“This is America” by Childish Gambino [feat. some others] – Lyrics for English students

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This Is America (single cover) 2018.jpg
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From Donald Glover’s initial “ya, ya, ya’s” to Young Thug’s closing mumbles, “This is America” has become such an iconic song. Pretty much every country has done their own spinoff at this point. But for those of you learning English out there, did you understand the lyrics? This post isn’t an attempt to explain hidden meanings in the video or deep explanations in the lyrics. I’m just trying to explain some of the common expressions and slang he uses in the song, things that might be harder for non-native English speakers to understand. Watch the video if you like and accompany the song. Ready? So here we go!

Read more: for other Lyrics “Explained”, for just lyrics without my explanations

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Song Lyrics & Explanations

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

  • Society: This sounds like what certain prejudiced Americans say to immigrants or groups they don’t like (black, Muslim, poor, etc.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

We just wanna party

  • Informal Speech: *We just want to party

Party just for you

We just want the money

Money just for you (Yeah)

I know you wanna party

Party just for free

Girl, you got me dancin’ (Girl, you got me dancin’)

  • Grammar: *You’ve got me dancing… Also, You have me dancing…

Dance and shake the frame (Yeah)

  • Slang: “Frame” here refers to the woman’s body.

We just wanna party (Yeah)

Party just for you (Yeah)

We just want the money (Yeah)

Money just for you (You)

I know you wanna party (Yeah)

Party just for free (Yeah)

Girl, you got me dancin’ (Girl, you got me dancin’, yeah)

Dance and shake the frame (Ooh)

This is America

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

  • Slang: To “catch” someone doing something is to find or witness that person. It’s usually when you find someone doing an act that is not right. “Don’t let me catch you stealing.” “Slipping” here means to make a mistake or do something wrong.
  • Pronunciation: The lyrics I found say “now” but it sounds kind of like “no.” Gambino could be doing this intentionally. Either way, it has about the same meaning. “Don’t let them find you doing something you shouldn’t be doing, being weak, doing something illegal.”

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

Look what I’m whippin’ now

  • Slang: “Whipping” in slang usually means to make or come up with something. It’s mostly used like “whipping up” something. Whipping can also have to do with cars, as in “Look what I’m driving now.” Whipping traditionally has to do with using a whip to punish someone like a prisoner or slave, or turning milk into a “whipped” cream, for example.
  • Pronunciation: “Now” here kind of sounds like “on,” so it almost sounds like “Look what I’m whipping (beating, hitting) on.”
  • Culture: The “whip” is also a popular dance, by the way.

This is America (Woo)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

Look what I’m whippin’ now

This is America (Skrrt, skrrt, woo)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy)

Look how I’m livin’ now

Police be trippin’ now (Woo)

  • Grammar: *Police are tripping now…
  • Slang: “Tripping” here means to act in a way that is wrong or dumb to others, constantly making mistakes and bad choices. “My dad is always punishing me for stuff I didn’t do. He’s tripping.”

Read more: Tripping, also Adventures of Charles

Yeah, this is America (Woo, ayy)

Guns in my area (Word, my area)

  • Figurative speech: His “area” can be his neighborhood, as in, he lives in an area with lots of guns. It can also be literally in his personal area, like in his possession. It most likely refers to America as a whole, though.
  • Slang: “Word” when used like this is just a way to acknowledge what someone says. It’s like saying “really, true, yep, etc.”

I got the strap (Ayy, ayy)

  • Grammar: *I have the strap…
  • Slang: A “strap” in this sense refers to a gun, gun strap.

Read more: Strap

I gotta carry ’em

  • Informal Speech: *I have to carry them.
  • Less Obvious Meaning: He has to carry guns, as if for protection or because that’s the stereotype.

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go into this (Ugh)

  • Informal Speech: *I’m going to go into this…
  • Expression: “Go in” in this sense means to really do well, have a lot of success, really analyze, look hard at, and make an overall really cool song.

Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla (Woo)

  • Double Meaning: Like guerilla warfare where trained common civilians get involved in warlike fighting. “Guerilla” rhymes perfectly with “gorilla” which is kind of a derogatory term against black people. This is probably on purpose as if to say, “This is about black people.”

Read more: Guerilla

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go get the bag

  • Slang: The “bag” here means money. It could also mean drugs since they’re mostly sold in a little bag.

Read more: Bag, also slang terms for money

Yeah, yeah, or I’ma get the pad

a villa style mansion in the evening by the pool, meaning of slang "pad" from Childish Gambino song
a nice “pad” – by Vita Vilcina
  • Slang: The “pad” most likely refers to a house, like a nice home.
  • Double Meaning: In another way, he could be using a double meaning to refer to a writing pad (notepad) where he writes his smart ideas.

Read more: Pad

Yeah, yeah, I’m so cold like, yeah (Yeah)

  • Slang: “Cold” in slang can mean a few things. It can mean that someone is “coldhearted” and doesn’t care about anything, or a mean person. It can also mean that someone is really cool and good at something.

I’m so dope like, yeah (Woo)

  • “Dope” can also mean really cool, something that’s liked by others.

Read more: Dope, also Adventures of Charles

We gon’ blow like, yeah (Straight up, uh)

  • Informal Speech: *We’re going to blow…
  • Slang: “Blow” or “blow up” in slang means to come out and have a ton of success, become really popular. “Straight up” is slang that is usually used to agree with someone. It means something like “true, for real, etc.”

Read more: Straight up

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody

You go tell somebody

Grandma told me

Get your money, Black man (Get your— Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Get your—Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Get your—Black man)

This is America (Woo, ayy)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Woo, woo, don’t catch you slippin’ now)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy, woah)

Look what I’m whippin’ now (Slime!)

This is America (Yeah, yeah)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Woah, ayy)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy, woo)

Look what I’m whippin’ now (Ayy)

Look how I’m geekin’ out (Hey)

  • Slang: “Geeking out” is to be dressed in a really stylish but kind of formal way. A similar expression is “geeked up” with about the same meaning. This phrase became popular when a style of dance called jerking got famous. This term also means to get high on drugs, but that’s different from what Gambino’s talking about. “Geek” traditionally is a mean term used to make fun of kids that are seen as nerds or who have awkward style. The meaning was turned to be stylish in a weird way. “Geeking out” can also be to show off one’s intelligence or get excited by “nerdy” or “geeky” subjects.

Read more: Geek, Geek out, Geeked up

I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo)

a female model with nice clothing and heels, representing the meaning of slang word "fitted" from This Is America song
she’s “fitted” – by Matheus Ferrero
  • Slang: “Fitted” means well-dressed or stylish.

Read more: Fitted

I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci)

  • Figurative Speech/Dual Meaning: “On Gucci” could mean that he is wearing Gucci and is in a phase where he likes this brand. This could be that he is “on” this brand like a drug since we usually say “on” when someone is using or is addicted to a drug. That would relate to being geeked out/up from before. “He’s on LSD.” It could also mean he likes or is acting like Gucci Mane, a famous rapper. Being “on” someone can also mean to make fun of them, so this line has a few probable meanings.

I’m so pretty (Yeah, yeah, woo)

I’m gon’ get it (Ayy, I’m gon’ get it)

  • Informal Speech: I’m going to get get it… “Get it” could refer to making money. “Get it!” is often what people yell to encourage someone to do something well, like dancing. The way he says it though, “Gon’ get it” is used commonly to mean that the person is in trouble or is going to have serious problems. “Ooh, you broke mom’s lamp. You’re gonna get it! (you’re in big trouble)”

Watch me move (Blaow)

This a celly (Ha)

  • Grammar: *This is a celly…
  • Slang: “Celly” here refers to a cellphone.
  • Society: This relates to some police officers that shot innocent black people confusing their cellphones with a gun.

That’s a tool (Yeah)

  • Slang: A “tool” here refers to a gun, saying the cellphone looked like a gun to the police.
  • Society: They could also be using this excuse as a “tool” to get out of trouble.

On my Kodak (Woo) Black

  • Culture/Figurative Speech: Now he’s on Kodak, which is probably that he’s taking photos or recording what’s happening. Kodak is a company that has produced lots of photography products. Kodak Black is a rapper, so he could also be saying that he is acting like Kodak Black. He could also just be saying Kodak to refer to the word black, as in, he is “being black,” acting in a stereotypically black way.

Ooh, know that (Yeah, know that, hold on)

  • Grammar: *You know that…
  • Slang: “Hold on” means to wait, or also to be strong and not give up, not stop.

Get it (Woo, get it, get it)

Ooh, work it (21)

  • Slang: “Work it” means to do something really well, especially related to dancing.
  • Rapper: “21” refers to 21 Savage, a rapper in this song.

Read more: Work it

Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands (Hunnid bands)

  • Slang: *One hundred bands… “Hunnid” or “a hunnid” is a common slang pronunciation of the word “hundred.” “Bands” means a thousand dollars. A hundred bands is a lot of money.

Read more: Hunnid, Bands, also slang terms for money

Contraband, contraband, contraband (Contraband)

I got the plug in Oaxaca (Woah)

  • Slang: A “plug” is someone who provides illegal contraband for another party, usually drugs. It also can be just a person who has anything another person needs.
  • Society/Geography: He’s saying he has a drug supplier in Oaxaca, a state in Mexico. This state isn’t famous for drug activity, but he says it likely because it’s in Mexico, a country infamous for drug cartels. He’s not being serious though.

Read more: Plug, Oaxaca

They gonna find you like “blocka” (Blaow)

  • Informal Speech: *They’re going to find you…
  • Culture/Sounds: “Blocka” is the sound a gun makes. They’re going to find you and shoot you, basically. This sound has been popularized by rappers of Caribbean origin and is now used by all kinds of rappers, especially in trap music.

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody

America, I just checked my following list, and

  • Media: His following list on social media.

You go tell somebody

You m********** owe me

Grandma told me

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Black man (1, 2, 3—get down)

  • Culture/Music: This is a popular line in funk and soul music from the mid-1900s, made most popular by artist James Brown. He usually said this before he started dancing, which is exactly what happens in the music video.
  • Expression: To “get down” in music means to start dancing and having fun. Similarly, “Get down!” is what people yell when someone starts shooting a gun.

