Tag Archives: lyrics

477. Holiday Diary (Part 4) The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

The holiday diary continues and in this chapter we visited Bel Air in L.A. and so here is an analysis of the lyrics to Will Smith’s rap from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, a famous TV show (and a very serious piece of work, haha) from the 90s which was set in Bel Air itself. Topics covered: TV pop culture, racial politics, slang English.

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Episode Notes, Lyrics & Vocabulary

By the way, these are flapjacks, just in case you were wondering. Yum.

Flapjacks (these ones are made with honey, oats and peanut butter) Click the pic for the recipe.

Flapjacks (these ones are made with honey, oats and peanut butter) Click the pic for the recipe.

Did you get The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on TV in your country?

I used to watch the TV show a lot when I was younger (in the 90s).

Yes, the Fresh Prince is American English but I consider it also to be global English and you should too. Also, I think everyone should know or at least be able to repeat one or two of the lines from this rap, right?

So let’s listen to it and analyse some of the lyrics.

It’s not even a great rap, that’s the thing! It’s just a laugh! It’s not exactly the Wu Tang Clan or anything… Anyway…

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – language analysis & cultural commentary

Summary of the story 

This rap basically sets up the scenario of the show. Did you work out the details of the story?

Will Smith is an ordinary guy from a rough part of Philadelphia. The area where he lives is too rough and dangerous, so his mum decides he has to move in with his aunt and uncle, who happen to live in Bel Air, in Los Angeles. The aunt and uncle are rich and successful. The uncle (Uncle Phil) is a top lawyer. This is obviously possible, but quite rare.

Is it just a funny TV show, or is it about race relations and racial politics in the USA?

I’m not sure I am fully qualified to talk about racial politics in the USA. The fact is, despite the American dream which says anyone can make it, it appears to be much harder for a black guy to become a millionaire than for a white guy to do it. I’m not saying why that is, I’m just saying it. In fact, I’m reporting it as something I’ve heard Chris Rock say, so fine – not my words, the words of Chris Rock.

“Don’t hate the player, hate the game”.

“You don’t get plaques for getting rid of plaque.” (two meanings of the word ‘plaque’ – listen to hear the explanations)

“The black man gotta fly to get something the white man can walk to.”

“I had to host the Oscars to get that house.”

Lyrics

Listen to the episode to hear my language analysis and some comparisons with British English.

I’ll tell you which bits of vocab are “standard” (i.e. not specific slang – the stuff everyone should know) and “slang” (i.e. the stuff that’s more specific to the informal English you might hear from Will Smith or the social group of the time)

Fresh Prince of Bel Air – Rap, Long version
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
So just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air

In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxin‘ relaxin’ all cool
And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys who were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared [UK – mum, USA – mom]
She said ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air’

I begged and pleaded with her day after day
But she packed my suit case and sent me on my way
She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket.
I put my Walkman on and said, ‘I might as well kick it‘.

First class, yo this is bad
Drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass.
Is this what the people of Bel-Air living like?
Hmmmmm this might be alright.

But wait I hear they’re prissy, bourgeois, all that
Is this the type of place that they just send this cool cat?
I don’t think so
I’ll see when I get there
I hope they’re prepared for the prince of Bel-Air

Well, the plane landed and when I came out
There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
I ain’t trying to get arrested yet
I just got here
I sprang with the quickness like lightning, disappeared

I whistled for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said “FRESH” and it had dice in (on) the mirror
If anything I could say that this cab was rare
But I thought ‘Nah, forget it’ – ‘Yo, holmes to Bel Air’

I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
And I yelled to the cabbie ‘Yo holmes, smell ya later
I looked at my kingdom
I was finally there
To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air

Songwriters: SMITH, WILLARD C. / TOWNES, JEFFREY
Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Other vocab

We drove around in Bel Air for a bit looking at houses like weird stalkers.

They’re huge and ostentatious (displaying wealth, showing off).

You get the impression that these people live in a bubble.

We came across Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s house which is unfinished.

Apparently they’re having problems with their neighbours who claim the house is obstructing their view.

I am not surprised because it is a but of a  monstrosity.

Apparently they are getting sued by the neighbours or something. I think they’re claiming that it’s interfering with their enjoyment of their property.

Driving back down we went past another massive house and we could see helicopter rotor blades above the hedge. Someone’s got a helipad on their property. Mental.

Then we swung past the Scientology buildings again on the way home.

To be continued…

333. More Misheard Lyrics ♬

OK, the last misheard lyrics episode was pretty popular and I’ve had several shouts of “more!” from the LEP community, so here we go again!  What’s this all about? Well, first of all it’s a sequel to a previous episode of LEP. That’s #281 “Misheard Lyrics” so you could listen to that before you listen to this. Basically, this episode is all about those moments when you mishear song lyrics.

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You might listen to lyrics in songs and for one reason or another completely misunderstand what they’re saying. The most famous example is probably “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, which actually sounds like “Kiss this guy” when in fact he’s singing “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” although Hendrix knew that it sounded ambiguous and he would sometimes sing “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” just to mess with people’s heads.

These misheard lyrics could be due to the way the singers don’t fully pronounce the words, or just the result of connected speech which makes it sound like the singers are singing something else. Or it could just be that I’m looking for weird lyrics when in fact they’re not there, because I enjoy it when it sounds like singers are singing something else.

Everyone experiences it, including native speakers. So if you do mishear song lyrics don’t worry – you’re not alone. Misheard song lyrics is a common phenomenon and misheard lyrics have their own name – mondegreens.

For me, mondegreens or misheard lyrics are  lots of fun because they bring new meanings to a song, often ones which are entirely at odds with the intended message of the song writer. It’s fun to let your imagination run wild and just picture what those misheard  lyrics really  mean.

And if you don’t mishear song lyrics – if you hear them correctly, then that’s great too! It just means your listening is really good.

So let’s go through another list of misheard lyrics! I’m going to play you some song extracts and then we’ll just have fun speculating about what the singer is really singing, and what they actually mean. If you can’t hear the misheard versions, then that’s fine – but you might need to suspend your disbelief a little bit, just for fun.

I will aim to clarify the real lyrics being sung, and you can find all the song and artist titles  of these tunes on the page for this episode.

P.s. There might be some rude content in this episode! Just letting you know…

Themes: Animals, food, people, random stuff.

Animals
Pat Benatar – Hit Me With Your Best Shot
“Hit me with your pet shark, why don’t you hit me with your pet shark?”
Maybe I don’t want to hit you with my pet shark! What kind of freak are you? First of all, not only is that potentially hazardous to you, but it’s almost certainly going to be fatal to the shark, and I really don’t want to kill my shark just to please you. I mean, I like having a pet shark – it’s a f*cking pet shark for pete’s sake. It’s awesome. So, no, I will not hit you with my pet shark. – And Pat says, “well, you’re just not cool man – I don’t want to hang with a dude who isn’t even prepared to hit me with his pet fish, even if it is a shark. You know, I’m from Hollywood man and there we all hit each other with our pets man, its not big deal. I thought you liked to party – but it turns out you just care about your shark – it’s not even a proper shark man. It’s not a tiger shark or a great white, it’s just some crummy mud shark or a dogfish or something.” And you say, yeah, fair enough Pat, it’s no big deal. Now, do you want a cup of tea? Let’s have a cup of tea and then I’ll hit you with my pet shark. And she says “Now you’re talking! I think I love you” etc.

