Domain specific knowledge in Music. Mainstream hip-hop’s problem.

As a follow up to one of my previous opinions of the importance of domain specific knowledge to be productive, I happened across an interesting example worth sharing.

Domain specific knowledge not only helps with productivity, it also makes a big difference in accuracy. That’s where the example comes in.

I’m a big fan of Lupe Fiasco’s music, and his old mixtapes were some of the best works in hip hop since the early 90s. So I was listening to his “Happy Industries”, enjoying his brilliant lyrics and mash-up abilities. So I figured I should check out the full lyrics and post it on facebook. This is what I found on each of the top 5 google results for “Lupe Fiasco Happy Industries Lyrics”:

Once upon a time not long ago
An ID yeah that’s what I had
To take DNA
As a little pro two
With my MCing ways and make em mad
Just having fun not chasing cash
Apologise now for it make ya mad
Had to call g wall tell em warm up the mic
Put the pendant on the wall tell em make some maaagiicc
Shorty it’s nothing lavish
Matter of fact
It’s just an attic
Background noise from the family
Hearing the mic slaying in the outside traffic
Still turned out fantastic
Turn my vocals up just a tad bit
Fresh from the first and fifteen
Quarantine touching you super cool that asset

I’m sorry, but this is utter crap. Some fan with very little knowledge about the music industry must have transcribed this. It makes no sense whatsoever, and unfortunately the state of hip-hop is such that most people will accept that fact that it makes no sense. But Lupe tends to have great lyrics, so on listening to the song again, this is what he’s really saying:

Once upon a time not long ago
An idea yeah that’s what I had
To take demon days
And a little pro tools
With my MCing ways and make a mash.
Just having fun not chasing cash
Apologize now if I make ya mad
Had to call g wall tell em warm up the mic
Put the pendant on the wall tell em make some maaagiicc
Studio is nothing lavish
Matter of fact
It’s just an attic
Background noise from the fan
Hearing the mic slaying in the outside traffic
Still turned out fantastic
Turn my vocals up just a tad bit
Fresh from the first and fifteen
Quarantine touching you super cool thats just ah sick!

Notice what just happened. The lyrics went from some song filled with what we can only consider to be slang we don’t understand and randomly “slaying the mic” to a song about him making “sick” music using just his laptop and his little home studio in his attic, not here to make money but here for the magic. He talks about using Pro Tools, something that people with experience in the music industry knows about, and making mash-ups between tracks. Funny, because the song itself is exactly a mashup of Gorillas’ Demon Days album and his lyrics. It should be obvious that these are the correct lyrics.

If Hip-Hop is so infused with the ideas of making money that a song saying “its not about money” can so quickly become so convoluted… You be the judge.

2 Comments

  1. spyra says:

    Mondegreens! :D

    This type of mis-heard phrases/words/lyrics is called a “mondegreen." It comes from the mishearing of "laid him on the green" as "Lady Mondegreen." A recent favorite encounter of M & mine is Obama’s Elf.

    Also, have you seen these fun mondegreens?:
    - Eye mull of mush sheen
    - Whale oil beef hooked
    - How to Wreck a Nice Beach You Sing Calm Incense (link)

    BTW- Are you gonna rename your blog once you graduate? ;) No offense to the fancy private schools out there, but “Stanford from the Trenches” doesn’t quite have the same effect. XD

  2. Anonymous says:

    man there’s been a lot of good HH since the early 90′s.. late 90′s early 00′s saw the rawkis artists do some really cool stuff.. then el-p went and started def jux which signed Aesop Rock; if you don’t have Labor Days you’re fucked.