“Change Your Mind” decoded

 
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I thought Jay-Z’s book Decoded was a great read.  Nonetheless, the lyric breakdowns — while indubitably insightful — were mainly catered to those who don’t “get” Hip Hop.  This is unsurprising, given the stated purpose of the book, but a part of me feels lyrics should speak for themselves.  Attentive listeners should be rewarded for unraveling metaphors.  With that said, I have the urge to bite pay homage to Jay’s concept.  “Change Your Mind” is one of those songs that deserve a closer look.  On its face, it’s a simple braggadocious track.  It’s a rapper spitting bars about how great he is.  And in many ways, that’s what it’s intended to be.  But there’s more than what initially meets the ear.

“Change Your Mind”
(Lyrics by M. Scala)

[Rhymefest] *1
You go in the fuckin’ jungle
And you hit a lion on his nose
And the lion bites your fuckin’ head off
What you gonna say?  “Oh, you a bully, lion”?
It’s a fuckin’ lion!

[Verse 1]
Well it seems I’m the man, y’all got to stare
I got Queens in my hand, y’all – pocket pair *2
I’m the best in the game, the chosen one (umm)
If I ain’t better than ‘Ye, I’m the closest one
Who ain’t made a dollar since the demise of MySpace? *3
You ain’t made of honor, them lies, you bridesmaids
Go slower – you better pump your brakes
Or get rolled over, I’m Head & Shoulders above you flakes
Garnier Fructis, started with looseleaf
Fuck a leash, I need a harness for my new freak *4
See how far the flow took it?  Yo, Crooked
Another show in LA with Dre, holmes, book it
(Crooked I:  Yeah!) *5

See me on stage at the Marathon
Every year, Spanish Harlem knows I’m the Dapper Don
The mastodon, stomping a mudhole in you bastards, I’m
The truth – you better change your mind, maricón *6
And quit acting like I…

[Chorus]
I ain’t gonna set you free, no
You’ve got to change your…
You’ve got to change your…
You’ve got to change your mind

[Verse 2]
All kidding aside…
I’m one of the top five guys in the game
You a cheeseburger, small fries and a shake *7
They hate me for no reason
When I’m skeetin’, it’s like the Yankees post season
You got Pi in your face
Explode like dynamite, I am type flammable
(Take a knee) Your girl’s basically my favorite animal *8
Stop testing me, you wouldn’t like me when I’m mad
I’m one part Hpnotiq and two parts Hennessy
That’s the recipe *9 – essentially I’m a laid back emcee
With a Rawkus pedigree, don’t mess with me
Fuckin’ nitwits – I Twitpic’d a pic of my big dick
To six chicks, and they all licked it
Ain’t shit you could tell me
I’m so sick it don’t even make sense
Tax cuts for the wealthy *10
You’ll vanish quick like baking soda
Me and rap go together like Spanish chicks and baby strollers *11

Chorus

[Verse 3]
Emcees is gettin’ lazy, they don’t handle they BI no more
But the PI’s so raw, plus I’m eatin’ now
I don’t look like TI no more *12
I seen more action than GI Joe saw
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
You old dudes is rust, your guns don’t bust
You in the Twilight of your career, that’s why you suck so much
I’m a giant, the Goliath of this Hip Hop
All that tough talk, save it
Let’s face it:  you David without a slingshot
So how do you sling rocks? *13
God, I’m dope – take me in vein
It’s Pi-casso!  You’ll get your face rearranged
I’ve gained the favor of the sniffin’ coke chicks
But I’m still in the hood like the eviction notice *14
If you didn’t know this, you better change your mind
I am unshakable – you ain’t changin’ mine (it’s Pi)

Chorus

*1 Rhymefest once asked me, “What do you want most in life?”  I took it as him asking if I wanted to be a rapper or a lawyer.  Why not both?  I never believed in limiting myself.  My response was:  “To make the most of life.”  He had already won the Grammy for writing “Jesus Walks.”  Not long after that talk, he ran for alderman in Chicago.  I don’t know if my answer influenced him, his mind changed organically, or he was just testing me.  But I keep a close eye on his political activity, because his career path closely resembles the one I’m carving out for myself.  Whether or not I ever run for public office, he and I are both trying to make contributions to society inside and outside music.  And we’re both lions.