– real lyric = “hit me with your best shot”

Daft Punk – Get Lucky
“We rub a Mexican monkey” (2m30)
Are you sure it’s legal to rub a mexican monkey? And should you be writing a song about it?
It was certailny a big hit this song about the abuse of an American primate. Everyone really got behind it in the summer of 2014 didn’t they. Every party around the world people are partying and dancing – “yeah! We rub a mexican monkey too!”
Meanwhile, one Mexican monkey is either feeling very happy, or he’s feeling exploited.
This poor mexican monkey, just went to the USA for a chance of a better life, and he fell in with the wrong crowd and some of them are hitting each other with their pets and stuff like that, and then a group of them start playing around with him and rubbing him inappropriately and stuff.

real lyric = “We’re up all night to get lucky”

Alanis Morrisette – You Oughta Know
“It’s not fair to remind me of the cross eyed bear that you gave to me”
You know in arguments you bring up stuff that happened in the past, especially good things that you’ve done, because you think that’s going to win you some points in the argument. For example, if you did something special – like gave your girlfriend a cross eyed bear, it’s going to be hard for her to win the argument, unless she claims that it’s unfair to mention it. That is an argument stopper – because you can’t argue with the gift of a cross eyed bear!

real lyric = “it’s not fair, to remind me, of the cross I bear that you gave to me”

Bob Dylan – Blowing in the Wind
“These ants are my friends”
Ok Bob, random!
(the answer my friend)

David Bowie – Sound and Vision
“Don’t you wonder sometimes, about salmon fishing?”
Occasionally yes David, I do wonder about Salmon fishing. I wonder how they manage to catch so many salmon and yet there are still plenty to go around. Do they just keep the salmon in a big lake and pull them out with a net? How much movement do they get? How much stuff do they put in the water to make the salmon big? Are they using bears? Do the salmon still get to jump up rivers like they don’t know how rivers work?

real lyric = “Don’t you wonder some times, about sound and vision.”

Food
Destiny’s Child – Bootylicious
“I don’t think you’re ready for fish jelly”
No, I’m not ready for fish jelly. It sounds disgusting.

real lyric = “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly” (no idea what that’s about)

Rolling Stones – Beast of Burden
“I’ll never leave (be) your pizza burning”
How romantic.

real lyric = “I’ll never be your beast of burden”

Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away
“Every time you go away you take a piece of meat with you”
Quite a resourceful move. Whenever you leave the house, put some ham or beef in your pocket so you don’t go hungry. Never mind about fruit or veg or bread or one of the other food groups. Just a piece of meat is all you need to snack on.

(me, not meat)

People
Johnny Nash “I Can See Clearly Now”
“I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone”
Yes, she has been standing right in front of us for too long now.

real lyric = “I can see clearly now the rain has gone”

Shakira – Underneath Your Clothes
“There’s the man I chose, there’s my tellytubbie”
Which tellytubbie is it that she’s in love with? Tinky winky? La la? Dipsy wipsy? Po? Po – that’s it, that’s his name? All the others have double name and he’s just called Po. I mean, what the fuck? Also, what the hell do they have on their heads? One of them has a coat hanger on his head. Is that the scariest kids show ever? It’s like some dystopian post-apocalyptic world in which people have become biomechanical mutants fused with television screens, and they have to go inside regularly to escape the radiation from the sun. And Shakira is in love with one of them?
I’m not sure he’s technically a man.

real lyrics = there’s my territory

Foo Fighters – Hero
“There goes my hero, he’s odd and hairy”
Fair enough. Many of my heroes are odd and hairy. Nothing wrong with being odd and hairy. Jesus was odd and hairy, so was John Lennon, and Bob Marley and Obi Wan Kenobi and Chewbacca and sasquatch and many of the other people I look up to. In fact, Dave Grohl is rather odd and hairy too. Nothing wrong with that lyric.

real lyric = he’s ordinary

The Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
“Israeli Men! Halleluia!”
Wow, they really love Israeli men! I wonder what’s so great about Isreali men? They’re hard working, they’re good with money, they have a sense of humour. What’s not to like about Israeli men! I totally get it!

(It’s raining men)

Olivia Newton John – Grease Melody
“You’d better shave Bob, ‘cos I need a man”
This may be one of my favourite misheard lyrics. She really needs a man, so you’d better prepare Bob! Get Bob ready – shave him, grease him up, because she needs a man!

(You’d better shape up)

Metallica – The God That Failed
“Held back by Jimmy Nail, on the garden rail”
Another favourite. I just love the idea that British actor and singer Jimmy Nail is holding you back, on the garden rail too, and that Metallica wrote a song about it. Why is Jimmy Nail holding you back, and in the garden? Maybe there’s been a family argument at a barbecue, and maybe you got into an argument with your brother in law. Perhaps resentment has been boiling over for some time, and you really don’t like the way he talks to your wife or your sister or whatever, and at the barbecue he got drunk and started insulting the family, and you just got furious because you’d had a few too many drinks too and you were ready to punch his teeth down his throat, but Jimmy Nail was there and he’s a reasonable man. He held you back against the garden rail and talked you out of it, in that nice soft Geordie accent he’s got. “Nah man, it’s not worth it man. Leave it man, you just gonna make your life more difficult man. Not now anyway. Wait until later when the kids are asleep man”

(The healing hand held back by the deepened nail. Follow the god that failed.)

Rude Stuff
Moody Blues – Question
“Learn as we grow old the secret of assholes”
Maybe when we are older and wiser we will finally understand the secret of arseholes – why they smell so much, why they itch sometimes and all the other secrets that they contain.

(the secret of our souls)

White Stripes – Blue Orchid
“You got an erection”
***By the way, I’ve just realised that Jack and Meg were a couple, and not brother and sister.***
It sounds like an argument. Jack White seems jealous. Maybe he’s questioning whether you fancy his sister, because he’s quite protective of his sister. You were at band practice and she was on the drums and she’s… well, she’s quite jiggly when she’s on the drums. She’s quite generous, as a drummer and as a woman… if you know what I mean… I mean, she’s got big tits ok? So, you fancy her and you’re at band practice and she’s all jiggly and you’ve had a beer and you’re feeling a bit excited, and Jack says – “Hey man you wanna play bass” and you really do want to play bass and he knows it, but you’re like “No man I think I’ll just stay sitting here on the sofa for a while I don’t really want to play bass right now” and he looks at his sister Meg and then back to you and says “What the fuck dude? We need a bass player – you play bass. You were saying yesterday how much you can’t wait to play bass and now you’re just sitting there the whole time just watching. DO you want to play bass or what?” And you look at Meg for a moment and back to him, “No man, it’s fine I’ll play bass later, I just, I’ll just stay sitting here for a few minutes and then I’ll play bass ok?” Jack seems pissed off but they carry on playing, and Meg keeps playing and she looks at you sometimes and kind of smiles and you definite;y can’t stand up now because she smiled at you and she knows and you know, and Jack knows what’s going on… and then after the band practice, after Meg has left and you and Jack are in the pub, Jack says “Dude, what the fuck man? Why didn’t you play bass earlier – you just stayed in your seat staring at Meg. It’s was so… awkward.” and you’re like, “Whatever man, I just wasn’t feeling it” and he was like, “You just stayed sitting on that sofa the whole time, and you kept looking at Meg while she was playing drums.” and then his eyes widen like he’s realised something, and he says “YOU GOT AN ERECTION! YOU GOT AN ERECTION DIDN’T YOU! I KNEW IT YOU BASTARD! YOU FANCY MY SISTER! Right, you’re out of the band.”
I’m sure that’s what happened.