Read more: Get down

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody

You go tell somebody

Grandma told me, “Get your money”

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Black man

You just a black man in this world

  • Grammar: *You’re just a black man…

You just a barcode, ayy

  • Deeper Meaning: A “barcode” is that black and white code that people scan to buy something or check the price. He could be saying black people are seen as something to buy or that have a price. Just objects.

You just a black man in this world

Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy

a foreign car representing the meaning of English slang "foreigns"
all I drive is “foreigns” – by Mike Von
  • Slang: “Foreigns” are foreign cars. Rappers usually love to sing about foreign cars.

You just a big dawg, yeah

  • Slang: “Dawg” is a word that refers to another person, usually a man. It’s the same as dude, bro, etc.

Read more: Dawg

I kenneled him in the backyard

  • A “kennel” is a shelter where dogs are kept. This plays on the word “dawg” from before, meaning he puts this man in his place or probably buries him in the backyard.

No, probably ain’t life to a dog

For a big dog

  • Understanding: These last two lines I can’t really understand what he’s saying, but this is more or less it.

What Else?

“This is America” is such a cool song because its lyrics are full of double meanings, cultural references, and sarcastic criticisms. Again, I don’t really want to get into the deeper meaning of the lyrics, but it’s apparent that he is criticizing lots of modern hip hop. The video expresses this even more and his criticism shifts against America as a whole, even though he focuses more on the black experience.

Violence, racism, discrimination, and constant stereotypical pressures are just part of what can make life in America very tough for anybody, and especially the disadvantaged groups of people. Of course, black Americans are one of the greatest examples of this, and we see proof of it time and time again. The song is fun to listen to and dance to. The video is enticing with just as much meaningful content as the lyrics, and this song was a hit since the second it reached our screens.

Featured image: Wayne Lee-Sing

The Oscars 2021 + society – What do they say about us?

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This year’s Academy Awards (2021) were one of the most unique ceremonies we’ve seen in a long time. That might have something to do with the weird year that proceeded it. Still, this time around the Oscars said some interesting things about American society, and that’s what I want to get at today: What did these Oscars say about us? (Read about what other movies reveal about society in At the Movies) Just like the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards were a little, umm, odd. Despite its drift away from conventions, it was still a groundbreaking show for a few reasons. Let’s take a look, sh-shall we?

a dog with sunglasses lying in a hammock, representing the more relaxed mood of the 2021 Oscars
Cool and relaxed, just like this year’s Oscars – by Linda Segerfeldt

Less Exclusive, More Chill

Without getting too deep into the technical side of what made this year’s Oscars special, one thing you notice right off the bat is the more relaxed atmosphere. The awards themselves took place in Union Station, LA’s biggest transportation hub. The feel of it was a place where people of all kinds and classes pass through on their daily commutes. Downtown Los Angeles is also a lot more “of the people” than Hollywood traditionally is. This made the overall vibe more laid back and less exclusive than the usual Hollywood ceremonies. We also didn’t really see a Red Carpet or all the fancy fettering of previous shows. This made us (me, at least) feel more at home. After all, between that theater in Hollywood and Union Station, the station’s the only one I’ve ever been to.

Besides the actual venue, the whole mood seemed to be more relaxed. Because of coronavirus, there weren’t tons of people all grouped up into the station hall. With fewer attendees, the mood of the ceremonies felt more friendly. Even for me at home, I felt like I was more a part of the awards than in previous years, and a big reason why was the smaller group in attendance.

Of course, another reason why is that my people were represented! Yep, we had Questlove at DJ and interacting with the crowd. Lil Rel was making jokes all over the place. We even got to see Glenn Close getting wild, shaking her tail feather. The awards seemed a lot more intimate and laid back, which shows part of what people are craving right now. I speak for Americans, but people around the world, I’m sure, are craving less isolation and exclusivity. We want more inclusion, and we want things we can laugh at, something that represents us. With this year’s Oscars, that’s what we got!

Representation

Continuing on the thread of inclusion, the awards this year were highly inclusive of minorities. Well, at least as compared to prior years. They had black people nominated, Asian people, dead people, people who aren’t even American, Muslim people, Jewish people, and Christians (I’m sure). There were women nominated in roles that women rarely ever win or get nominated for. Specifically for women, two of them contested for big awards like directing, and (SPOILER) one of them won! Okay, that’s great, but let’s go back to those ethnicities.

The woman I was talking about that won, Chloé Zhao, is a walking glass-ceiling breaker. Not only is she the second woman to ever win best director, but she is also Chinese (by ethnicity) and Chinese! (by nationality) That means not only is she an ethnic minority, but a foreign woman who came across the sea and still won the award. That’s what I’m talking about. Other East Asians had success this year too. Steven Yeun of Korean background was the first East Asian contestant for best actor, and Youn Yuh-jung, a Korean actress from the same movie, won best supporting actress.

She is part of another diverse group this year. Actors in their “silver years” made up a good chunk of nominees and winners. Gotta represent for the 60+, right Anthony Hopkins? He ran up against another Brit, Riz Ahmed, one of the few Muslims and persons of South Asian ancestry to ever contest in the awards.

Diversity had become a big issue in the Oscars since the whole #OscarsSoWhite in 2016. Well, it had been an issue since forever, but it was finally changed after the hashtag was made. The success of foreign films like Parasite and black leading movies Get Out have opened the way for more and more diversity in the Academy Awards in these last few years. These movies’ styles have been loved by filmmakers and moviegoers for years. Finally, they are being recognized in the most prestigious arenas.

Resting in Power

There was a lot to celebrate this year at the Oscars, but one thing still brought us down to earth for reflection. Every year there are tons of filmmakers that pass away and get mentioned in that sad montage in the middle of the awards. This year was another heartbreaking year of filmmakers that had to go, though there were some really big ones that left.

To remember just a few like the legendary Sean Connery and the infamous composer Ennio Morricone, we also had to say our goodbyes to Chadwick Boseman. He is the one that has had the most impact in popular film in the most recent years, and so he’ll probably be the most missed in the public eye for now. Still, so many huge talents in cinema left us this year, but the montage was at least lightened up. Instead of a slow sad song like usual, they played an upbeat song by Stevie Wonder this year. That made the whole section of the ceremony feel more lively like a celebration of great artists. We’ve had enough of crying and death! Now is time to celebrate life, am I right?

Nomadland

The last thing I want to talk about is Nomadland. It’s a pretty peculiar movie on its own. The movie had almost an entirely unprofessional cast, by which I mean they weren’t established actors yet. The documentary real-world style of the movie brought everyone down to the dirt once again. Besides the talented Zhao, McDormand, and their crew, the movie’s message was also special.

Taking place mostly outside under big skies, it fed into a desire many people have to get out and explore the world again. I don’t know about you, but after Covid, I’m not trying to stay cooped up inside the house again. I think the fact that this movie won best picture — and a whole lot of other awards — represented how much people are craving independence, freedom, and the big open sky. It’s a time to break free from lockdown and smell the fresh air, hit that road one more time. With the vaccine heavy underway, many of us are on that road and tasting that dream once again.

That’s all I’ve got to say. What did you guys think of this year’s Oscars? Was it really a unique ceremony, or just like all the others? Let me know what you think. And don’t forget to look around and read more posts here on Cult-Surf. You never know what you’ll discover 😉 Peace!

“Ojuelegba (Remix)” by Wizkid feat. Drake, Skepta – lyrics for English students

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A vertical triband design (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the center.
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A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue
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Flag of England
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In this post, we will look at song lyrics from Nigerian artist Wizkid, along with rappers Drake and Skepta. The song is the remix of the original “Ojuelegba” from Wizkid’s Ayo album, which you can listen to here. This post is also a continuation of the series where we analyze English-language song lyrics for learners, called Lyrics “Explained”. I’ve mostly been covering songs from the U.S., Canada, or Britain, so this is a nice change-up (at least for one of the singers). It’s a good reminder that English is spoken throughout the world, and places like Nigeria make up an important side of English-language culture too. If you want to read “Ojuelegba (Remix)” lyrics without my explanations, you can find them here. I also got some help with translations since part of the song is in the Yoruba language. You can read more on Kilonso. Okay, here we go.

Image of a busy street in Ojuelegba suburb of Lagos, Nigeria, namesake and subject of the song Ojuelegba by Wizkid
Ojuelegba, Nigeria – By Omoeko Media

Song Lyrics (Wizkid, Drake, Skepta)

Ni Ojuelegba o, my people dey there

  • Other language: In the Yoruba language, “In Ojuelegba.” Ojuelegba is a busy suburb of Lagos, by the way.
  • Regional accent: Then in regional English dialect: “My people are there.”

My people suffer, dem dey pray for blessing eh

  • Regional speech: *”They all pray for blessings.”

Ni ojuelegba o, my people dey there

Dem dey pray for blessing, for better living eh eh

Are you feeling good tonight?

This thing got me thanking God for life

I can’t explain

I can’t explain, yeah

Are you feeling good tonight?

This thing got me thanking God for life

I just can’t explain

I can’t explain, no, no, yeah

Look, it’s gon’ be a long long time ‘fore we stop

  • Informal speech: *It’s going to be a long, long time before…

Boy better know, they better know who make the scene pop

  • Grammar: *Who makes the scene…
  • Slang: “Pop” here has the meaning of making something more lively, more exciting, like a party. “That place was popping!”

All I ever needed was a chance to get the team hot

  • Slang: “Hot” here can mean successful, famous, or anything similar to that. He refers to his group of friends and people working with him as his team.

Only thing I fear is a headshot or a screenshot

  • Grammar: *The only thing I fear…
  • Other vocabulary: A “headshot” is a gunshot to the head. A “screenshot” is a picture you take of your own phone’s screen. Basically, he fears either getting killed or someone finding out what’s on his phone. Haha.

Pree me, dem a pree me

  • Regional speech: “Pree” I think comes from Jamaica. It means to pay close attention to something. With a Jamaican patois accent, he’s saying that people are paying close attention to him, like the paparazzi or his fans.
  • Double meanings: It also sounds like “premie/premy,” an informal way to refer to people that were born prematurely. I don’t know if that was intended, but it could be an interesting way for him to compare these people to babies.