*2 This is a triple entendre.

*3 Independent artists used to make a killing on MySpace.  Whether it was selling guest verses to aspiring rappers, booking shows, or hustling CDs, the social network made it almost too easy to reach potential customers.  When everyone migrated to Facebook and Twitter, only the most savvy artists survived.

*4 Insecure men are known to keep women on “leashes,” or keep a close eye on them.  The implication is that I don’t need to keep my woman on a proverbial leash, but the sex is so wild I need an actual harness to keep her on the bed.  The narrator uses this as a measure of success:  he started by scribbling rhymes on looseleaf, and now he has the freakiest woman in his room.

*5 When Crooked I was coming to kick it backstage at our LA show, and we found out Dr. Dre was coming to watch the show, we texted Crooked to ask him if that was cool.  We knew Crooked had been signed to Death Row, and there was obviously tension between that label and Dre.  We’d also heard Crooked wrote songs for Detox, but relationships are fickle in this industry.  Crooked’s response was something along the lines of a sarcastic “He’s not sitting with us, is he?”  Now Crooked and his group Slaughterhouse are signed to Shady/Aftermath.

*6 Notice the alliteration at the end of this verse.  The multiple words beginning with the letters M (Marathon, mastodon, mudhole, mind, maricón), S (see, stage, Spanish, stomping), and D (Dapper Don) are intentional.  Sometimes I think people notice complex rhyme structure (knows-I’m-the-Dapper-Don / hole-in-you-bastards-I’m) but not other poetic devices rappers use.  The lyrics refer to my yearly performance at the NYC Marathon in Spanish Harlem.

*7 Five Guys is a burger chain that originated in northern Virginia.  I namedrop it as a nod to that area, where I lived and consider my home away from New York.  A location opened near my apartment in Brooklyn a few years ago.  The lines mean that I’m at the top, while other rappers are cheesy, insignificant, and sugary.

*8 Gosh!

*9 Some bartenders will tell you the Incredible Hulk is equal parts Hpnotiq and Hennessy.

*10 The pun on sense and cents has been done before, but this lyric has meaning even without it.  Tax cuts for the wealthy make neither cents nor sense.  And there’s something sick about the idea that giving more money to rich people will somehow help everyone else.  My project is called Honest Conversation (a play on “real talk”), so I wanted to work socially and politically aware themes into this song.  It’s also a way to mock critics who dismiss me as a “conscious” rapper.

*11 According to CNN’s Latino in America special, more than half of all Latinas get pregnant before the age of 20.

*12 In the old days, weight was a sign of wealth:  if you were fat, it meant you could afford to eat.  Similarly, the word “eating” is used in Hip Hop as a synonym for being successful.  TI is a skinny rapper.

*13 This is meant to illustrate the hyperbolic nature of the song.  Jadakiss had a line that went:  “You think you Scarface, but you ain’t seen the end of the movie.”  The narrator is so occupied with making himself out to be big, he self-identifies with Goliath over David.  It doesn’t matter that the giant loses in the end.  In this spell of hypomania, the little man gets crushed.  Tax cuts for the wealthy.  On another level, “slinging rocks” refers to selling crack.  Some rappers portray themselves as drug kingpins but really lack the means to pull it off (i.e., no slingshot).

*14 While drugs are often associated with the hood, this is a reminder that sometimes only the privileged can afford them.  It’s hard to fit drugs into the budget when you can’t pay rent.  I’ve been fortunate enough to make it beyond the hood, where I’ve encountered new people (“the sniffin’ coke chicks”) with problems of their own.

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