(Real lyrics = you got a reaction)

Nirvana – Lithium
“I’m so horny, that’s ok my willy’s good”
Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re turned on, like int eh last situation in which you got an erection at the White Stripes band practice and Jack White chucked you out of the band.
But sometimes when you’re with a girl and you’re feeling really horny, it can get embarrassing. If you know you’re going to get it on – sometimes as a man you start to worry about performing, about the performance. you think – I hope I’m able to do this right and it’s not going to be embarrassing. I hope I don’t have any problems in the trouser department. But then you think “That’s ok, my willy’s good!” If your willy is good, it’s probably a relief to realise that. Apparently that was the situation with Kurt Cobain. I’ve always related to him, in so many ways…

Smoking Weed
Fleetwood Mac – You Can Go Your Own Way
“You can grow your own weed”
While technically you can grow your own weed, you probably shouldn’t, because it’s illegal, and it’s hard to get good results – you need the right seed varieties, plenty of sunlight and all that… But generally, don’t do drugs kids, ok?
(You can go your own way)

Beatles – I Wanna Hold your Hand
“I get high”
The whole Beatles meet Bob Dylan and he introduces them to “tea” story.
(I can’t hide)

Random Stuff

Dido – White Flag
“I won’t poke my eyes out and surrender”
No, please don’t do that. It’s absolutely unnecessary. Nobody is asking you to do that.
(I won’t put my hands up and surrender)

N-SYCH – It’s Gonna be Me
“It’s gonna be May”
So, when’s the wedding going to be?
So, when’s the beginning of spring this year?
So, what’s month is it going to be after April this year? “It’s gonna be May” – oh, so the same as usual then?
(It’s gonna be me)

Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire
“Wooo hooo dyslexics on fire”
Oh my god – put them out quick! Who set fire to the dyslexics! Why would you do that? Just because they have trouble spelling, it doesn’t mean… No of course you shouldn’t set fire to anyone! Even dyslexic people!
(real lyrics = “this sex is on fire”)

Def Leperd – Pour some sugar on me
“Living like a lover with a red iPhone”
How did they have iPhones back in the 80s. And why does having a red one make you a lover?
(real – Livin’ like a lover with a radar phone) ??

Macy Gray – Try
“I wore goggles when you are not here”
Quite a thing to admit – that when you’re not around I wore googles. Why? Why are you doing that Macy? Is it a fetish or something? To be honest, it wasn’t that clear to me that you’ve been wearing googles when I’m not around. Sure, I did notice those marks around your head and eyes, like lines in your skin that, now that I think of it, look a lot like the outline of a pair of googles, I just always thought you were just weird looking. That’s all it was. I thought that you just had a weird face.
(My world crumbles when you are not here)
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291. California Road Trip (Part 4)

Hi everyone, here’s part 4 in this road trip mini-series. How are you? Are you keeping up with all these new episodes? I suppose if you’re listening to this it means you are keeping up, but don’t feel rushed. Take your time, listen to them at your leisure, in your own time and at your own speed. I hope you’re finding this series interesting. In this one I’m planning to cover these things: Hollywood Boulevard and celebrity culture, an analysis of the mysterious lyrics to Hotel California by The Eagles, a visit to the extremely wealthy area of Beverley Hills, some more differences between American and British English vocabulary, the church of Scientology and then Yosemite National Park.

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Let’s see how much of that I can actually get through in this episode. I expect there will be one or two more in this series before we get back to normal podcasting as usual.

L.A. Continued… Hollywood Boulevard
I can’t remember which day this was as I’m losing track of time, but it doesn’t matter. At some point we took a walk along Hollywood Bld – that’s the one with all the stars on the ground and the names of celebrities. If you make it as a celeb, they put a star on the pavement here and you know you’ve made it because hundreds of tourists walk all over you and spill coke and ketchup on you every day. That’s the American Dream isn’t it.

Walking along Hollywood Blvd, and looking at the stars there, I wondered – how do you actually get your name on a star here? (Not that I want to of course) I just wondered – who decides which names are added and how does it happen? Since then I’ve done a bit of research (I read a TIME article based on an interview with a member of the selection committee – you can read it here: newsfeed.time.com/2013/07/16/how-to-get-a-star-on-the-hollywood-walk-of-fame/), and so…

How to get your star on Hollywood Boulevard
Essentially anyone can apply, as long as they have $30,000 dollars to spare, but the application will not be accepted unless it meets these criteria:
1. Do some iconic work in entertainment.
This means that you have to have produced something genuinely notable and celebrated in the entertainment world, like made a popular film, done some great acting on TV or in movies or made some music that’s popular enough to have made you famous. The emphasis is on accomplishing some expertise in the entertainment field, which means that reality TV stars are excluded, because it’s not counted as proper work. So that means no Kardashians. But they do accept animals. In fact several animals have their names embedded into the ground there, including Lassie and even fictional animal characters like Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Weird. You also need to have been working for at least 5 years. The main point is that this is a tourist attraction for the entertainment industry, so your name needs to be famous enough to attract tourists to come and see it. Apparently it’s working because the street is jam-packed with tourists and it’s almost impossible to actually walk along the street in some places.
2. Promise that you really want a star.
All applications require a signed statement from the applicant saying that they really want one, and that they will come to an unveiling ceremony if the application is a success. Basically, the star selection committee that is in charge of the process wants to make sure the celebrities are fully prepared to come and promote the addition of their star on the pavement. Again, this is to make sure it gets the proper media coverage, and those tourists keep coming with their dollar bills, their mobile phones and their instagram accounts.
3. Pay $30,000.
That’s how much it costs to enter the application process. Usually it’s not a problem for celebrities to pay this because other people pay on their behalf, for example management companies or other sponsors who have an interest in the person become more and more famous. Half of the fee goes to the Hollywood Historic Trust which maintains the whole street. The rest is used to pay for the paving stone with he star embedded in it, and also the security and photographers at the unveiling ceremony. It seems that people’s desire to be recognised as a famous person is what fuels the economy around here.
4. Impress the selection committee.
It’s a bit like a job interview process I suppose. In your application you need to impress the committee and show them what you’ve achieved in your career, proving that you really are a big star.
5. Choose your spot on the Boulevard.
It is possible to choose where your star is placed. The bigger you are as a celebrity, the more control you have over this. Do you want to be placed in front of McDonald’s or in front of the famous Chinese Theatre Cinema where all the premiers happen? Your power to negotiate this depends on your status in Hollywood. Apparently Clint Eastwood, a high ranking member of the Hollywood establishment, was accepted by the committee years ago but never completed his application, but nevertheless they have kept a space free for his star in a prime location – in front of that famous cinema. That’s how much of a star he really is in Hollywood – they’ve kept the best space free for him. Muhammad Ali didn’t want people walking on his name, so the committee agreed to put his star on the wall – the wall of what? You might ask. Ali’s name is on the wall of the Hollywood and Highland Shopping Centre. I wonder if you can buy a George Foreman grill in that shopping centre.

So that’s how you do it, if you’re interested.

