Riding Passenger with Rich Brian

Rich Brian, a young Indonesian rapper, songwriter, and record producer, has put out 3 albums ever since his debut single, Dat $tick, came out in 2016. While signed under 88rising, a music recording company that focuses on Asian artists, he produced his second album The Sailor with 12 tracks depicting his journey from internet sensation to musical artist. The fifth track of the album, “Drive Safe” has been recognized as one of his more moving pieces as he is more vulnerable, expressing his “voyage” post-heartbreak. 

In the first verse Brian comments on his prospective future as a growing artist then switches focus, in the second verse, to his longing for the presence of his “love interest” again. He reiterated through the song that he recognizes that he had gotten lost in his pursuit of his musical dream and wants to caution the love interest and his audience. He wants individuals to be conscious of how they conduct their business while they chase their dreams, making sure to recognize how their actions may affect others. Brian uses metaphors, alliteration, and similes to depict his external and internal challenges.

The first line:

Feeling left out from the pack, you gotta, go rogue

Brian expresses his distinctive feeling, from progressing from an online phenomenon to a musician, through a metaphor between him and wolves’ system of survival. He indicates his realization of the growth in his career as well as the feeling of estrangement as he was leaving a part of his origin and area of comfort behind. He compares himself to wolves using the word “pack” which symbolizes his online persona he held before starting to “go rogue”, transitioning to music professionally. He seems to recognize that his past had been holding him back as he was growing which, by separating “from the pack” it helped push him forward and elevate his career. The connection that wolves have in a pack is very strong, knowing they must trust in one another to keep the other safe but when one starts to put less faith in another, the dynamic is impacted. Although the departure of a wolf can affect an entire pack, it can also open the doors to new experiences for the “rogue wolf”. With Brain, his connections to his roots as an internet sensation is comforting and has helped him grow but as he matures and decides to put his confidence in music, specifically the development in it, he will be able to flourish and create a new “pack”. 

Brian’s second verse:

Live life thinkin’ why it’s goin’ so slow

Lookin’  at the clock, wonderin’ why my mama’s not home

You  waited way too long

The two uses of alliteration helps exaggerate how time is influencing Brian.  Focusing first on the words, “live life” and “lookin”, it can be drawn that Brian has a distinct connection with the changing of time. He acknowledged that time is passing but by adding the words, “why” and “waited way” he offers his confusion to where the time has gone. 

A simile from the second verse:

Polaroid photos looking like a movie scene (Ayy)

This pieces together the capturing of a real moment to a fictional one. This reflects his struggle of differentiating the “good times” he had with the love interest. The “good times” he spent with the love interest is starting to look made up like a movie scene which can build upon the idea that his focus on his career had made him disregard the ones around him, giving reason to why he reiterates the point to be aware of your actions and how they will affect the ones around you. 

The Bigger Picture

Is it possible for music to be poetry? to find the answer to this question we must first find out what poetry is by definition. According to Perrine, poetry can be listened to by all sorts of people, he also says that “poetry may be defined as a kind of language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language”, which is exactly what music can be about, in music people say things with intensity to get through to people, this is exactly the kind of language used in The Bigger Picture.

The Bigger Picture is a song written and performed by Lil Baby, the song is titled this because in The Bigger Picture Lil Baby raps about the social unrest in America and his frustrations with people being put in a box of stereotypes based on their skin color. The song was released after the George Floyd incident occurred and talks about systemic racism while bringing to light other issues as well, the song mainly highlights the racial tensions between black and white people and it does so in an intellectual way. For instance Lil Baby raps, that he is the type of person who judges individuals by their

“mind and heart”

and not by their “faces”, signifying that the color of your skin is irrelevant to what kind of person you are. Ultimately, the title means that he is not color blind or the kind of person who stereotypes people, rather he sees the “bigger picture” as in viewing the aforementioned social ills from a microcosmic perspective.

There are many reasons that “The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby can be labeled as poetry, first of all in the song, Lil Baby is talking about a deeper meaning that you may only understand after listening to it multiple times, second of all, the song has an abundance of figurative language, and 3rd, there is no lack of emotion behind the lyrics whatsoever. This is because when referring to the George Floyd incident, Lil Baby says

“I guess that mean hold him down if he say he can’t breathe”

which he then relates to his own personal experience of when police made judgments about him based on his skin color.

