himself with that a la "Hard Knock Life") so it would seem disingenuous for him to diss the poor. It just wouldn't make sense.

  2. I think that Kelvin makes an important point at the end of this post when he explains that any song can be read “based on the listeners’ views, education, and socio-economic status.” This brings us back to the idea that, with any type of art, the readers/listeners can never truly know the artist’s intentions and can therefore interpret the art however they please. This means that people can find “hidden politics” in almost any song, depending on how they interpret it. Although there is some hip-hop and some poetry that is clearly political, I think that this is an important point to keep in mind. Therefore, while we analyze the political implications of songs like “Niggas in Paris,” I think it is important that we remember that we can never really know the artists’ true intentions.

  3. I read this song a little differently, and i think others did as well. I read this song as Jay Z and Kanye West being careless and inconsiderate. While people are struggling to make a living and put food on their tables, Jay Z, and Kanye are rapping about how much they spend and how luxuriously they live in Paris. They continuously throw their wealth in people's face without considering the fact that people are struggling and may take offense to such actions. I think Most Def, who goes by Yasiin Bey now, feels the same which was made apparent in his song "Niggas in Poorest". With lyrics like "These devils out here lying, acting like the people ain't dying. We silver and they gold, ain't never saved a soul. Don't get caught up in no throne, don't get caught up in no throne. Don't get caught up in no throne..." you can see that Yasiin is not too pleased with the seemingly careless and egotistical attitudes Jay Z and Kanye has in their song.

    But after looking over the lines to "Niggas in Paris" I came across a lyric by Jay Z that can be read as political. "Ball so hard, I’m shocked too, I’m supposed to be locked up too...". I read this line as him referring to the idea that black men are likely to be in jail by the age of 25. I then saw the song in a new light. I interpreted it as Jay Z saying that its 'cray' how he made it to where he is despite all of the negative predictions made about his future, and despite the barriers put up to keep him from getting to where he is in life now.

  4. In class we discuss how luck played such a large role in the rise of these artists (especially Jay-Z). Furthermore, it is definitely reasonable to think that they might realize this as well. This is why Tia's line is an important one. Jay-Z knows that his lyrics are going to cause some kind of controversy; he defends himself in the lyric: "If you escaped what I've escaped, you'd be in Paris getting fucked up too." Thus he adds another dimension to the quote from the comment above. Not only has he made an ascent towards success with the odds stacked against him; he also knows that you or I would have acted the same way if placed in his position. If this song has a political connotation, it is overshadowed by the observation that Jay-Z and Kanye make about human nature.

  5. When I first listened to this song, I just listened to the beats and I thought it was a very catchy song. It wasn't until this class when I actually looked at the lyrics and tried to understand its meaning. At first, I thought that it could be political and a slap in the face to the poverty-facing citizens across the globe.

    However, after reading Tia's and Jamie's arguments, I would like to think that it's less political and more of a testament to getting where they are at now. Jay-Z was very lucky to get to where he is now, and I agree that if i went through the journey he went through, I would probably party and live extravagantly too. I think that we looked too closely at the lyrics and gave these two more credit than they deserved; I do not think that their point of writing this song was to laugh at the underprivileged people. It was to cherish the journey that got them to where they are and enjoy the life they have while they have it.


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