What’s it really like there on Hollywood Boulevard?
Essentially, it’s like a bigger version of Oxford Street. It’s full of cheap attractions and huge crowds of tourists, and it’s a bit tacky. You can’t get much decent food there except burgers and pizza. I don’t recommend it really.
As we walk along the street, squeezing between people, we see names of people. Most of them are dead. There are loads that I’ve never ever heard of.
I’m struck by the thought that fame is fleeting. I mean that it doesn’t last. What’s the attraction of fame? To be so well-known that your name is embedded into the ground or onto a monument so people never forget you. Maybe people are attracted by this because they feel like it’s a way to live forever. But true long lasting fame is only gained by a tiny minority and even then it isn’t immortality it’s just a version of yourself that lives on in popular culture. A ghost.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: L.A. is a mysterious place.
I’ve tried to describe this already in this series. It’s just a general feeling that’s hard to put into words.
There’s a lot of light and dark here. Movie stars shine bright, and there’s so much glamour, but there’s also poverty, homelessness and broken dreams. So many young people have come to L.A. and then ended up corrupted by the place, or hurt by their own idealism and naivety. Some of them died young in tragic circumstances. Think of the girl Peg Entwhistle who jumped off the Hollywood sign in 1932, or young movie stars who died or hurt themselves as the result of a dangerous intake of drugs. River Phoenix for example. He was a fresh faced young movie star and musician, who died from an overdose on the doorstep of the Viper Club, which at the time was owned by Johnny Depp. Why so much oblivion?

Also, so much of the writing, films and music – the really good stuff at least, seems to be essentially about some sense of a loss of innocence, the end of the American dream, the darkness under the surface of American values or dealing with vice – particularly in the form of alcohol and drugs, and the dark side of these things. As if California represents the highest attainment of the American Dream, and is also the place that can turn into a grim and empty wilderness of the soul. Think of the detective stories of Chandler, the songs of The Eagles (not as sunny and nice as you expect) and other bands, the writing of Ginsburg, Bukowski, Burroughs, Kerouac, the comics of R Crumb and so on.

I realise that I’m talking about slightly dark themes here, in what you might have expected to be just a description of a romantic honeymoon. Well, we did have some really nice romantic moments together of course, and there was plenty of sunshine and good times, but as well as that we had a really great time getting to know the place and soaking up the atmosphere of the places we visited and one of my aims in these episodes is to get under the skin of California a bit.

Let’s consider some songs that deal with the things I’ve been talking about.

Songs about California
One example is the song Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Californication Lyrics here.

Also, we could go back to “Hotel California” and explore the meaning of the song. In fact, let’s do that.

The Eagles – Hotel California – Song Meaning
Click here for the full lyrics to the song: www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eagles/hotelcalifornia.html

There are loads of interpretations of the meaning of this song, including some pretty far out suggestions that it’s about satanism, drug addiction. I think the latter is far more likely than the former but let’s see.

Here is a summary of the song’s meaning – both the narrative of the lyrics and the themes the song explores. In fact, this song seems to sum up pretty well what I’ve been trying to say about LA and the excesses and dark side of the American Dream.

In this part of the podcast I’m going to read from a page on Shmoop.com. Here’s a citation and a link:
Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). Hotel California Meaning. Retrieved August 25, 2015 from www.shmoop.com/hotel-california-eagles/meaning.html
So, if you want to follow what I’m saying just click the link above.

LA movies
LA Confidential, The Big Lebowski, Beverly Hills Cop, Pulp Fiction. Any film noir like Chinatown or The Big Sleep.

Beverley Hills – this is a really rich town, which is undeniably beautiful and well kept with palm tree lined streets, lovely properties and very smart shopfronts and boutique stores but some parts of it are filled with unbelievably fake looking people with loads of plastic surgery. There are Kim Kardashian clones everywhere with butt implants that mean they can’t walk properly. The streets are full young guys in rented sportscars which self-consciously zoom between sets traffic lights. It’s quite ridiculous and fairly ugly really.

And yes, I did just mention Kim Kardashian.

I always thought I would never mention that family on this podcast because I don’t really like what they do. I mean, I think it’s a bit empty and I don’t know why they’re so popular but if I’m going to talk about celebrity culture in L.A. then how can I do it without mentioning the Kardashians (reluctantly).

Who’s Kim Kardashian?
She’s the daughter of a rich West Coast socialite, and a powerful lawyer. She’s famous for being famous. She’s like Paris Hilton basically. That’s how she first became known in the media, as a friend of Paris Hilton. What a claim to fame! “So what do you do Kim?” “I hang around with someone who doesn’t do anything”. Wow, that’s like being famous for doing even less than nothing! So she’s famous for being friends with someone who’s famous because she’s famous. That’s actually quite impressive. Well done! Maybe that’s the appeal. She makes it look easy. Then in 2003 I think she decided that in order to get even more famous that she would have to actually do something, so she released a sex tape. That’s basically a home made porno. Classy. In my opinion, that may be the quickest and least respectable way to make a name for yourself in Hollywood, but fair play to her – it worked. She then continued to sell off her private life in a reality show called Keeping Up With The Kardashians in which the viewer is invited to follow her and her sisters through their pampered and vacuous every day life.

An example of what happens in a show?
I just had a look on Wikipedia for some show summaries. Here’s what I found from a random entry in series 3 of the show. “Episode 22. Khloé faces pressure about her weight when she decides to do PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign. Kris and Kourtney confront Kim about her shopping addiction. Kim gets laser eye surgery after struggling to see herself in a mirror at a dance rehearsal. (I imagine that was a huge crisis – not being able to see herself) Bruce is anxious to talk to Kendall and Kylie about his colonoscopy.”
What’s a colonoscopy? That’s when a doctor inspects your colon by sticking a big camera up your bum. Ok, so you’ve got the general idea.

My problem with the Kardashians is that I don’t get it. I don’t get the appeal. I must be wrong because Kim is one of the most followed people on Twitter and it seems that everyone seems to love her. So, I must be wrong – so if you’re a Kardashian fan, let me know why. I’d love to know the appeal.

Is her reality show popular because we just like to look at the lives of the rich and famous? Is Kim Kardashian a role model? Apparently, for some people she is a woman who has taken careful control of her image and is now rich and successful as a result, like Beyonce or something. But, it helps when you start out rich in the first place, doesn’t it? And at least Beyonce can sing and dance. What can Kim Kardashian do? Well, she can take good selfies. She can use Instagram well. She can market herself well. I suppose that’s it isn’t it.

She married Kanye West, the rapper, which I imagine only happened because Kanye West is not allowed to marry himself. Yes, he loves himself, or that’s what people say anyway. Maybe Kim Kardashian fell in love with him just because she was so impressed by the size of his ego. Surely nobody’s ego is as big as mine, she thought – but then she met Kanye and couldn’t resist his charm, and by that I mean his media status. Good luck to them, I suppose. Maybe I’m being cynical and they just really love each other. Well, if that’s the case – good luck to them! I hope they stay together and prove me wrong, and everyone lives happily ever after.

What do you think? I’d love to know.

More American English & British English
These words are all related to food in some way.
UK word – USA word
Chips – Fries
Crisps – Chips
Biscuit – Cookie
Jelly – Jell-o
Jam – Jelly
Sweets – Candy
Treacle – Molasses
Candy Floss – Cotton Candy
Aubergine – Eggplant
Courgette – Zucchini

ukulele-soprano-debutant“Californication” Lyrics & Chords
www.tabs4ukulele.com/bands/red-hot-chili-peppers/californication.html#null

End of part 4. Part 5 coming soon…
Hotel California

281. Misheard Lyrics

Do you ever listen to songs and completely mishear the lyrics? I do it all the time. In fact, everybody does! Let’s listen to some song extracts in which the lyrics don’t quite sound as the singer intended.