You know they only call me when they need me

I never go anywhere, they never see me

I’m the type to take it easy, take it easy

  • Idioms: “Take it easy” means to do things slowly and calmly, in a relaxed manner. “-How have you been? -Oh, I’ve been taking it easy.”

I took girls in the very first text I sent

I don’t beg no lovers, I don’t beg no friends

  • Grammar: Double negatives! *I don’t beg any…

If you wanna link, we can link right now

  • Slang: To “link” or “link up” is to get together with someone or to meet someone so you can spend time with them.

Skeppy, Wiz and Drake, it’s a ting right now

  • Names: Those are the names of the artists participating in this song.
  • Slang/Regional speech: Again with a Caribbean/African accent, Drake says “it’s a thing.” This means that they made something happen together, they accomplished something. “Thing” can have lots of weird underlying meanings depending on the situation and the speaker.

Are you feeling good tonight?

This thing got me thanking God for life

I can’t explain

I can’t explain eh yeah

When I was in school, being African was a diss

  • Slang: A “diss” or “dis” is something used to tease or make someone feel bad. It comes from the word “disrespect,” but has to do more with teasing or saying disrespectful things toward another.

Sounds like you need help saying my surname, Miss

  • Society: Having a foreign last name, Skepta’s teachers had a hard time pronouncing it when he was in school. This is a common occurrence for people who have foreign surnames.

Tried to communicate

But every day is like another episode of Everybody Hates Chris

  • Society/Culture: From Chris Rock’s TV show. Throughout the show, Chris suffers from racism for being the only black kid at his school.
Photo of boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., expressing from Ojuelegba Remix lyrics by Wizkid, Drake & Skepta
Floyd Mayweather getting ready to fight – By rcelis

Ever since mum said, “Son you are a king

  • Culture/Society: This reminds me of “The Lion King” where young Simba is told that one day he will be king. I guess the idea is ever since he was a boy, a little kid.

I feel like Floyd when I’m stepping into the ring

  • Culture: Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a famous boxer.

Just spoke to the boy, said he’s flying in with a ting

  • Grammar: *I just spoke…
  • Slang/Informal speech: By “the boy,” he probably is talking about Drake. Saying the “ting” again, it could mean any kind of cool thing that he’s bringing. It’s something important.

We’re touching the road to celebrate another win, we’re going in

  • Idiom/Figurative speech: “Touching the road” means to go on a trip. It could be literally on the road, like in a car/bus. It could also be just going on any trip. To “go in” can mean a lot of things. Here it means to really enjoy something, put in your biggest effort, to do something very well.

Why am I repping these ends? Man I don’t know

  • Slang: To “rep” is to represent something, usually a neighborhood or place of origin. “Ends” I believe is London slang meaning neighborhood.

The government played roulette with my postcode

  • Figurative speech: “Playing roulette” here gives the idea of the government randomly choosing where he and his family will live. It appears that in London’s project housing system, that has been a pretty common practice. Also, Skepta is from Tottenham, a rough neighborhood in London.

All I know is it’s where my people dem are suffering

  • Regional speech: “Dem” here doesn’t change the meaning of the phrase. It means “they” or “them.” It’s sort of a Caribbean/African style of talking.

I seen it before, narrate the story as it unfolds

  • Grammar: *I’ve seen it before…

Dad certified the settings and my mum knows

My mind full of more bullets than your gun holds

  • Figurative speech: He’s seen or heard lots of violence, gun shots.

Now I got the peng tings in the front row

  • Slang: “Peng” is British slang for beautiful, attractive, or appealing. “Tings” here probably refers to women, so he has pretty women at his shows.

Saying, “Skeppy come home, baby come home!”

  • Other info: “Come home” might be telling Skepta he’s welcome to come back to his ancestral homeland, Africa.

Yeah, I love the sun but I respect the rain

  • Figurative speech/Double meaning: The sun usually is a reference for good days, while the rain symbolizes hard times. This is especially common in music or literature. It also could be a reference to religion. He can love the Son (Jesus Christ) but respects his Reign (His power and authority). I don’t know if Skepta is religious or Christian, but it could be a double meaning either way.

Look forward to good times, can’t forget the pain

  • Idiom/Phrasal verb: To “look forward to” something is to be excited for it to happen. “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!”

I was the kid in school with the ten-pound shoes

Black pepper grains, representing the line about pepper grains relating to hair in the lyrics of Ojuelegba Remix by Wizkid
Grains of black pepper for comparison – by Anas Alhajj
  • Society: “Pounds” referring to British currency. These are cheap shoes, probably in bad quality.

White socks, jack-ups and the pepper grains

  • Slang: “Jack-ups” refers to pants that are too small/short. “Pepper grains” refers to nappy hair or hair that is curly and kinky. It isn’t combed or brushed and has knots in it, so it looks like grains of black pepper.

Said they’re gonna respect me for my ambition

  • Grammar: *I said they’re going to …

Rest in peace my n***** that are missing

  • Informal/Figurative speech: “Missing” in this case really means dead.

I had to tell my story cuz they’d rather show you

Black kids with flies on their faces on the television

  • Society: Referring to the sad way Africans or black people are often portrayed on TV.

Eh e kira fun mummy mi o

  • Other language: More Yoruba; “Thanks for my mom”

Ojojumo lo n s’adura

  • “She prays every day”

Mon jaiye mi won ni won soro ju

  • “I’m enjoying my life, they are complaining”

Ojojumo owo n wole wa

  • “Every day, money is coming in”

E kira fun mummy mi o

Ojojumo lo n s’adura

Mon jaiye mi won ni won soro ju

Won ni won ni won soro ju

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And the lyrics repeat.

Last Thoughts on Ojuelegba

Alright, we’ve got Nigeria on the list! This song has an amazing rhythm and is such a relaxing yet upbeat song at the same time. I recommend you listen to it if you haven’t yet. Throughout the lyrics, we join the struggles of growing up in the ghetto or in rough neighborhoods. There is some reflection of hard times, but also a celebration for how much better things are now. These difficulties have made these singers who they are today, and they’re proud of it. Nigeria does have a lot of English speakers, but the country is multi-ethnic and -linguistic. It’s great that we get to see some Yoruba and be more multicultural. In fact, that’s one of the best parts of English-speaking countries, anyway!

What do you think? Did you like this song? Can you relate to its message? And what about you who are from Nigeria or have visited Lagos. What can you tell us about it? Leave a comment below to share. Otherwise take care, everyone!

Gone Girl + society [2014] – What’s it say about us?

A small-town girl from the American Midwest disappears suddenly … and her husband is the prime suspect. Well, actually she’s a grown woman, but you get my point. This is the main plot of this post’s subject, Gone Girl. It was a book by Gillian Flynn that turned into a popular movie. It’s directed by David Fincher (for the movie nerds out there) and was nominated for a lot of awards too. By the way, this is part of a series where we (lightly) analyze English-language movies. If you like that sort of thing, there are more posts like this here.

The book cover of Gone Girl, novel by Gillian Flynn

We’ll look at what the movie has to say about American society at large, as well as some general themes of the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, there might be some spoilers, I can’t make any promises. You can find it on platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix, though it depends on your country or region. The trailer is up top in case you want to refresh your memory or check it out for the first time.

Movie Setting

What does the movie, Gone Girl, have to say about American culture or society? For starters, let’s look at where it’s set. The movie takes place mostly in a fictional town in northeast Missouri. It’s not far from the Mississippi River which forms the border with Illinois. Why is that important? Well, Missouri is a state smack in the middle of the USA. Southern Missouri is a lot more like the South in terms of culture and other ways, while the north is a bit more like the Midwest. Even being in the same country (in this case the same state), being in the Midwest shows a greater lean towards mainstream, heartland American values and identity. You can kind of see the difference in accents, where some people have stronger “rural” or Southern accents where others have a more typical American accent. I’ll explain a bit later.

A map showing the course of the Mississippi River in North America, the setting of Gone Girl
course of the Mississippi River – By Mulad at English Wikipedia

The Mississippi River is the longest, most iconic river in the country. We see big homes with green lawns, quiet streets with cul-de-sacs, and small brick-stone towns. This is all typical of an American city suburb. There are also some scenes that describe what the weather is like in much of the Midwest during the summer. You have people searching for Amy (the gone “girl”) in green fields full of bugs and sweating under the sticky, humid air. There are some scenes by the river or poolside that show us how hot it is. I don’t remember if there is a winter scene, but I feel like there was. Either way, the Midwest also gets extremely cold in the winter months.

Gone Girl is set in modern times, which is important for this next section.

The Media

Maybe you haven’t noticed lately, but the media, especially social and mass media, have been impacting lots of people’s behaviors. From liking photos to deciding whether or not to wear a mask, these platforms have a bigger impression on most of us than we might think. The news especially has a way of leading us into believing what the studio thinks. If they don’t think anything, they are good at making the situation a lot more dramatic than it is. Even before Covid (I know, feels like forever), lots of people were suspicious of mass media and the news. They have a habit of accentuating the bad stuff and pushing people to be more scared than they need to. I’m sure this happens almost everywhere, but Americans have a long history of being suspicious of the government and any other entity that has too much power.

A large crowd of protestors walking through the city streets, representing the retaliation against Nick in Gone Girl
the town coming after Nick – by Alex Radelich, Unsplash

Still, this precaution doesn’t keep most of the town along with some of the investigators from believing that Nick (Ben Affleck’s character) really killed his wife. The news repeats this accusation and fires up conflict at a time when Nick’s involvement isn’t really suspected. This plays on our society’s recent growth in protecting women’s rights and protecting women in at-risk situations like domestic violence. Although this is a very real problem across the globe, the story shows how some women take advantage of this movement toward equality. There are those who intentionally try to harm the image of a man. There have been lots of scandals in recent years of women doing exactly this, as a matter of fact.

The fact that the community starts to turn against Nick after seeing the news sheds light on their innocence. There is a general perception that people from the city are sinners and those from the country are saints. That’s meant figuratively, but in Gone Girl, you can see how much of the community was influenced by the news. They were manipulated into the version of the story that would get more views, higher ratings. Another example of this is one of Amy’s (Rosamund Pike’s character) friends who jogs regularly and talks with her. Amy recognizes her innocence and tricks the woman into trusting her, steadily turning the woman against Nick. These people live a more relaxed, quiet, and routine suburban life. They don’t come across many bizarre situations like this very often. In the end, they don’t know what to believe or what to do about it.