Throughout the 4 minutes of the entire song, you can hear the anxiety in Lil Baby’s flow and his 3 verses. He unfolds his feelings and empathy surrounding the racial injustice that he’s seen throughout his life. Some of the most striking lines of the song include

“Throw us in cages like dogs and hyenas”

this line is a simile and is striking because it shows how people of colour are treated nowadays, as if they’re not human.

“You can’t fight fire with fire”

is a cliche and shows how this is all played out and we’ve seen it before but it keeps happening because there is no change. Finally there a metaphor,

“These scars too deep to heal us”

this metaphor shows that the damage that has been caused by this treatment has long lasting effects that’d be extremely hard to resolve. Overall, the song The Bigger Picture by Lil Baby has an abundance of figurative language, plus a deeper meaning when it comes to judging people by stereotypes and by the color of there skin instead of there “mind and heart”, this is why this song can pass as poetry.

‘Come Out Ye Blacks and Tans’: an anti-colonial diss track.

“Colonialism. The enforced spread of the rule of reason. But who is going to spread it among the colonizers?”

Anthony Burgess

It has been said that “great” britain’s largest export is independence days, and in fact there are only 22 countries worldwide that have never been a victim of english aggression.

The song “Come out ye Blacks and Tans“, was written during the Irish war for independence and later recorded by the band The Wolfe Tones. The song details the struggles of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the royal Irish constabulary, called the blacks and tans because of their uniforms.

Note: out of respect for my Irish ancestry and name I refuse to capitalize any proper nouns relating to britain or england other than Ireland.

This song has a very simple thesis: the british army (Especially the royal Irish constabulary) is a bunch of losers and the Irish will beat them in the end. After this the song does go into some entirely justified depictions of English brutality, colonialism and hypocrisy.

“I was born on a Dublin street where the royal drums did beat

And those loving english feet they walked all over us.”

These lines emphasize the experience of living under an english-controlled city and contrasts their (supposed) intentions with their actual actions. As elegantly put by Anthony Burgess, the british thought that they were doing everyone they invaded a favour by making them more ‘civilized’ and European. The song uses ‘loving english feet’ to describe how english imperialism brutalizes and alienates a population under the guise of developing it. The song declares such actions to be ignorantly hipocritical.

The song also decries the english military as weak and overconfident in their numerous successes over native populations.

“Come tell us how you slew
Them old Arabs two by two
Like Zulus they had spears and bows and arrows
How bravely you faced each one
With your sixteen pounder gun
And you frightened them damn natives to their marrow”

For the Irish, they’ve had enough of these highfalutin anglo-saxons slaughtering countless populations across the globe and then bragging about it. The Irish argued that annihilating indigenous peoples with guns, germs and steel was not something to be proud of. The dismissive diction of the verse, ‘them old Arabs’ and ‘them damn natives’ mirrors the dismissive nature of english policy (and english historians) towards their numerous conquests.

Conversely, the description of bravery in the face of underwhelming odds is echoed in how ‘bravely’ english soldiers massacred countless natives in an instant, like what the english did when subjugating Ireland. This verse offers solidarity for the many victims of European imperialism while simultaneously calling the english losers. The rational is that england would not have it so easy against a modernly armed people, like the IRA. This reasoning is reinforced by the continued taunting in relation to the disaster of WW1.

“Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders”

The ‘blacks and tans’ (royal Irish constabulary) which were know for their retaliatory massacres of innocent civilians and brutal killings of dissidents were mostly made up of english WW1 vets. The taunting depicted can echo the sheer inhumanity of WW1, and how winning medals in Flanders is a result of slaying numerous men for little to no reason, much like what they did in Ireland. The line can also be a reference to how superior english leadership and technology cannot get them very far when it comes to fighting actual modern armies like the Germans or the IRA, as the song posits. And while I cannot determine whether or not the song caused the outcome, the Irish war for independence happened just as the song posits.

The Poet Ms. Lauryn Hill

For those unaware, the singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill soared into the music scene as part of the hip-hop trio “Fugees” before launching her solo career with the critically acclaimed album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’ The album was dropped at the height of her stardom, under enormous stress from the media about the identity of her unborn child, the grandson of Bob Marley. The entire album, but especially the eternally jammable, “To Zion”, is beat poetry centered around the theme of motherhood and unconditional love.