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Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
Sounds like: “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy”
The real lyrics: “Excuse me while I kiss the sky”
The connection of ‘this’ and ‘guy’ makes the /g/ and /k/ sound almost exactly the same. In fact, I think “kiss this guy” and “kiss the sky” are identical.

Do you ever do Karaoke, see the song lyrics on the screen and realise you’ve been hearing all the words wrong, all these years? Or do you wonder if maybe the guy who did the karaoke subtitles didn’t have a perfect command of English and misheard all the lyrics?

Well, if you do often mishear lyrics, worry not – it’s really common and it happens to everyone! There are loads of songs like that for me. For years I thought Sting was singing about sausages in this song. Is it just me or is he singing about salami?

Of course, he’s actually singing “So lonely”.

So, let’s listen to some song extracts and try to understand exactly which words are being sung. Let’s see if you mishear them too, and we’ll consider why they might be easy to get wrong.

Misheard Lyrics

Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
Sounds like: “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy”
The real lyrics:
The connection of ‘this’ and ‘guy’ makes the /g/ and /k/ sound almost exactly the same. In fact, I think “kiss this guy” and “kiss the sky” are identical.

Nickleback – How You remind me
Sounds like: “cos little women must have damn near killed you”
The real lyrics: “because livin’ with me must have damn near killed you”
“With me” can sound like “women”. “wi’me”
“Living” can sound like “little” when you remember that the /t/ sounds are often softened in US English.

The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored
Sounds like: “I wanna be a door”
Real lyrics: “I wanna be adored”
He’s really keen to be a door. Because the ending of the word trails off, it’s quite easy to imagine he’s not adding a /d/ sound at the end.

Leona Lewis: “Bleeding Love”. (1min)
Sounds like: “You call me your banana”
The real lyrics: ??

Duffy – Mercy
Sounds like: “You got me begging you for birdseed”
The real lyrics: “You got me begging you for mercy”

Eagles – Hotel California
“What a nice surprise, when your rabbit dies” (3.25)
The real lyrics:

Rolling Stones – Start Me Up
Sounds like: “In Yugoslavia you’ll never starve”
The real lyrics: “If you start me up I’ll never stop”

Sister Sledge – We Are Family
“Just let me staple the vicar”
?
“We’re giving love in a femidom”
?

Bon Jovi – Living on a Prayer
“It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not”
“It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not”
The /m/ in ‘make it’ can quite easily sound like an /n/ sound, and the /t/ in “make it” sounds like a /d/, so there you go…

Billy Ocean – When The Going Gets Tough
“You can go and get stuffed.”
“When the going gets tough.”
The beginning part of the phrase doesn’t work, but “and get stuffed” sounds pretty good!
“Gets tough” sounds almost exactly like “Get stuff”.

Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
“I came in like a rainbow”
“I came in like a wrecking ball”
I think this is because she doesn’t sing it clearly, and the vowel sounds are the same. Also, when you stretch out a note, it’s usually a vowel sound and the consonant sounds might get shortened. Singing it with passion extends the vowels, and the consonants disappear into a slightly ambitious zone.

*Audible offer* www.audible.com/teacherluke

Creedence – Bad Moon Rising
“There’s a bathroom on the right.”
“There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
All the vowel sounds are the same. The rest is some imagination or perhaps some connected speech.

Deep Purple – Smoke on the water
“Small cousin Walter, is firing this guy.”
“Smoke on the water, fire in the sky”
There’s another example of “the sky” sounding like “this guy”.
“Fire in” sounds a lot like “firing”
“Smoke on the water” – you need a bit of imagination to hear “Small cousin Walter” but it’s there!

The Cars – Drive
“We can’t go on, thinking, nothing’s wrong – pork pie”
No idea what he’s actually singing…

Michael Jackson – You are not alone
“Your burgers are the best”
Again, I have no idea what he’s on about.

Celine Dion – My Heart does Go On
“I believe that the hot dogs go on”
“I believe that the heart does go on”
We use “does” for emphasis, or to insist something. In this case, it makes it sound like she’s singing about junk food.

Led Zep – Stairway to Heaven
“There’s a wino down the road”
“And as we wind on down the road”
The ‘d’ in “wind on” disappears as the /n/ sound and /d/ sounds fuse together with the same tongue movement.

Seal – A Kiss From A Rose
“and my eyes become lager…”
For me, it just sounds like he’s saying “lager”. I expect he wants to say “larger” but I think it’s definitely “lager”.

Air – All I Need
“Have a wank”
“How do I?”
Ok so she’s actually singing, “How do I?” but just a little bit of imagination for the /k/ at the end, and you’ll never be able to hear this song in the same way again.

Brian Adams – Summer of 69
“I got my first real sex dream”
“I got my first real six string”
Sometimes a /dr/ sound can be similar to a /tr/ sound, especially when they follow a /ks/ sound, like in “six”. So, “six string” can sound like “sex dream”.

Alicia Keys – New York
“New York – Concrete Jungle Wet Dream Tomato”
“Concrete jungle what dreams are made of”
It just sounds like “wet dream tomato” to me. Why is she singing that?

Ray Parker Junior
“Who you gonna call? Those bastards!”
“Ghostbusters”
The vowel sounds are pretty similar, and the emphatic way it is said. They all contribute to a funny misunderstanding!

Eiffel 65 – I’m Blue
“I’m blue I will pee on a guy, if I was green I would die.
I think they’re just singing nonsense and the human brain tends to impose order on nonsense, so your brain searches for meaning. This is the closest your brain can come up with. For me, it improves the song immeasurably.

Beastie Boys – Intergalactic
“I’m having a big shit, I’m having a big shit…”
“Another dimension”
The /th/ in “another” can sound like a /v/ sound, and the /shun/ sound in “dimension” can easily sound like “shit”.

Shania Twain – That don’t impress me much (2.20)
“I can’t believe you kiss your cock at night”
“I can’t believe you kiss your car goodnight”
“Car goodnight” can easily sound like “cock at night” because the /g/ of “goodnight” can sound like the /k/ in “cock”, and then “goodnight” sounds like “at night” because of the old /d/ /t/ thing between “good” and “at”.
Anyway, no need to explain it. Just enjoy it!
listen-to-mozart-while-working

133. Hip-Hop Lyric Analysis

A look at hip-hop culture and analysis of the lyrics to a classic rap song. FULL TRANSCRIPT AVAILABLE BELOW, OH YES!

Right-click here to download this episode.
There’s an introduction, then the lyric analysis begins at about 21mins.
HIP HOP LYRIC ANALYSIS

Small Donate ButtonI wonder if you’re a fan of hip hop. Maybe you are, maybe you’re not. If you already are, then sit back, enjoy the episode. If you’re not then listen on, because you might learn something about the world of hip hop music which you previously didn’t know. You can also learn some slang in the process.

In this episode:

1. I’ll tell you a bit about hip hop, and its history, but not too much because I don’t want to bore you.

2. We’ll listen to some hip hop and have a look at the lyrics and analyse them. I’ll explain them, and kind of give you my thoughts on them.

There is music in the background on this one. I thought it was appropriate because of the subject of this episode. Future episodes will not always have music, but this one does. If you really can’t hear what I’m saying then let me know and I might be able to upload this episode again without the background music. If you like the music and would like to hear more, let me know by commenting on this episode. I should be able to recommend some albums or tracks for you.

