Friday, July 4, 2008

Shattered Dreams and Freak Though (Larve, Fuh Real Pt. 2)

Shattered Dreams by UGK (though this is Pimp C's show)

Lyrics (please read them in all their glory)...

I finally bought UGK's Underground Kingz after bumping it for a while on my mp3 player. I've never listened to it from beginning to end and for some reason have been digging into it something fierce lately. Repeated listenings have brought out a more variegated understanding of the UGK mythos.
As stated in an interview with Bun B, apparently proceeds from the records are split up between Bun B and Pimp C's widow and children. Reading that he had a wife and family brought on the same effect learning of Juvenile's placid, warm domestic setup as described in "I Know You Know" had. Pimp C's nasally wrath has always brought unexplainable joy in me in that it's able to transform the most vile of statements into intentionally caustic man-child ruminations on juvenilia, but for some reason the misogyny in his lyrics always had an overriding grate that barred fully desensitized enjoyment. His lyrics in One Day U Here were heartbreaking but more often he came off a wild card side saddle to Bun B's stable grown man sensibilities. After his death I began reading more about him and learned he was a renaissance man of sorts, who learned multiple instruments growing up, was in the school choir, and handled much of the production work in UGK's early albums. It's usually his voice that croons that falsetto on their songs. I didn't realize how much that passed over to his lyrics until I heard Shattered Dreams.
There was a lot of word in the press round the time of Underground Kingz release that Real Women was supposed to be the antidote to Two Types of Bitches nasty, paranoid misogyny. I always thought that was bullshit because all real women did was thank spouses who basically compromised their lives because their romantic entanglement got tangled up and caught. Ran their lives into the ground so they could play side saddle to someone else's game. I thought it was particularly restrictive and the praise was backhanded, and it's a shame that Shattered Dreams got nary a mention because this is the male-scribed feminist anthem that Real Women's lightning was stolen from. For me, this was totally uncharacteristic of Pimp C. And as much as I loved hearing Pimp C say stupid things, there was always an emotional distance that came from his hardline approach against women. From all the verses I heard never once did I hear him say something contradictory to "if you ain't a bitch, then you a ho". But honestly, this is one of the most emphatically sympathetic verses to come from a male rapper ever.

It seems to start like any other rapper's "Heart to Heart" -

Man I refuse to let the bitches take away my pride
Them hoes can lock my body up, but they cain't lock my mind

And here is where I'm for the widespread usage of "bitches" and "ho's", not thrown around as a specifically misogynistic derogation, but instead reconstituted as a genderless defense against any woe bearing foe. It would be silly to eradicate a modern fixture in our language (though lord knows how many words from Shakespeare's time are not still around today outside of academia) when it can so easily be transformed into an equal opportunity force of defenestration against all haters and stooges playing stopgap to the good life.
Pimp C explains why he calls some women bitches and some women hoes and then tells them they have the option of staying out of that line of fire by changing up their lifestyle. True, for someone who glorifies the backstreet profession of exploiting women's bodies and raking in surplus value via hierarchically unfair wage distribution, it's hypocritical to make a judgement call on women who sleep around for free. Or takes pimping out of its monetary definition and sleeps around for free but calls out the girls for sleeping with him (there is something self-deprecating in that self-glorification, like, "if sleeping around doesn't mean anything that must be why it's so easy for me to do it?")
But Pimp C does the honorable thing and places hoes and pimps in the same line, giving an empathetic barrier-breaking olive branch to both and saying that just because the game thrives off of you doesn't mean you have to survive off of it. Both parts of the equation, the pimp and the ho, are relegated to the dregs of society because that's where they're allowed to fester, but the main concept of the song is that if you're there you probably think it's because you have no future, that you're future is over and here you are, commodifying your pussy, or someone else's pussy, until eventually that money pit dries up and you're in a pit drying up. But if you stop thinking like that, you might be able to crawl on out that hole.
He must know there are girls listening to his songs, and it's truly touching when he says

"Just cause you sold your body don't mean you a hoe for life,
I got to speak it right for all the one that paid the price".

Then the next verse is about family care for those who didn't Plan their Parenthood.
"To all the babies havin babies on ya own, I know you feeling up fucked up and feelin' all alone" and he gives words of encouragement, telling them just because society judges them as failures and fuck ups doesn't mean society has to live with their choice, doesn't even mean their definition of fucking up is applicable because if you, the lil mama keep on keeping on, taking care of your own who the fuck is someone totally unrelated to drop some dime a dozen excoriation that'll get you nowhere but a grief counselor.