Community

A rural town in the country with green hills and forests in the background, a yellow school bus running down the main road, a community like in the movie Gone Girl
small Midwestern community – by Louise Tollisen, Unsplash

Besides them turning against Nick, we also see how tight-knit this community is. This is a common feature in small towns across the country. People really look after each other and talk with one another when passing on the street, which isn’t as common in big cities. Other themes about the characters’ behaviors are the unhappy couple trying to fake a perfect marriage by putting up a false face of unity. Amy is robbed by a traveling couple with guns. This sheds light on the somewhat loose gun laws in certain states and the hardships many people in rural America face. This can go to the point of committing serious crimes on one another. This touches on gun culture being stronger in the American interior too. Missouri actually has a fairly high crime rate and lots of underprivileged areas. This reality is shown in a few scenes too.

Crime & Violence

This is essentially a crime-novel-turned-crime-movie. A cocky big-shot lawyer, constant snooping by the police, and investigators being quick to decide what happened before the case is closed; these are all common tropes in the crime genre. If you watch CSI or Law & Order, you know exactly what I mean. One thing that’s very apparent, especially near the end of the movie, is the high level of violence and bloodshed. Gone Girl isn’t really a violent movie, but it has a big bloody moment towards the end.

This touches on how common violence is in American moviemaking. I don’t want to say that we all love blood and guts (some do), but from our movies, you’d think so! There is also the theme of a couple staying together “for the baby,” which Amy sneakily tricks Nick into having. She uses her pregnancy in the end to trap Nick into their marriage. This is another note on the manipulation some women perform over men in their complicated relationships. To be fair, she manipulates pretty much everybody in this movie.

A small light sky blue woodshed with a small garden and trees in the background, a symbol of the woodshed in Gone Girl
a creepy woodshed – by James Frid, Pexels.com

The “Woodshed”

Besides small-town family values, heartland America identity, and rural/suburban naivety, there’s one last theme that’s really interesting. If you want, you can read more about this here. The woodshed is where Amy leaves her secrets, and it’s where Nick eventually finds out what’s happening. The woodshed represents a common part of many American homes where a family might store things they don’t use often. It can also be an unexpected symbol for how a figurative “mess” builds up during a relationship, then gets pushed deeper into the “shed.” There’s a related phrase in English: “come out of the woodwork.” This means that something comes out of hiding and into the light from an unexpected place. Basically, it becomes clearer. This seems like a funny way to show this idea. The truth comes out of the actual woodwork, or rather, the woodshed.

Last Thoughts

That’s all, everybody. I hope you enjoyed this look at Gone Girl and some of its themes, meanings, and cultural insights. It’s a story about relationship issues, lies, manipulation, and a whole lot of media interference. Even though Nick cheated on his wife, Amy did a lot more than expose him for it. She kind of ruined his life, not to mention forcing him to keep a marriage he was all but done with. This movie is reminiscent of a TV crime series, and it shows us why those programs can be addicting. Some of the most outrageous and deviant crimes happen out in the country where it seems like no one is watching. But boy, did we watch this one!

Please comment if you agree or disagree with parts of this post. What other ways does Gone Girl touch on true or stereotypical parts of American society? What about society in another country? Share your thoughts, my wonderful reader! And take care out there.

“Dani California” lyrics by Red Hot Chili Peppers – for English students

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From a young girl in a police family to a final showdown in the Badlands, there’s a lot of action in this song. We”ll be going over “Dani California” lyrics by Red Hot Chili Peppers here with explanations, especially for you English students out there. Learn some new idioms, slang, and grammar points. Learn a little about society too. And don’t forget to listen to the song to check your understanding! I checked the lyrics on Genius if you want a reference. After you read, make sure to find other song lyrics explanations here. Alright, here we go:

Song Lyrics

Gettin’ born in the state of Mississippi

  • Grammar: *Being born…
  • Society: He could be using the improper “getting born” to present the uneducated origins of Dani from Mississippi.

Poppa was a copper and her momma was a hippie

  • Slang: “Copper” is an informal word for a cop or police officer.
A chain gang of African American prisoners in the old South of the USA as sung in the lyrics of Dani California song
Classic chain gang – By Detroit Publishing Co.

In Alabama, she would swing a hammer

  • Society: “Swinging a hammer” probably refers to a chain gang. This is a form of punishment in prisons that has been outlawed for a while. Prisoners had to do unpaid labor like build and construct things, often in the form of mining or clearing space for roads and train rails. Working in a mine or with heavy tools creates the idea of swinging a hammer,

Price you gotta pay when you break the panorama

  • Grammar: *It’s the price you have to pay…
  • Figurative Speech: “Breaking the panorama” is like going against what everyone else is doing, or not fitting in. In Dani’s case, she is probably breaking the laws established in her community.

She never knew that there was anything more than poor

  • Society: Just a note; the way he pronounces “poor” like “po” is an informal but common way for certain American communities to pronounce it. This is usually associated with poor, black, or Southern speakers.

What in the world, what does your company take me for?

  • Daily speech: By “company” here, he means the people you spend time with, not a real enterprise or business. Asking “What do you take me for?” is another way of saying “Who do you think I am?” or “You are wrong about me!” Also, saying “What in the world?” is a simple way to show that you are shocked or confused by something. You can also use it to ask a question. “What in the world is that thing? Oh, it looks like a termite.”

Black bandana, sweet Louisiana

  • Culture/Society: The “black bandana” is usually a symbol of criminal activity. This is because traditionally when someone would rob a place, they would wear a bandana to cover their face.

Robbin’ on a bank in the state of Indiana

  • Grammar: *Robbing a bank …
  • Culture: Again, using informal grammar on purpose to relate to a specific class or region of the U.S. In these communities, it can be common for people to say a verb with “on.” “He was kissing on her, loving all on the poor girl. So she didn’t like that and slapped all on his face.”

She’s a runner, rebel and a stunner

  • Figurative/Informal speech: “Runner” in the sense of a fugitive. Also, she lives a fast-paced lifestyle. I can’t tell exactly if he sings “stunner” or “stunter,” but either way he is saying that Dani is confident and likes to show off her skills. She can stun others with her abilities but can make herself look amazing doing it.

On her merry way sayin’, “Baby, what you gonna—?

  • Other details: “Merry” of course means happy or cheerful. Her saying “Baby, what you gonna–?” can be like her teasing or playing with her victims. She’s also a quick shooter, killing them before they can even answer her question.
Model of a Colt Forty-five pistol gun sung in the lyrics of Dani California by Red Hot Chili Peppers M1911A1.png
By M62 – This file was derived from:  M1911 A1 pistol.jpg,

Lookin’ down the barrel of a hot metal .45

  • Informal speech: “A metal .45” probably refers to a Colt .45, a type of gun.

Just another way to survive

California, rest in peace

  • Special occasion: “Rest in peace” (R.I.P.) is what we say when someone has died.

Simultaneous release

  • Figurative speech: This line could be talking about the “release” of a gunshot that “releases” Dani’s soul. It also sounds like it could have a sensual meaning, but we’ll stick to the violent one, hehe.

California, show your teeth

  • Figurative speech: Saying “show your teeth” is another way of making people afraid of you. Think of how wolves or lions show their teeth to try and intimidate others. It could also mean showing us who you really are.

She’s my priestess, I’m your priest, yeah, yeah

  • Figurative speech: This is like saying she told him, so now he is telling us. She taught him, now he will teach us.

She’s a lover, baby and a fighter

  • Figurative speech: “Baby” here meaning someone sweet, kind, loving, and also a bit innocent.

Shoulda seen her comin’ when it got a little brighter

  • Grammar: *I should have seen …
  • Figurative speech: “Get brighter” here refers to something becoming more clear or evident. It’s like the phrase “come to light,” which has this same meaning.

With a name like Dani California

Day was gonna come when I was gonna mourn ya

  • Deeper meaning: He says this like he knew the day was going to come.
  • Informal speech: “Ya” in this case is an informal way of pronouncing you.

A little loaded, she was stealin’ another breath

  • Slang: “Loaded” means drunk. It could also have a double meaning, referring to her loaded gun (gun with bullets in it).
  • Figurative speech: “Stealing a breath” is like the phrase “Cheating death.” This means living dangerously, encountering seemingly fatal situations and still making it out alive.

I love my baby to death

  • Figurative speech: “Loving something to death” is actually a pretty common term in English. It usually just means that you love someone or something a lot. Here, he uses the “to death” part literally, so it sounds a bit more morbid.

California, rest in peace

  • Other details: Now we see that California is Dani’s last name, so we know he’s talking about a woman, not the state.

Simultaneous release

California, show your teeth

She’s my priestess, I’m your priest, yeah, yeah

Who knew the other side of you?

Who knew what others died to prove?

Too true to say goodbye to you

Too true to say, say, say

Push the fader, gifted animator

  • Informal speech: To push the “fader” is referring to the fade feature where DJ’s or music producers make a song fade at the end.
  • Figurative speech: Referring to the “gifted animator,” this could be a reference to the Creator, the designer of the universe, putting an end to Dani’s life as if it were a song. This relates the fading feature in music to the fading away of a person’s life.

One for the now and eleven for the later

  • Unusual format: This might be a reference to the bullets in a gun. There was one shot, and eleven were saved for later.

Never made it up to Minnesota

  • Informal speech: To “make it” somewhere is the same as getting there or arriving there. The same is used for non-physical places. “She never made it to 21 (she died before turning 21).”

North Dakota man was a gunnin’ for the quota

  • Other details: The “quota” means a share or earnings from something.
  • Slang/Informal speech: This North Dakota man was “gunning,” or using his gun, to get a piece of the reward, apparently for stopping Dani. Adding “a” before a verb is also a stereotypical way that rural or Southern people are seen to talk. It has no meaning but is used to add color to speech. “He was a-going and a-going until he got tired. Then his feet start a-hurting.”
An example of the Badlands, geography of western North America from Pexels, sung in the lyrics of Dani California
An example of Badlands – Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Down in the Badlands, she was savin’ the best for last

  • Geography: The “Badlands” is a geographical feature of several U.S. states, and other parts of the world. It is characterized by desert or rugged rocky landscapes where few animals live. It’s usually dry and looks like a very tough place to live.
  • Figurative speech: The rock formations look like a spectacular arena or something, so she put on a final show.