I understand that hip hop is not everyone’s cup of tea, or perhaps you’ve never considered listening to it. Well, you know with Luke’s English Podcast you never know what you’re going to get each time. Variety. This time it’s hip hop, next time it might be about something else like kittens. A whole episode about kittens, that would be nice, or maybe something about football… that’s in the pipeline, and more interviews and all kinds of things, but for now it’s all about da hip hop game, straight up, no nonsense, no diggidy, no doubt, the ill communication… You’re probably thinking, “why is Luke speaking strangely, or more strangely than usual”. Well, I’m throwing in a bit of hop hop slang into my sentences sometimes, just for a laugh really.

I love hip-hop but sometimes I don’t feel like I can truly relate to it. It’s an amazing musical genre. There’s a lot of talent, great music and clever lyrics.

What are The 3 elements of hip hop? How did it develop?
First of all, the term ‘hip hop’ is used to refer to both the musical genre and the culture in general. This culture of hip hop is considered to have a number of elements. I think it boils down to about 3 main things:

1. DJing – this involves the creating of loops of music, usually taken from old jazz or funk records played on two turntables. This is clever because it involves a lot of skill. Two copies of the record are needed, and the record needs to be chosen carefully. Usually the piece of music to be looped is a drum break from a funk tune. That’s the bit where only the drums are playing. That section is just played over and over on the two turntables, the same bit being played and then rewound and played again- the music gets looped, and you get a continuous beat which people can dance to or rap over. The DJs would either do it live at parties or they would make mix tapes to be shared and used as the backing track for rapping.

2. Rapping. This is talking into the microphone over the top of the beat. The best rapping involves clever rhyming of words, and a unique flow or rhythm in your voice. It’s also known as MCing. MC means master or ceremonies. The original job of the MC was to be a kind of host for a party. He or she would liven up the audience and get the atmosphere going. Later, MCs started rhyming and creating stories or commentaries. MCs sometimes battle with each other. This means that they take turns to do a verse of rhyming in which they have to be more inventive, funny or insulting than the other one. An example of this can be seen in the movie 8 Mile with Eminem.

3. Breakdancing. This was the dancing associated with hip-hop in the early days. People seem to do it less these days. It involves body popping, robotic movements, or acrobatic spins and jumps. It’s also possible to have a breakdancing battle in which two teams take turns to perform better and better dance moves.
Graffiti is also associated with hip hop. That’s the painting of large graphics or tags in public places using spray cans. Now, DJing has been replaced by more sophisticated forms of sequencing and sampling using computers, but the effect is still the same – funky beats and samples of well chosen old records. Beats can also be created without samples as well, but most of the classic hip hop of the 90s was made with samples from 60s jazz/funk records.

Some also consider ‘knowledge’ to be an essential part of hip hop culture. This means the understanding of your cultural history and the reality of the situation you are living in. More specifically this relates to the condition of black Americans as a cultural minority in the United States, but it can also apply to a wider state of mind in which you ‘keep it real’. Keeping it real just means being true to yourself, trying to ascertain what really is going on around you, questioning authority and everything around you and not believing ‘the hype’. Public Enemy released a famous rap/hip-hop track called ‘Don’t Believe The hype’. I think the message of this is ‘don’t believe what you read in the papers, or don’t believe what everyone says about something. Check it out for yourself first. Have some independence of thought. Don’t accept the common opinion. Have confidence in your own sense of judgement. Don’t believe the hype.

Click here to hear Public Enemy “Don’t believe da hype”

Hip-Hop is also notable for it’s recycling of previously released music, particularly music created by soul, funk and jazz artists of the previous generation. This shows us how hip-hop is a kind of ‘do it yourself’ cultural movement. The musicians who made this music just used what was available to them there at the time. They didn’t have instruments, or classical musical training. There wasn’t a lot of money going round. What they did have was old records, possibly from their parents’ generation, and so they used that as a resource. If they were lucky they had record decks or other equipment. Otherwise they would use tape players to crudely edit together selected pieces of music from old records. This cut and paste approach is one of the things that defines hip-hop culture.

My personal favourite era for hip hop is the early to mid nineties. I think this is when it was at its best. If I could recommend one hip hop album it would be “Midnight Marauders” by A Tribe Called Quest. Why? The samples are very well chosen (some amazing bits of classic soul, funk or jazz) the music is positive, the rhyming is inventive and funny, it’s catchy, I never get bored of listening to it and it always puts me in a good mood and reminds me of great times. I strongly believe it will be considered one of the all-time great hip hop albums. Click here to see the album on Amazon.

Hip Hop music is often associated with poor urbanised black american communities, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s not about being poor black Americans. The music might have come from that community, but ultimately music transcends racial barriers and can be enjoyed by everyone. But, saying that, there is something weird about middle class English white kids acting like rappers from Compton. They’re not keeping it real, and the importance of keeping it real is one of the things you can learn from hip hop. Be true to yourself, don’t play yourself because that’s just straight up wack! A lot of rappers are very rich these days. Some are white, some are of other ethnicities. This just goes to show that it’s not just a simple question of black or white, rich or poor or whatever. Gangster rap is one sub-genre of rap music. There are other types of hip hop that don’t involve being a gangster. Positive hip-hop or political hip-hop. I suppose within gangsta rap there is the idea that hip-hop can be a way for poor people in America can escape from the ghetto. In the case of someone like Jay-Z who apparently used to live a gangster life, music did help him to escape the world of crime.

Hip hop music can give you an insight into life in the ghetto in America. The stories I hear in rap are like crime novels or a gangster movies. They can be evocative, moving, frightening and just very exciting tales of life on the edge. I must say though, as a white middle class English guy I can’t fully relate to the music, and sometimes I feel slightly ridiculous listening to rap music. I find I feel embarrassed sometimes listening to tales of the gangster life while I’m on shopping in Tescos or walking along the Champs Elysees. I can’t really relate to it, but nevertheless I love the music, and I wonder if you also like hip hop.

Anyway, I decided to play some hip hop in this episode and discuss the lyrics with you. First up, it’s a genuine hip hop classic. This one is from the 90s which is the best era for hip hop in my opinion. It’s basically gangsta rap. It’s moody, dark and tells a story of how difficult life can be in the ghetto. The track is called “My mind is playing tricks on me” by Geto Boys. Listen to the track, and then I will explain it all, and analyse the lyrics after. You’ll appreciate it more when you hear it the second time. If you like it, click the link to see the album on Amazon, where you can buy it and support this group. If hip hop is not your thing then I hope this episode at least educates you about a musical genre that you’re not familiar with. You don’t have to like it, but knowledge is power. Also, the English you’ll hear is a dialect (to an extent).  It’s the language of black American youth, and this is one of the most pervasive English dialects. It has influence on many informal dialects in English, including youth in London and all over the UK in fact. It’s interesting that the social group with the least status – poor African Americans, has some of the most widespread cultural influence though its music and its English slang. Well, maybe that’s the thing about hip-hop – it really changed the status of many poor young people in America, by making them into superstars. Although being a superstar is not the end of your problems of course, because you know, Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems… So, here it is.