Initially, Hill talks about the trials of choosing to become a mother

But everybody told me to be smart

Look at your career they said

“Lauryn, baby, use your head”

But instead I chose to use

my heart

This line speaks of the trials of motherhood facing a successful woman. When it comes to starting a family, so often in the music industry, as with the rest of the world, the freedom and flexibility afforded men isn’t available across the gender line. The media was asking why. When she’s at such an important moment in her career, why would she get pregnant now? Hill’s answer is clearly heard rest of the song.

Woe this crazy circumstance

I knew his life deserved a chance

“The joy of my world”, chanted throughout the song speaks of more than the joy of having her first child, there is a tone of fearlessness in the words that come from Hill choosing happiness.

Whirl on Silver Wheels

Perriane describes poetry as “something central to existence, something having unique value to the fully realized life, something that we are better off for having and without which we are spiritually impoverished.” However, in society, poetry is often undervalued. People do not read poetry like they read books. Perriane’s description would make much more sense when applied to a different art form — music, for example. In fact, music and poetry have much in common. Both have the ability to use figurative language, tone, and syntax, to together convey complex ideas. Looking at poetry and music in this sense makes the line between the two become blurry. I argue that, in some cases, music is poetry just as much as classic poetry. 

Silver Wheels” by Bruce Cockburn is an outstanding example of true music poetry. In it, Cockburn uses multidimensional language to highlight the exciting monotony and beauty of a long drive throughout the country and into the city in a way that can only be considered poetry. The first verse

High speed drift on a prairie road

Hot tires sing like a string being bowed

Sudden town rears up then explodes

Fragments resolve into white line code

is full of figurative language, all of which create a picture of the world rushing by as you drive across long, repetitive roads. For example, the slow, calm word “drift” in the first line contrasts the use of “high speeds” and later “Sudden town rears up then explodes” which work together demonstrating how the repetitive motion of driving still includes a sense of unique awe and interest, even with something as small as a town. The whole verse also acts as imagery of the scene with its use of language, particularly in the last two lines. They create a clear picture of small communities whirring past and disappearing in the distance behind a car window in a particularly beautiful way. 

After this first verse, the music poem transitions into descriptions of different environments seen on the drive, from nature to construction zones to a busy city, all with the same depth of language displaying unique sights and beauty. Importantly, even though the descriptions are different, the same structure is used in all verses. Each has the same rhyme scheme and cadence, and the general tone is maintained. This preserves the same feeling of the first verse throughout the song, emphasizing how much beauty and interesting change can be seen in the repetitive, lulling drive described. Clearly, through its complex use of language and structure to display a unique experience, “Silver Wheels” is true poetry.

Ironically Poetic Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is a musical that portrays the impact music has on a family in Austria just before WWII. The opening theme, “Prelude / The Sound of Music,” is a poem ironically about music with musical augmentation.

Prelude / The Sound of Music” asserts that music inspires humans to enjoy life. The “speaker” of the song, Maria, is a nun who is not allowed to sing or participate in any music with others. The sounds that originate from the ageless environment around her act as inspiration for her to live.

In the first verse, Maria uses personification to highlight the way music can bring anything to life. She sings

The hills are alive with the sound of music

With songs they have sung for a thousand years

The hills fill my heart with the sound of music

My heart wants to sing every song it hears

Maria personifies her heart by claiming it is filled with the sound of music and that it wants to sing. She wants to capture the inspirational effect natural music has on a fundamental human organ and symbol of the soul, the heart.

In the next verse, Maria begins to describe the ways the is moved by the music of nature. She sings

My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds

That rise from the lake to the trees

My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies

From a church on a breeze

To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over

Stones on its way

To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray

She continues to personify her heart in different ways and uses wordplay to convey her musical connections to the environment. For example, she claims her heart wants to “beat,” because hearts beat to pump blood through the body. But she compares her desire to the beating of the wings of birds. Maria utilizes the sound of her voice to add musical color to the poem as well. For example when she sings “chime that flies,” her voice goes up in pitch, like something that would fly. Maria also takes advantage of syntax. Each example entails a more complex experience supported by the music of nature. She begins the verse with the fundamental beating of a heart.  She transitions to laughing, a human quality that does not appear until after a few months of a baby’s life. She finally ends the verse with singing, a complex human talent.

Maria ends the song with opinions on other humans. She sings

I go to the hills when my heart is lonely

I know I will hear what I’ve heard before

My heart will be blessed with the sound of music

And I’ll sing once more

The first line of this verse is strategically placed immediately after the last line of the last verse. Singing inherently involves other people, while loneliness is the absence of other people. However, Maria is comforted by the natural sounds of music, and can continue enjoying life.