It only hurts when I laugh

  • Figurative speech: He laughs when he remembers the good times with Dani, which also hurts because she is not around anymore.

Gone too fast

. Then they repeat.

Final Thoughts

The story of Dani California is a classic bandit highway criminal tale. We have a girl with humble beginnings in the South who’s a rebel for her times. She grows up, gets into more and more trouble, all until she eventually gets taken down. The lyrics add in a lot of colloquial or figurative phrases to better paint the picture of where Dani California is from. There are several bits of imagery to present her wild lifestyle and we see her final demise at the end. The singer loves this woman, has respect for her, but that couldn’t save her. After all, we see that a life of crime really doesn’t pay, though it can bring us fun and exciting memories.

Thanks for reading/listening and I hope you enjoyed the post! Check out some related posts if you want, and follow to be notified of new posts to your email. Thanks and have a good one!

society + The Wolf of Wall Street [2013] – What’s it say about us?

Every once in a while there comes a movie that is so big, so outrageous, and so crazy that it truly shocks us, the audience. Today’s movie under the spotlight will be The Wolf of Wall Street. We’ll take a look at some important aspects of the movie and how they shed some light onto this big complex thing called American society. Are you in? Read on, reader.

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The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie from 2013 and based on the true life story of Jordan Belfort. Personally it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Now that may be because I-heart Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and crazy movies in general, but there is more to this movie than Matthew McConaughey beating his chest and humming “hm-hm-hm-hmm” in musical fashion. It actually has a lot to say about American society itself, and we’ll be taking note of some of those things here.

If you didn’t see this movie, you might want to watch before reading this. Or who knows? Maybe this post will make you want to watch it. Last I checked it was available on Amazon Prime and Netflix with a subscription and Google Play or YouTube for rent. If you know where to find it for free, more power to you. I certainly feel like watching it again tonight. If you did see this movie, you might recall lots of cursing, sexual content, drugs, and everything else a Rated-R movie is sure to have. While that R-Rating is definitely a “green-light” for the movie-makers to go ahead and put basically anything they want in the movie, there’s a bit of truth to some of these things. As a director, Scorsese kind of loves to put cursing and bad words in his movies anyway, especially the 17-and-up ones. However, most of the movie takes place in and around New York, the biggest city in the nation. In the U.S., you are far more likely to have people who curse a lot and don’t follow the traditional moral values in big cities than you would see in smaller cities and especially the countryside. This is a common trait of most countries where big cities are centers of more liberal culture movements. So in the cities they let their words fly.

Remembering that the movie takes place in the late 1980s-1990s, this was a time that traditional American values were being greatly challenged and all kinds of movements were in the process of changing culture ever since the late ’60s. That means sexual liberation, decreased censorship, and the popularization of recreational drugs like cocaine and pills. The U.S. economy was in a boom during part of the ’80s too which saw lots of people on Wall Street getting very rich and scheming to make ridiculous amounts of money. So the whole premise of The Wolf of Wall Street is showing what the motives, lifestyle, and eventual decline of these Wall Street schemers was like during that point in history.

In the early ’80s, America was suffering a terrible economic recession considered the worst since the Great Depression about 60 years earlier. This is about the point we see at the beginning where Jordan (DiCaprio’s character), his wife and some acquaintances are going through hard financial times. This struggle is a big motive for Jordan and his friends to start their fraudulent company and steal so much money. This isn’t so hard to understand, since most crime is induced by difficult circumstances. That is until the culprits get greedy and make a whole enterprise out of their crimes. We also see some of the effects of the recession where you had some stock brokers enter into depression and even kill themselves due to their sudden loss of wealth and hope.

Now, when the economic boom came and these guys figured out how to make tons of money, we saw how loose their morals got. This is where all kinds of crazy things happen, many of them in the office space. Jordan even trades his wife for the stereotypical thin blonde. You have derogatory language and actions used against little people, people with deficiencies, women in general, animals, and people of diverse races. Women are particularly objectified and humiliated throughout the movie, which I interpret as a genuine representation of how men in power have seen women, especially since the ongoing sexual liberation period. All the derogatory ideas and language used represent how often white people in power have seen other communities in America. Our acceptance or attempts of being more politically correct have really gained ground recently where now it is becoming more and more taboo to make fun of people for deficiencies, their appearance, their gender, or sexual orientation. Essentially the movie shows us a time when all of those concepts were a lot looser, at least away from the cameras.

An interesting point of the movie shows Jordan and his associates going to hide money in a Swiss bank. There are certain countries and territories that have pretty loose banking/tax laws called “Tax havens,” and so rich people, including many wealthy Americans, have tended to “hide” their money abroad where they don’t have to claim it or pay taxes on it. As you might know, this is a continuing phenomenon. This whole concept as well as the money shed light on the greedy and capitalistic nature of the American economy and the nation’s elite. We see how these rich guys run around with naked women on their yachts, tricking each other, even leaving their own families behind, just to make more and more money. This is more so a statement about rich or greedy people in general, especially those that made their fortunes by stepping on others.

These talk louder – Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In an interesting way, it also shows what is possible and acceptable in the U.S. Of course, the vast majority of Americans don’t live like the characters in the movie and would probably disagree with several of its moral decisions (Lord, I hope). There was actually a lot of criticism on this movie for the excessive cursing, sexual content, and drug use. It actually had set a record for number of curse words in a single movie. Something interesting about that is showing how cursing is becoming more acceptable in American public life. I know there are some countries out there where cursing is totally natural and others where it is extremely discouraged. Even in the U.S., cursing has been looked down upon in the public eye for many years, even if lots of people did it at work or at home, for example. Again, you still have many Americans who discourage cursing, calling it a lack of intelligence, blasphemous or unnecessary. Yet there is a growing acceptance for bad words among Americans, and especially among the younger generations. No matter how religious or ant-cursing many of us may be, cursing is likely to become a non-issue in the next couple decades.

Watch that mouth! – Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Something else I want to touch on in this movie is Jordan’s jailing. There is a general conception (at least by minorities) that white people in America often get an easier time at trial than minorities do. And certainly wealthy or famous people tend to catch a lighter sentence (less jail time) than poor individuals, even if they commit the same crimes. This is apparent when we see Jordan getting on house arrest and then going to a “white collar” prison. White collar criminals are those that commit crimes involving fraud, tax evasion, and other kinds of corrupt activities that don’t directly harm people’s safety but their wallets. Because these criminals tend to garner lots of wealth, they are able to pay and bribe for less prison time. Either that or juries don’t see them as being as dangerous as the common thief or murderer. Their prisons also tend to be in better condition than regular prisons, even having tennis courts as we saw in the movie.

Jordan’s arrogance throughout the movie came back to haunt him in the end when the FBI finally took him down. It’s sort of a lesson that the U.S. government always wins. The FBI is the main domestic investigative agency and answers to a federal department, so they sort of represent Big Brother’s check on the seemingly “endless” opportunities provided by capitalism, at least in this movie. Whenever you get too carried away, they will swoop in and take their part. And if they can’t get a part, they’ll at least make sure you can’t have anymore.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a very long and complex movie with lots of events and themes. There was a lot more I could get into and really explain, but this is a good introduction. I encourage you to watch the movie again (or for the first time!) and pay attention to these themes and tropes, maybe find your own representations of American or capitalist society. Write some ideas down in the comments if you feel like it! And tell me what you think of this movie? How much cursing is too much? Think about it! And take care, everybody.

“Savage Remix” [Megan Thee Stallion, feat. Beyoncé] – lyrics for English students

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Have you ever wanted to practice your English while listening to Megan Thee Stallion? Well, you’re in luck! Take a listen to the song and read the lyrics. Learn some new vocabulary, phrases, or cultural pointers here in Lyrics “Explained.” If you have time, answer some follow-up questions below and read some other lyrics here on CultSurf!

Queen B, want no smoke with me (Okay)

  • *You don’t want any smoke… “Smoke” here refers to a conflict. It probably comes from guns, since sometimes people say smoke to refer to guns or shooting.

Been turnt, this motherf***** up eight hundred degree (Yeah)

  • *I’ve been turnt… “Turnt” means having lots of fun, feeling good about yourself, etc. It comes from “turned up” which means about the same thing. “Turning it up” refers to making the temperature hotter, or making things more exciting and fun. *Eight hundred degrees…

My whole team eat, chef’s kiss, she’s a treat (Mwah)

  • *My whole team eats… “Eat” in this slang sense means to get money and to have success. Remember that “bread” and “cheese” are also terms for money. A “treat” is normally something tasty to eat like candy. It can also be used to talk about a situation, event, or person that is really nice and that you like, almost like it is a gift. “Coming to see you during the holidays is always a treat.”

Ooh, she so bougie, bougie, bon appétit

  • *She is so bougie… “Bougie” is another word for fancy or someone who has expensive taste. “Bon appétit” comes from French and is used in many languages to mean “enjoy your food.” This mixes well with the word “bougie” which comes from the French word bourgeoisie. Also because the French language, fashion, and food are considered fancy by many Americans and others.

I’m a savage (Yeah), attitude nasty (Yeah, ah)

  • “Savage” has become a way to compliment someone who is really cool, has lots of style, skill, and other good features. “Nasty” normally means that some food doesn’t taste good. In a sensual way, it can mean that someone is highly sexual and acts inappropriately. Having a “nasty attitude” means to be upset or angry about something. Megan is probably mixing all of these meanings into one.

Talk big s***, but my bank account match it (Ooh)

  • *my bank account matches it… To “talk s**” (also “talk crap,” “talk mess,” “talk stuff”) is to talk badly about someone or to brag about yourself. Basically she brags a lot about herself but she actually has the money to prove it, or to back it up.