GETO BOYS LYRICS

“My Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me”

Click here to check out the song on YouTube

[Intro: Scarface] 

I sit alone in my four-cornered room staring at candles

“Cool out man, we on the Radio dukes”

We’re on the Radio dukes

“yeah”

Ooh, alright, check this here

 

[Verse 1: Scarface] 

At night I can’t sleep, I toss and turn

He’s having a bad night. He can’t sleep. Maybe he’s had too much coffee, or maybe he’s got an exam tomorrow. You know the feeling, you’re nervous, you can’t sleep. Very frustrating.

Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned

If he’s got candles burning I’m not surprised he can’t sleep. You need to extinguish all lights. Anyway, he shouldn’t leave a candle burning when he’s going to sleep. It’s quite dangerous, it might start a fire and the smoke could choke him to death in his sleep, or he could be very badly burned.

Visions of bodies being burned. He’s having a very bad night. I know that sometimes your mind wanders  when you can’t sleep but that’s quite extreme. Maybe he’s been watching too much of The Walking Dead. It’s ironic that he’s thinking of burning bodies when he’s dangerously leaving candles lit while going to sleep.

Four walls just closing in, getting bigger

I know the feeling. It can be like you’re trapped in your room, especially if you’ve been indoors all evening revising and now you can’t sleep.

I’m paranoid, sleepin’ with my finger on the trigger

Woa! He’s sleeping with a gun in his hand and his finger on the trigger? He’s likely to have a bad accident, especially if he starts to drop off to sleep and his hand jerks. He must be paranoid if he’s sleeping with a gun. I wonder what happened.

My mother’s always stressin’ I ain’t livin’ right

Well, she’s right because already you’ve got naked flames and a gun in the flat.

But I ain’t going out without a fight

Ok, he’s determined.

See, everytime my eyes close

I start sweatin’ and blood starts comin’ out my nose

You might want to get that looked at. If blood comes out of your nose when you close your eyes, you might have a serious condition. I don’t think it’s paranoia. Those are genuine symptoms. Go to a doctor. Call NHS direct at least.

There’s somebody watchin’ the Ack’

But I don’t know who it is, so I’m watchin’ my back

OK, I’m not sure what that means but it seems that someone is watching him, and apparently they’re not really looking after him because they haven’t stepped in to give advice or help. Whoever this person is, it seems that they don’t have his best interest at heart. Again, I don’t think he’s being paranoid. This guy is probably not a friend. But then again it is quite normal to just see the same people in your neighbourhood and just because they’re not friendly, it doesn’t mean they want to kill you. I mean, in London I never talked to my neighbours but I saw them all the time. Didn’t mean I wanted to kill them. Just saying.

I can see him when I’m deep in the covers

When I awake I hear a car burning rubber

When he’s deep in the covers, that means when he’s in bed. So, what he can see him when he’s in his bed? That is pretty weird, what is he doing in the guy’s bed?? Or maybe he’s in the bed and looking out of the window and he can see him in the street or something. Oh I see, he can see him in his sleep. Bad dreams.

He owns a black hat like I own

A black suit and a cane like my own

Perhaps this is just a mirror. I wonder if he’s considered the fact that he’s seeing his own reflection in windows or something. That happened to me once. I was walking alone in the street and I thought I saw someone following me. I got really scared and ran home. Turned out it was just my own reflection in the windows of houses. I used to be scared of the dark so I suppose my mind was playing tricks on me too.

Some might say, “Take a chill, B”

Yes, it’s a good idea. Take a chill. Relax. Have a cup of tea. Watch some telly. Put your feet up. Just take the afternoon off. No need to go round being a gangster today. It’s hard work being a gangster. Just take it easy for a change. You’ve got to look after your health. Take some you-time. Just watch “Friday” or something.

But I can’t see, because there’s somebody trying to kill me

Mmm, that will tend to make you a bit uptight.

I’m poppin’ in the clip when the wind blows

Every twenty seconds got me peepin’ out my window

This means he’s putting a clip of ammunition into his gun whenever the wind blows. Now, the wind blows quite a lot, especially when it’s windy. Does this mean he’s just putting the clip in when he hears the wind, and then going “oh no it’s just the wind” and then taking it out, but then hearing the wind again and going “What the hell is that?!” and popping the clip back in again, and again and again. He needs a holiday. He’s peeping out of his window, with a gun. THis is an awful situation.

Investigatin’ the joint for traps

Checkin’ my telephone for taps

Ok, so I assume that he’s really nervous because of something he did in his past. Maybe he criticised someone’s mother, or stepped on someone’s sneaker. Now he’s worried that someone wants to take revenge on him and he’s so paranoid that he’s convinced that someone has set traps in his house. Perhaps like a bucket of water above the door and when you open it = splash. Or worse. Maybe a broken chair or a whoopee cushion. He’s checking the phone for taps. That’s a wire tap. Perhaps people are trying to listen in to his conversations. It could be the mob getting ready to kill him or the FBI surveying him, or maybe he’s just been smoking too much weed and he’s imagining it all.

I’m starin’ at the woman on the corner

It’s f*cked up, when your mind is playin’ tricks on you

The woman on the corner? I expect that is a prostitute. It’s quite sad that there’s always a woman on the corner. It’s even sadder that this guy is staring at her because he’s paranoid that ‘someone is trying to kill him’.

[Verse 2: Willie D]

I make big money, I drive big cars

Everybody know me, it’s like I’m a movie star

Sounds like Luke from Luke’s English Podcast.

But late at night, somethin’ ain’t right

I feel I’m being tailed by the same sucker’s head lights

This means he feels like someone is following him. He’s being tailed by someone’s headlights. But normally you’re tailed by someone in a car, not just some headlights.

Is it that fool that I ran off the block?

Or is it that clown last week that I shot?

He shot a clown? Why did he shoot a clown? They’re basically harmless. They’re just kids’ entertainers. He’s gone too far, shooting a clown.

To be honest, I think that by ‘clown’ he means a ‘fool’ or an ‘idiot’. But really, was it necessary to shoot the guy? Two words: Gun Control.

Or is it the one I beat for five thousand dollars

He beat a guy for 5 thousand dollars. That is a lot of money but is it worth it for the risk. You could be sent to prison for aggravated assault. I’m not surprised he’s having a bad time, because you know “what goes around comes around”.

Thought he had caine but it was Gold Medal Flour

His mind really is playing tricks on him. He’s seeing people doing their grocery shopping, and mistaking them for badass gangsters who want to kill him. The guy needs to just stay in for a while and wait for this all to blow over.

Reach under my seat, grabbed my popper for the suckers

Ain’t no use to me lyin, I was scareder than a mother*****

This means he reached under his seat to get his gun in order to shoot these bad rude boys, and truth be told he was very frightened. Scareder (not correct English) than a mother-. One can only assume that ‘a mother’ is usually quite scared, for some reason. I think we know he is referring not to a Mum, but to a swearword, a motherf***er

Hooked a left into Popeye’s and bailed out quick

If it’s goin’ down, let’s get it over with

So, in order to escape, or find a good place to hide or escape he turned a quick left into what I assume is some kind of shop. He was ready to have a fight if it was necessary. So, he thinks that these gang-bangers are going to get him as an act of revenge, but perhaps he’s just paranoid and imaginging it all.

Here they come, just like I figured

I got my hand on the chrome (gold?) plated the trigger

So, they’re coming just as expected. He’s got his hand on his chrome plated gun. The trigger is the part that your finger squeezes to fire the gun..

What I saw’ll make your ass start gigglin’

Three black crippled and crazy senior citizens

What he saw will make you laugh because it was three black crippled and crazy old people. He must have been tripping because he thought they were all gangsters. He’s in a real mess.