"Ya only fucked up if you lay down and don't continue to fight - uh!"

And then he moves on to the pops, here assumed to be a young street soldier slanging dope like it's a rope that'll hang him 'fore he's high. His friends might want him to duck and cover, hang with the boys, but they're not going to be around when his girl is feeding his boy. I honestly wish I could sum this up in a way that's more heartfelt than Pimp C's words of encouragement, but I can't bring myself to tears like that.
And because this song is basically the self-esteem anthem of last year that should have been for young women, the third verse is also great. Here was the perfect response to the Imus controversy, or Chamillionaire calling the women in the NBA nappy headed hoes.

"I know they say, 'It ain't enough room in the NBA'
You tell them haters, "Save that bullshit for another day"

Then, in what I guess is a rip at the prevalence of female rappers flipping pimp status to be more gender equal, staying in the game by merely being as nasty as their male counterparts, he tells 'em they can do their thang and people won't be talking to their thong.
And here's the last part that just blows my mind.

"Some people gay, what can I say? The only judge is God
But don't be shame and try to hide cause then you livin fraud
Cause everythang done in the dark, gon' come to the light
So do yo' thang, cause cain't no man tell you what's wrong or right"

He takes Kanye's path one step further and puts it on record. It might have been a song on the second half of the album buried in the tail end, but they know their fans are going to stick around. UGK made albums, not singles, and that they released a double album is indication that they wanted to give their fans as much as they could, and to flip the standards they delightfully spent masticating on all the preceding tracks in order to take time for some real talk is a lot more of a genuine move at opening up dialogue with their audience than some last ditch effort to say something and drop out.
What's great about this song is it doesn't gouge what Pimp C has to say in isms or grand statements, every one of these verses is only interested in the pragmatic, like a high school counselor who has ten minutes to be a parent for someone who doesn't have one. He's not going to drop pamphlets on the kids, he's going to talk to them about how to best make the choice about this particular rough spot in their life.

Freak Though by T.I. (featuring Pharrell)
Now here's a song whose practicality is of a whole nother sort. It's sympathy deviates not from where something went wrong, but from where something was perceived to go wrong when it was right from the start. Basically, the song is about a girl that T.I. starts seeing and finds out she's a freak, but not just from bedroom behavior, also from neighborhood reputation. Here is where a lot of rappers succumb to a hypocritical assessment of the freak's life (except for maybe Devin the Dude, who will quietly pine in her absence) and castigate her lifestyle choices when they run parallel to theirs but are done from the receiving end as opposed to the giving end.

"She got angel eyes, wit the baby face
(But she's a freak though)
I want my momma and daddy to meet her
Maybe have my baby
(But she's a freak though)
They keep talking about you
Because they - can't keep up with your pace
You're my - super freak! super freak!
You're my - super freak!"

Instead of disposing of her as some misguided, passion induced floozy, he actually takes her seriously. Well, he says she might have been a little misguided, but then again so can he be. Another insanely stupid maxim tossed around as hip hop dictum is the notion that you can't turn a ho into a housewife. Before asking can you turn a pimp into a husband, T.I. writes the whole thing off, asking why the fuck would he want a housewife? Perhaps it's not the Feminine Mystique, but it's definitely a boot in the notion that a ring is a token to be exchanged for a prize possession, not necessarily prized but shelved for decoration. The entire song he basically upends the standard derogation of a ho. Everyone else can sheep it up flock style and kick back with their homeboys, T.I. is going to spend the night, have breakfast, lay in bed and actually try to establish a human connection with what his friends left off as a conquest. Obviously they didn't conquer anything because they totally missed out on the treasure buried underneath. That's why a line like "give every ho a hug" is one of the nicest things a rapper could say ever. With this as that line's backstory he's basically saying there are no ho's, there are women taken for granted by douschenozzle's who gave up their distinguishing faculties to their dicks.

I just respect that she herself and she don't hide it
Though she may have been a tad misguided
All she need is a little affection, a lot of direction
A nigga wit a constant erection

But one that beats with a bleeding heart.
I can't wait for paper trail.

Related Post:
Larve, fuh real