Hood, but I’m classy, rich, but I’m ratchet (Oh, ah)

  • The “hood” is a lower-class neighborhood usually for underprivileged communities or ethnic minorities. Often these are places with more poor people, drug trafficking or gang violence, thought not always. To “be hood” is to act like the stereotypical person from these kinds of neighborhoods, which could mean loud, confident, but also enjoying fights and conflict. Again, this is the stereotype. “Ratchet” is a similar term that is used to describe women who act loud, cause conflict, and can get very “in-your-face.” It’s like she’s saying she’s the best and worst all wrapped into one.

Haters kept my name in they mouth, now they gaggin’ (Ah, ah)

  • *my name in their mouth, now they are gagging… She means that her haters talk about her a lot or criticize her. “Gag” is a form of choking, so her haters are now choking on Megan’s success. The origin of this phrase might be to “make someone eat their words.” This means to prove somebody wrong and be successful, especially when others are criticizing you. “John always calls me stupid. I’ll make him eat his words when I go to college.”

Bougie, he say, “The way that thang move, it’s a movie” (Ooh-oh)

  • *he says, “The way that thing moves… “Thang” is just another way to pronounce “thing.” It’s usually used more often by black Americans to add emphasis to that word. Here you might be able to guess what “thang” she’s talking about.

I told that boy, “We gotta keep it low, leave me the room key” (Ooh-oh)

  • This line comes from the term “down low” or “keep it on the down low.” Sometimes people say “on the low” or “low down” but it’s basically the same. The “low” is a secret or something secretive. The “room key” refers to a hotel room. Megan is showing her dominance by kicking her “boy” out of the room.

I done bled the block and now it’s hot, b****, I’m Tunechi (Ooh-oh)

  • *I have bled the block… Saying “done” like this is another way to say that “you have gotten done doing something” or you “finished something.” “Ouch! I done hit my toe!” “Bleed” here is related to the slang word “kill” which means to have a lot of success in something. Megan “bled the block” so she had a lot of success (in music, I’m guessing) on her block, or in her city. “Hot” of course means it is fresh, new, and everyone likes it. “Tunechi” is another name for rapper Lil Wayne. He made a famous song a while ago called “Tha Block is Hot“. Lil Wayne is also a very good and respected rapper, so she is kind of paying respect to him.

A mood and I’m moody, ah

  • A “mood” is a special feeling. Saying something is “mood” has become popular because of social media and hashtags. “Moody” usually is used to call someone emotional or dramatic.
Learning how to be bougie… Photo by David Suarez on Unsplash

I’m a savage, yeah (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, yeah (Hey, hey, nasty)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Woah, woah, woah, what’s happening?)

  • “Acting stupid” doesn’t necessarily mean that she is acting dumb or unintelligently. Sometimes “stupid” can mean funny, silly, or crazy. The way she pronounces “acting” like “ackin” is an informal way that some people might pronounce this word. Again, it’s more common in African American communities. Her “what’s happening?” isn’t a real question really. It’s just a rhetorical question seeing if anyone has something to say now. She’s doing so well that she leaves her haters speechless!

B****, what’s happening? (Woah, woah, okay)

B****, I’m a savage, yeah (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Ratchet)

Sassy, moody, nasty, huh (Nasty)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Woah, ooh-oh)

B****, what’s happening? (Ayy, ah, ooh-oh)

Hips TikTok when I dance (Dance)

TikTok logo.svg
  • “TikTok” is the name of a famous social media app, maybe you’ve heard of it? It has a double meaning here though, since “tick-tock” is the sound a clock makes when the hands move. It’s like saying her hips shake and move back and forth like a clock. A lot of people view and like videos on TikTok, so it can also mean that her hips get lots of love.

On that Demon Time, she might start a OnlyFans (OnlyFans)

OnlyFans logo.svg
  • “Demon Time” is a series on the OnlyFans website that has to do with strippers and erotic dancing. OnlyFans is a place where people can post exclusive content directly to their fans and interact with them. It’s kind of known for having provocative content so that’s where the reference comes from.

Big B and that B stand for bands

  • *that B stands for… “Bands” is the same as money; a thousand dollars is one band.

If you wanna see some real a**, baby, here’s your chance

I say, left cheek, right cheek, drop it low, then swang (Swang)

  • “Swang” is the same as “swing.” It’s same idea as “thang” and “thing” from before.

Texas up in this thang (Thang), put you up on this game (Game)

  • To “put someone on the game” is to make someone attracted to you or what you are doing, or to get them “hooked” onto something.

IVY PARK on my frame (Frame), gang, gang, gang, gang (Gang)

  • Ivy Park is a clothing brand founded by Beyoncé. It’s on her “frame” or body, so she’s wearing her own brand clothing. “Gang” is just something that some people say to show excitement or enthusiasm for your “crew” or the people you represent. It comes from a song too, “GANG GANG” by Jackboys.

If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain (Hol’ up)

  • “Hold up” is the same as “wait a minute.” This lyric is a reference to her butt, by the way.

Please don’t get me hype (I’m hype), write my name in ice (Ice, ice, ice)

  • To “get hype” is to get excited. It can also mean to get out of control, which is probably how Beyoncé means it. “Ice” in slang can mean diamonds. Writing her name in diamonds would be cool, and it also refers to her being “cold” or really good at what she does, maybe ruthless or someone hard to compete against. This comes from the phrase “write my name in stone” which means you are famous forever and people will always know your name.

Can’t argue with these lazy b******, I just raise my price

I’m a boss, I’m a leader, I pull up in my two-seater

  • “Two-seater” is a sports car with just two seats. It can also mean a person with a really big butt.
Only 2 can fit in this thing… Photo by Karol Smoczynski on Unsplash

And my mama was a savage, n****, got this s*** from Tina

  • Beyoncé’s mom’s name is Tina

I’m a savage, yeah

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Ratchet, yeah)

Sassy, moody, nasty, yeah (Okay)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Ah)

B****, what’s happening? (Ah, what’s up?)

B****, I’m a savage, yeah

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Woah, woah, woah, okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, huh (Ooh, ooh, okay)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Woah, ah)

B****, what’s happening? (Ayy, ah, ah)

Like Beyoncé, like me (Like me)

He want a b**** like thee Stallion with the knees (With the knees)

  • *He wants a… Megan is referring to the way she dances.

He be like, “Damn, how that thang movin’ in them jeans?” (Yeah, yeah, them jeans)

  • *He’s thinking… or He is like… How is that thing moving in those jeans? Saying “like” can be used to introduce a thought or dialogue in informal speech. “I was like, Come over, and he was like, Okay.” In informal speech some people say “them” when they mean “those.” “Them are some nice shoes! I want to buy them.”

Ayy, even D4L couldn’t do it like me, like me

  • “D4L” (Down For Life) is a rap group based in Atlanta that was popular in the early 2000s, especially for their song “Laffy Taffy.” They made a song called “Betcha Can’t Do it Like Me” which is probably what she’s referring to. D4L was like a one-hit-wonder, so she might be saying that she can make lots of hit songs.

Ooh, ah, ooh

I done got this body ready just for you

Girl, I hope he don’t catch me messin’ ’round with you

  • *I hope he doesn’t catch me messing around… To “catch” someone in this sense means to find them doing something they aren’t supposed to do. To “mess around” can be another way to say cheating on someone or sleeping with someone. It can also be just spending time with someone or having fun. Mess around has other meanings too, but these are some of them.

Talkin’ to myself in the mirror like, “B****, you my boo

  • *you are my boo… “Boo” is a loving term that you call someone you love and appreciate like a partner, spouse, and less commonly a family member. Here she’s calling herself “boo” in the mirror.

I’m the s***, ooh

  • Saying this means that you are really great and awesome. It sounds like a contradiction, but that’s what it means.

I need a mop to clean the floor, it’s too much drip, ooh

  • “Drip” is style, confidence, attractiveness, and all of that good stuff in one. She uses a metaphor, saying she has “drip” but comparing it to a literal liquid dripping on the floor that needs to be mopped.

I keep a knot, I keep a watch, I keep a whip, ooh (Keep it real, ooh)

  • These are all things used to control or dominate someone. A knot (she keeps her men tied, they are stuck with her), a watch (she keeps them on the clock, as if they were working for her), and a whip (like slavery, basically, or maybe like Fifty Shades of Grey?). To “keep it real” means to be open, tell the truth, and show things the way they really are. Not hiding or lying about yourself.

Let’s play a game, Simon says I’m still that b****, ayy

  • “Simon says” is a schoolyard game where one person is in charge (Simon) and everyone else has to do what that person says. “Simon says, touch your toes. Simon says, stomp your feet” etc. When someone says, “I’m that __,” it means that they are the best or the one being talked about. “Wait, so who are you?” “I’m that dude. Ask your friends, they know.” Megan also could be saying that she is the same as before and hasn’t changed her ways, in a good way.

I’m still that b****, yuh (Ah)

I’m a savage, yeah (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet (Okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, yeah

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Ah, what’s up?)

B****, what’s happening? (Ah, what’s up?)

B****, I’m a savage, yuh (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Woah, woah, woah, okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, huh (Ooh, ooh)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Ooh, ooh, ah)

B****, what’s happening? (Ayy, ah, ah)

I heard they askin‘ for the Queen, they brought some cameras in here

  • *I heard that they were asking for the Queen…

I’m a bad b****, she’s a savage, no comparison here

  • A “bad B-word” is a term of respect and admiration for a woman who takes care of her business, has good looks, makes good money, and so on. Not all women like this term and it could be offensive depending on who says it or hears it. This goes back to the meaning of “bad” as something really good or cool.

I’ma flip my hair and look back while I twerk in the mirror

  • *I’m going to flip… You should know what twerking is. If not, just look up Miley Cyrus or somebody. Better yet, watch a Megan Thee Stallion video.

All this money in the room, think some scammers in here

Making that money— Photo by John Guccione http://www.advergroup.com on Pexels.com
  • A “scammer” is someone who tricks others into making money for themselves or makes money in a number of illegal ways. Megan and B make so much money that it looks as if they were doing it illegally.