I live by the sword

I take my boys everywhere I go, because I’m paranoid

To live by the sword means you live a violent life. He takes his boys everywhere – not his sons I imagine, but some of his home-boys, some friends or fellow gangsters as protection.

I keep lookin’ over my shoulder and peepin’ around corners

My mind is playin’ tricks on me

Looking over his shoulder, looking around corners. He’s certainly got to be vigilant at times like this.

[Verse 3: Scarface]

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope

I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope

Ok, this really is a messed up life. He’s find it hard to cope. He can’t manage it or deal with the pressure. He feels like he’s the one doing dope – I guess this is a reference to the fact that he’s a drug dealer, and usually his clients are the ones who are strung out and losing control of their lives because of the drugs they’re taking, but this time even he is losing control. This is a messed up story of criminal life in America. Have you seen Scarface? This song is one of many similar crime stories which for me form part of American popular culture in literature, film and music. Yes, I’m saying this is art. Sue me.

Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous

Every Sunday mornin’ I’m in service

Prayin’ for forgiveness

And tryin’ to find an exit out the business

He’s going to church every sunday, praying to be forgiven by god, and trying to find a way to leave this terrible business of drug dealing and extortion. So, he does want to get out but apparently he is trapped. I wonder what you think. Does he have a choice? I suppose he is so deep in crime that if he tries to leave he risks losing his life.

I know the Lord is lookin’ at me

But yet and still it’s hard for me to feel happy

He believes in god but it’s almost not enough because of his guilty conscience.

I often drift while I drive

Havin’ fatal thoughts of suicide

BANG and get it over with

And then I’m worry-free, but that’s nonsense

He sometimes considers killing himself in order to escape, but yes, that’s nonsense. Suicide is the coward’s way out.

I got a little boy to look after

And if I died then my child would be a bastard

Technically that is true. That’s in line with the literal meaning of ‘bastard’ but does it also mean his son would be a bad guy? Quite possibly, if he’s deprived of a father and growing up in tough conditions, and considering his Dad is a bit of a bastard apparently it must run in the family, so yes if he is killed then his son is likely to be a bit of a bastard. BUt also, his son would be fatherless, and that’s serious.

I had a woman down with me

But to me it seems like she was down to get me

He used to have a girl friend, but it seemed she didn’t support him. Maybe she was not good for him. Maybe she nagged him, and it didn’t help.

She helped me out in this

But to me she was just another chick

OK, she did help a bit, but he didn’t love her. Sad story. Sorry listeners.

Now she’s back with her mother

Now I’m realizing that I love her

All right, so he does love her! Make your mind up!

Now I’m feelin’ lonely

My mind is playin’ tricks on me

You have my sympathy sir. Although I do think it was wrong that you committed those crimes and you shouldn’t have done it. There’s no way of justifying those criminal acts. Still, I will raise a glass to you sir.

[Verse 4: Bushwick Bill]

This year Halloween fell on a weekend

Me and Geto Boys went trick-or-treatin’

Robbin’ little kids for bags

So they went trick or treating. Not exactly the behaviour of authentic straight up gangstas. Why are they trick or treating? Aren’t they a bit old for that now? Don’t they have business to attend to?

And robbing little kids for bags?? Really? Literally stealing candy from children. That’s hardly the way a true gangsta rolls? It’s almost pathetic, stealing sweets from children. It’s a serious act of bullying and seems out of character. So these are very well esteemed bad-boy gangstas, who act like they’ve killed and done bad things, and here they are stealing sweeties from kids. Pathetic.

Till an old man got behind our rags

Too right. The old man was correct and I’m glad a member of the community stepped in to get behind their rags and tell them off.

So we speeded up the pace

Took a look back, and he was right before our face

They decided to leave quickly and walked away, but when they turned around he was right up in their face. Wow, that guy is fast!

He’d be in for a squabble no doubt

So I swung and and tried to take him out

So the guy wanted a fight, so Bill swung his fist and tried to knock him down. ‘Take him out’

He was goin’ down, we planned

But this wasn’t no ordinary man

The plan was to put this guy down, but apparently this was no ordinary man. Maybe it was, like, Batman or just an extraordinarily tough guy who they shouldn’t have messed with.

He stood about six or seven feet

Now, that’s the creep I’d be seein’ in my sleep

This is a very tall guy, and the ‘creep’ he’d been seeing in his sleep too. So, this is the scary guy that Bill was dreaming about earlier on. Wow, so here he is in a fight with him. Scary.

So we triple-teamed on him

Droppin’ them 5th ward B’s on him

Triple teamed on him – this means the 3 of them teamed up to fight him together. Ladies or in fact anyone else, if you’re listening – I’m sorry about the violence. More civilised topics will be dealt with in due course.

The more I swung the more blood flew

Then he disappeared and my boys disappeared too

The more he punched the more blood there was, but then suddenly he disappeared, and so did his friends.

Then I felt just like a fiend

It wasn’t even close to Halloween

He felt just like a fiend – this is someone who is evil and kind of obsessed by doing bad things. So, he frightened himself by realising he was a fiend, a monster. This is dark…

It was dark as death on the streets

My hands were all bloody from punchings on the concrete

Oh man, homie

My mind is playin’ tricks on me

The streets were pitch black, and his hands were bleeding from punching the concrete. So, he imagined or hallucinated the whole thing and in fact had been punching the street itself thinking it was a man. His mind is playing tricks on him.

 

What a dark tale.

Let’s lighten things up a bit. Now we’re going to listen to a short rhyme by De La Soul from their amazing album 3 Feet High and Rising. This one is all about the importance of washing yourself with soap to avoid BO or Body Odour, which can be a problem on public transport for example. Again, listen to the whole tune and then I will explain…

De La Soul “A Little Bit of Soap” – Click here to listen to the song on YouTube

Please, listen to this simple De La style I’m gonna sing

It’s strongly directed to all the misery you’re bringing

Now I’m not all about dissing someone else personnel

But there’s no quota on your odor, that’s right, you smell

Now you might feel a little embarrassed, don’t take it too hard

And don’t make it worse by covering it up with some Right Guard

Before you even put on your silk shirt and fat gold rope

Please, take your big ass to the bathroom

And please use a little bit of soap

Okay, contestant number two, do you have the answers?

No, no I don’t

SOME HIP HOP SLANG, DEFINED:

da hip hop game = the hip hop industry. ‘da’ means ‘the’

straight up = simply

no nonsense = simple

no diggidy = no doubt, definitely

the ill communication = ‘ill’ here means ‘good’

wack = not cool

sucka = a sucker, a stupid person

 

LINKS:

For more hip hop slang, click here.

To download some free hip hop mixes, click here. I personally recommend this one.

Visit this page to play around with ‘gizoogle’, which is a website that translates everything into hip hop slang.

Here’s an example of what it does. Look at the below sentence, which is normal.

Hello, my name is Luke and I am an English teacher. You probably know me from my podcast which is called Luke’s English Podcast. I really enjoy making episodes of my show and I hope that you like listening to it. Good luck!

Here’s the hip-hop slang version:

Yo muthaf*cka, hoes call me Luke n’ I be a Gangsta mackdaddy n’ sh*t. Yo ass probably know me from mah podcast which is called Lukez Gangsta Podcast. I straight-up trip off makin episodez of mah show n’ I hope dat you like listenin ta dat sh*t. Dope luck!

‘Dope luck’ indeed…