I’m comin’ straight up out that Third (ah)

  • To “come straight up out of” something just means to come out of it or come from it. “Straight up out” here just adds rhythm and emphasis to the sentence, but it doesn’t change the meaning in any major way. Think of the slogan “Straight Outta Compton” (NWA came directly from Compton). The “Third” she refers to is the Third Ward of Houston, which I guess is where Beyoncé lived for a while. Interestingly, the way she pronounces “ah” after Third sounds like she could be saying “Third eye”, which is a light reference to the mystic third eye and deep perception. It’s actually referenced quite often in modern music and could just be used to mean a deeper level of awareness and success. It’s kind of associated with the Illuminati too …

I whip the whip like I stirred it (Stirred)

  • “Whip” is a slang term for a car. When talking about cooking, “whip” means to stir something quickly and repeatedly until it forms a foam or cream. That’s why she also says “stir.” Basically, she’s driving her fancy car as if she were whipping some type of food, driving it in circles, doing tricks in her car, and so on.

Woodgrain, we swervin, keepin’ his mind all on these curves (Uh)

Curvy wood design– Photo by DLKR Life on Pexels.com
  • *We are swerving… “Woodgrain” is a finish on wood that makes it look more natural. The design of woodgrain has lots of curves and swirls in it. To “swerve” is to curve quickly, usually in a car around a corner or sharp turn.

Coupe fly like a bird (Bird), cold on ’em like, “Brrr” (Ice)

  • “Coupe” is another word for a nice car or two-seater, too. Also, a coop is a place where chickens and sometimes other birds are kept, so she plays with this pronunciation. “Fly” here has the slang meaning of being stylish and attractive, although she compares it to the literal sense of a flying bird. “Cold” here probably has a mixed meaning of ice (diamonds and jewelry) and looking really good, fresh, stylish, etc. Cold is an adjective but she uses it like a verb, which happens a lot in English. “Brrr” is the sound someone makes when they are cold (temperature). It’s also the sound rapper Gucci Mane makes a lot in his music, much for the same reasons as Beyoncé just now.

Always keep my words, no, I don’t do crosswords

  • To “keep your word” means to be honest and do what you said you were going to do. It’s like not giving up. “Crosswords” are those word puzzles that you see in newspapers or puzzle booklets. She plays with the idea of a crossword puzzle and “crossing” someone, meaning to lie, trick, or cheat them. It’s also like saying “she doesn’t go back on her word” (she doesn’t say one thing and do another).

Stallion when I ride, he like them hot girls with them hips, ah (Skrrt, skrrt)

  • *He likes those hot girls with those hips…

I hopped that s***, the way I hopped out and slid, ah (Skrrt, skrrt)

  • Repeating “skrrt skrrt” makes me think she really is referring to a car. She hopped out and slid (got out of) her car. That sound is very popular in hip-hop music lately, and it almost always is talking about a fancy car, usually when someone is arriving or leaving somewhere. I’ll leave you to figure out the rest of what she means.

I pop my s***, now watch me pop up again, ah (Woah)

  • This line is more inappropriate but an interesting note: to “pop up” can mean to show up or appear unexpectedly.

I mop the floor, now watch me sweep up these Ms, ’cause I— (Ah)

  • Mopping the floor is a reference to the previous line talking about “drip.” Now she’s sweeping up “Ms” (millions of dollars).

.

And the lyrics repeat.

Wow, that was a lot. This song is packed full of slang, informal expressions, double meanings, and pop-culture references. The whole song is basically about how cool, stylish, and awesome these two women are. They make lots of money, are sexy, close big business deals, and can walk the talk. There’s nothing much more to explain here.

Questions:

  1. What did you think of this song? Do you prefer the original or the remix?
  2. Why do you think they focus so much on their physical attributes? Does hip-hop as a genre encourage this?
  3. What’s your favorite Beyoncé or Megan Thee Stallion song? What is that song about?
  4. Would you rather be a savage, classy, nasty, bougie, ratchet, or sassy? (What’s happening)

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Cover image: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63308428

society + Coming to America [1988] – What’s it say about us?

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Popcorn anyone? Candies? We are back at The Movies! This time we are going to look at a classic, “an oldie but a goodie” you might say. Where else can you find African warriors, an obvious McDonald’s ripoff and Arsenio Hall in a wig? That’s right, we’ll look at one of the funniest movies of all time and see what it has to say about our good and friendly Americans. Ready to read?

*There may be spoilers here if you haven’t watched the movie yet, but, I mean, 1988.

Zamunda on the map, from Jungle Maps

Now, I know this movie’s a little old. For those who don’t know, the sequel finally came out this year (2021), cleverly named Coming 2 America, and has many of the same cast members as the original. That title alone tells you how much we love puns and double meanings in the U.S., particularly when it comes to naming stuff. The movie is worth a look on Amazon Prime, but I’ll leave a link to the trailer here in case you don’t pay for that service … yet. The first movie has countless jokes that plenty of people reference to this day. It wasn’t just an American success either since this movie and its crazy scenes have fans from all over the world. Despite the fact that the story follows a young African prince — of Zamunda to be exact, please check your nearest map — and his royal assistant who basically tour New York in order to find a princess, the movie itself has a lot to say about our U.S. of A. And what better way to do this than to start with Africa?

The nation of Zamunda is like one of those ongoing jokes about Americans not knowing geography. Now, it is pretty common for filmmakers to come up with a fake name for countries in their movies, but Zamunda sounds like one of the answers you’d get from a classmate after a teacher asks them, “Name a country in Africa.” I know, Zamunda! It just sounds African, even if it isn’t real, and that’s why it sheds some light on American culture. Many people (around the world, but especially in America) don’t know much about Africa at all. You might be surprised just how little many African Americans know about Africa. Zamunda was meant to be fictitious, but I bet you there were many people that thought it was real, and as a matter of fact, probably still think so.

Stepping off the plane in Zamunda, Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Not to speak poorly of my fellow citizens, to be fair, there are many who know a lot about geography. But, I’m going to go ahead and say that most of us don’t. Poor geography skills aside, the movie says some other things about our view of Africa. It was admirable that they chose to show African royalty as opposed to poverty, and the royal family is very wealthy in the movie. Coming to America stars pretty much all black people too which is appropriate for a movie about Africans, though this has not always been the case. The movie came out at a time when black people were really growing in their pride and interest in African heritage, and this trend has swept over black American culture ever since. In Zamunda we can still see lots of random animals you might find on a safari just running around the palace. This plays on the idea that many Americans have this view as if Africa is full of lions, elephants, giraffes, and whatnot. Many people think you can step off a plane and see a rhinoceros, for example. It goes the same for other countries, like some people believe Brazil is all Amazon or Australia is all kangaroos. Don’t blame the people, blame our T.V. … and Kangaroo Jack, of course.

Many people’s image of what Africa is like (sorry for the moon), Photo by Faris Munandar on Pexels.com

Americans perceive that it is hard for foreigners to speak and understand English the way it is used naturally. Even for Zamundans, a nation that speaks English, cultural differences create a big gap. We see several scenes where Akeem (that’s Eddie Murphy) has hilarious misunderstandings with people because of the way he talks. Often, foreigners learn English in formal schools and their speech sounds very proper to us here. This explains why they had Akeem embarrassing himself so much. He’s also a skilled warrior and fights with spears, which is a sort of stereotype about Africans being wild and hunting with old weapons. Some rural or hunter-gatherer communities do, but most Africans aren’t quite as skilled as Akeem is with the spear.

Soul Glo & the Jheri curl

Going back to ’80s trends, that Soul Glo hairspray stuff has some major moments in the movie. The Jheri curl is the hairstyle that this spray makes, and it was fairly popular, especially among black people in the late ’80s to early ’90s. You had some ladies in tight bikinis, which relates to a sort of sexual revolution that was going on at the time, starting in the ’60s and getting more and more, um, liberated, up until modern times. And talk about that crazy pastor and the “Sexual Chocolate” guy! Most pastors and reverends are decent people, but you do get some bad eggs every once in a while. That creepy one in the movie references these “bad” pastors who care too much about money, yelling loudly, and watching half-naked women. Despite that stuff, you do still see many pastors who speak in the same style that he does. “Yess-uh, I wanna thank yah Lawd, uh-yas Lawd!” I don’t know where this style came from, but it’s very common for pastors to talk like this, especially in black churches in the South or smaller cities.

You know it’s a barbershop when you see this, Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Another part of the movie I want to talk about is New York. They spend most of the movie in Queens, a borough of New York City. Queens during the ’80s and before was known for having lots of black people and being sort of a poor neighborhood. Queens still has some rough parts, I hear (I mean I am from Los Angeles…), but it also has lots of nice neighborhoods nowadays. In the movie you see people throwing trash out their windows, cursing at each other, and people robbing each other. New York is fairly safe now, but before the 9/11 attacks some parts of the city were a lot more dangerous. The barbershop scenes are very important since they are seen as key parts of black communities. All communities have barbershops, but in black communities they are places of communion where people go to hear local news, talk with friends, and tease each other. So it’s really a family atmosphere. Hair has always been really important for black people, and hair care is a big deal for us. Remember that when you visit, and please don’t touch anybody’s weave, wig, afro, braids, or Jheri curl. Well, you can cut off their Jheri curl, I approve.

In the last post on Doctor Sleep, we saw lots of big houses and how they represent the modern American home. However, in big cities and especially in lower-class areas, there are lots of apartments like the ones in the movie; small, dirty, ugly, with neighbors who are noisy or kind of grouchy. In big cities you can see more angry people who are in a rush too. I’ve heard from several foreign people who visited New York and thought Americans weren’t nice people. Remember that New York is just one place and it’s the biggest city, so you get lots of stressed people all having to live on a couple of congested islands. Still, mean and nice people can be found anywhere you go.

The most-played sport in America, Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Akeem watches basketball and tries to talk about American football, which are the two main sports in the U.S. He gets a little confused by the rules which is a normal thing. We also see Akeem and his friend, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), interact with several promiscuous women, including his future wife Lisa’s sister. This might relate to how American or Western women in general are seen as more sexually open than Eastern and African women. That’s why this was sort of a culture shock to the African prince, and it is actually a good point made by the movie. I can’t say too much else. McDowell’s is an obvious ripoff of McDonald’s, but many successful companies and products have come as a ripoff of another product. McDonald’s itself used the idea of two brothers in California to create a worldwide enterprise, and didn’t even change the name. Ah, the things you learn from Netflix.

That’s it people! Thanks for reading. If you want to practice your writing skills, you can answer these questions in the comments:

  1. Do you like the movie Coming to America? What about the sequel?
  2. Have you ever felt like Akeem when traveling to another country? Did you travel for love too?
  3. What is your favorite part of this movie?
  4. Would you rather live in Queens or Zamunda?

Shooting the buzz bang – “hit” “rock” “hit me up” “bang” and more, meanings & uses

Today’s terms: hit / slam / bang / rock / hit me up / give a ring, buzz / shoot a message

No, I’m trying to get you to meet my buddy. He’s a producer.

Jonah was trying enthusiastically to calm Charles down on their way to the music studio.

—Come on, man. You know I don’t like to be around these kinds of people. I get nervous.

Jonah reassured him; —Yeah, Mike is a real scary kind of guy. A real gangster off the streets! Come on, bro. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll hold your hand.

Charles tapped Jonah’s hand away as he reached for it.

—Nobody likes sarcasm, bro, Charles protested.

—Everybody does!

Eventually, they drove up to the studio parking lot. There were a group of teenagers smoking in the front, maybe add the smell of spilled liquor on the floor. Everyone looked calm but suspicious. Although, when they saw it is Jonah, they all smiled and signaled “hello” to him.

—What’s up everybody! Are y’all rocking today?

Everyone nodded, made mumble sounds, and they turned back to their joints. Charles gave them a shy nod. Then the two friends strolled inside.

Once inside the studio, there were strong musical beats coming from all over the place. Smooth instrumentals blended with fast rhythms. The noise was chaotic but artful, all the same. Jonah saw one of his colleagues coming towards them.

Yo, my brotha! What’s happening with ya? Y’all just got all the beats banging today.

—Well, you know how I rock, Jonah. Who’s your friend?

Charles felt a quick pain in his belly.

—Oh, my name’s Charles. What’s up?

The man reached out his hand and gave Charles a mixed handshake and hug in a friendly manner.

—Classic Mike. Gotta show them love. This is my buddy, Charles. He comes from another country, but he knows a lot of English.

—He seems like he can handle his business, isn’t that right, Charles!

They all laughed for a few seconds. Charles then spoke up.

—Yeah, I get by pretty well out here. I just didn’t understand when you said “banging” and “rock.” I didn’t really get it.

—No prob, man. Banging is what I say when something is really good, especially when it comes to music. I can say, “This song bangs.” It’s the same with Hit or Slam for something that’s really good, like a piece of music, some good food, or even a cute girl, for example. All my music slams and hits.

Charles was reminded.

—Oh, right. You are the producer!

Correct-o! But that’s different from banging, like to be a part of a gang. I don’t bang. But, those kids outside, I don’t know. All of them look like they bang. Now, Rock is basically the same thing. If something rocks, that means it’s really good, amazing. And what’s cool is you can rock something, like a song, a test, or a sport. It all means that you do really good in it.

—Yeah, my buddy Mike here rocks as a producer, by the way, Jonah added in.

As they talked, a young lady appeared from one of the recording booths and made her way towards the exit.

—Sheila?

She turned around. Yep, it was the same Sheila that Charles had been out with.

—Charles! Woah, I didn’t know you were into music.

Charles puffed up his chest.

—Oh, yeah. I’m really into music. Recording, he coughs, Really into recording. What do you do here?

—I’m a singer, remember? I thought I told you when we were texting a few days back.

Charles scratched his head.

—Anyway, I gotta go. Nice seeing you here! Exciting, am I right? Hit me up tonight, okay?

In a hurry, Sheila left from the studio and into her busy life. Charles looked confused.

—Why did she want me to hit her up? Is that, like, sexual?

Jonah and Mike stormed with laughter.

—You wish!

Jonah then explained.

Hit me up, man! It means the same as “send me a message,” or “give me a call.” It’s not sexual at all. Well, I guess not.

Mike added, —Yeah, it’s the same as saying give me a ring, shoot me a message, or give me a buzz. It all means “call me” or “message me.”

—Oh, I guess that makes sense.

—Charlie’s got a girlfriend!

All three of them laughed and pushed each other around playfully. Oh, guys.

—So, are you gonna hit her up tonight? Jonah asked Charles.

—You know I will!

Despite his outward confidence, Charles still felt pretty nervous. Not to mention guilty, having forgotten so quickly that Sheila was a singer. He dug for a little more information.

—So, Mike. Sheila records her songs here?

—Yeah. Just a few samples for SoundCloud. Why?

—Is she any good?

—For sure, bro! Sheila slams in the recording booth!

Saying that something slams, hits, or bangs is saying it’s really good to the senses (That food looks slamming! That rhythm hits hard! This song is banging!) These are more colloquial slang, so not all communities across the country use them. Otherwise, “hit me up,” “give me a buzz/ring,” and “shoot me a message” are all pretty common nationwide to tell someone to send you a message or to call, though these terms are very informal. Using “bang” to talk about being in a gang can be a problematic word, so I underlined it. It’s best not to use it unless you really know what you’re saying, and most people don’t even have to use it. Do you know why the other terms are underlined? Can you use today’s terms in your own sentences? Share with me down below!

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?

“Lazaretto” [Jack White] – lyrics for English students

Watch video below–>

Oh, my veins are blue and connected

  • Having “blue blood” means to be privileged, an aristocrat, or well-off. There also might be a connection to Blues music.

And every single bone in my brain is electric

  • This reminds me of the phrase “hard-headed” or “having a hard head.” This means that the person doesn’t listen or follow directions, and they like to do things their own way. Having “bones in my brain” might be a reference to having a hard head.

But I dig ditches like the best of ’em

  • Adding “like the best of them” to an action means that you can do it as well as the best. “He’s a great guitarist. He can play it like the best of them.”

Yo trabajo duro

  • For those that don’t speak Spanish/Castilian: “I work hard”

Como en madera y yeso

  • “Like in wood and plaster.” Like he’s a construction worker, basically.

Como en madera y yeso

And even God Herself has fewer plans than me

  • Referring to God as a “Her” in English is not common, but it’s a rebellious way to break the idea that God is a male figure. A biblical reference, but he’s saying he has even more plans than God has. Very busy.

But she never helps me out with my scams for free, though

  • A “scam” is some plan that is discreet, undercover, or malicious, usually trying to trick someone or to do something you’re not supposed to. Again, referring to God as a female.

She grabs a stick and then she points it at me

  • This is like people who are outcasts or have severe diseases. People are too afraid to touch them with their hands, so they only touch them from far away with a stick. It’s like being disgusted or frightened by those who are different than us. It also reminds me of the story of Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, for some reason.

When I say nothing, I say everything

Yeah, when I say nothing, I say everything

Transmission of Leprosy in the US via Armadillos - The Plainspoken  Scientist - AGU Blogosphere
some of the symptoms of leprosy, from here

They threw me down in a lazaretto

  • “Lazaretto” was a special kind of quarantine for people with a disease called leprosy. Historically, people with leprosy were secluded from the rest of society. This relates to him feeling like people threw him away into isolation, maybe because of his style or ideas.
Long before coronavirus, Philly ran a quarantine center for another deadly  contagion
An example of an old lazaretto, found here

Born rottin’, bored rotten

  • To “rot” is to go bad, like when a fruit or piece of meat is left out of the fridge for too long. If he was “born rotting,” this means he was born into this state of quarantine, or he’s never fit in with others since he was a kid. To be “bored rotten” is to be extremely bored. Similarly, a kid that is “rotten” is spoiled, or gets whatever they want even if they act bad. There are a lot of mixed meanings in this small lyric.

Makin’ models of people I used to know

Out of coffee and cotton

And all my illegitimate kids have begotten

  • An “illegitimate child” is one born out of a relationship that is not approved of or outside of marriage, for example. To be “begotten” is to be forgotten and left alone. It’s not such a common word in English nowadays and has more of an archaic or biblical feel to it.

Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin’

  • “Thrown to the wolves” is a popular phrase for when someone is thrown into a situation that they obviously have no chance to win. A similar phrase is “thrown to the lions.” “Feral” means wild or like a wild beast. Also, he pronounces “nothing” like “nuttin,” which is common in certain regions and accents.

Quarantined on the Isle of Man

MICHELIN Isle of Man map - ViaMichelin
Isle of Man between Great Britain & Ireland, from here
  • The Isle of Man is a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

And I’m trying to escape any way that I can, oh

7 Reasons you should visit the Isle of Man
Isle of Man is actually quite pretty, here

Any way that I can, oh

Damn, I have no time left, time is lost

No time at all, throw it in a garbage can

And I shake God’s hand

I jump up and let Her know when I can

This is how I’m gonna do it

They wanna burn down the prison

They’re lighting fires with the cash of the masses

  • With the public’s money.

And like the dough, I don’t fall down

  • “Dough” is a slang term for money. Real dough (used to make bread) rises in an oven. “Bread” is also slang for money.

I’m so Detroit, I make it rise from the ashes

  • “I’m so…” is a way to compare yourself to something else. “I’m so Los Angeles, always hot and sunny!” Detroit is known for suffering a huge economic crash but has been steadily rising in importance again. This image of “rising from the ashes” comes from the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that burns and rises again from its ashes. Figuratively, it means to reinvent yourself, grow, learn new things, and come back better after failing.

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This song centers around the idea of a societal outcast, like someone with a terrible disease like leprosy. His quarantine, as if on a lonely island, doesn’t come from a physical illness, but from his ambitions and personal style. The fact that he feels isolated turns out to be positive, since all this makes him unique. There are lots of references from the Bible or that could relate to religion, since leprosy is a disease that was prominent in the Bible. There’s this idea that he was born with some privilege, but he acknowledges this, accepts it, and it doesn’t stop him from working hard or getting his hands dirty. Him saying he works hard like a construction worker in Spanish is kind of a reference to many hard laborers in the U.S. having Mexican heritage, or Latin American heritage in general. What are your thoughts on this song? Do you understand why he would compare himself to a lazaretto? Share your thoughts!

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Also, watch the video. It’s really cool!