Andre 3000’s one of the best writers in modern hip-hop because his rhymes come from a unique perspective, have interesting structures, and imaginative wordplay. And more than that, he's often open to interrogating traditional ideas of manhood.
Written by Touré (@Touré)
“Shower her with dolla tips, shawty went and bought a whip/ Guarantee the city remember your whole name, you throw that ho a scholarship .”
Andre quickly and elegantly establishes that we’re in a strip club with the first line and proves how much time he spends in there, saying he’s tipped her enough that she bought a car. Seems like we’re heading for a typical rapper-in-a-strip-club story—but we’re not.
Seems like we're heading for a typical rapper-in-a-club story—but we're not.
The city will indeed talk about you if you give her enough money to actually go to college (and fulfill that clichéd myth of the stripper who's there to earn money for college). But the homonym of “whole” and “hoe” is interesting. It could easily be mistaken for “the city will remember that ho name…” and that’s true: she’ll never be forgotten if she gets someone like Dre to throw her a scholarship or give her enough money to go to school on. I wonder if by “whip” he means a car or an actual whip with which to dominatrix him more completely. Probably the car but...
“All of them ain’t all equipped, and this saddens me. I see the peckin’ order ./Quote-unquote 'bad bitches' work the whole flo’; those that get laughed at sit off in a corner .”
This third line is where we see that we’re not getting a normal rapper-in-a-strip-club story. Dre’s saddened by all he sees around him. Only Andre 3000—or possibly Drake—would get emo in the strip club, but he’s got real, valid reasons why.
He’s not focusing on the girls, but on the pecking order of the club world. “Pecking order” is an interesting choice of phrase because it signifies a hierarchy seen among both people and animals. It can be used for either, but here I think it's gotta be there to help shade us toward the way people become animals in the wild strip club scene—instinctive beings acting on primal urges. The women’s bodies determine their place in the pecking order.
Most of us would be in the club staring at the hottest women but Dre’s questioning the value system that makes the hottest ones hot (hence “quote-unquote”) and he’s also seeing into the forgotten corner of the club where the lesser girls who get no attention sit, laughed at like nerds at a high school dance. When you look at them, yeah, it's a sad scene. These lines signal the depressed mood of the whole rhyme, the melancholia Dre feels as he sees through the façade the club wants you to see.
“Like a lab rat, nobody want her. Niggas that are married don’t wanna go home but/We look up to them, they wish they were us/They want some new trim, we lust for some trust .”
These lines continue Dre’s pecking order discussion in two ways. He likens the lesser strippers to laboratory rats, perhaps the lowest form of animal, which would be quite disrespectful except that he’s not dissing.
He likens the lesser strippers to laboratory rats, perhaps the lowest form of animal, which would be quite disrespectful except that he's not dissing.
He’s pained to see them as trapped, powerless little beings scraping along the edges of society, chasing after crumbs and then sprinting back into the shadows, unwanted by anyone but the scientist (perhaps the club owner is the scientist in Dre’s analogy) who uses, abuses and ultimately kills the rat (or discards in the human analogy—though killing women who do this sort of work is far from unheard of). It’s a shocking analogy because he places them so low. If not for his obvious empathy for their position this would be highly sexist.
Then Dre shifts, midline, from talking about the women to peering into the hearts of the men around him. Many rappers have talked about how dumb it is to look for love in the club, but Dre sees that there's two sorts of men in the club—and neither of them are getting what they want. The married men want the excitement of new pussy and the single men want the loving feelings that come from a committed relationship that (some of) the married men are used to. This is a rather deep observation and it's interesting that Dre extends his vision of what's going on in the club's pecking order beyond what the women are doing and into what the men are doing.
Also, Dre’s last couplet has some really interesting things going on. He rhymes “us” and “trust” (end of the line rhymes), but also ties in multiple internal rhymes (or near internal rhymes) with the alliteration “trim” and “trust” and the last syllable rhyme of “lust” and “trust.” With three words (“us,” “trim” and “lust”) tying themselves into trust there’s tremendous sonic power on “trust” as well as the obvious meanings behind that word. Strippers will pretend to be a friend, might even give you that girlfriend experience, but they'll almost always diss you once the money stops flowing. Their contempt for men is so barely veiled that there's no real trust being built.
"Now that both of us are colorblind, cause the other side looks greener/Which leaves your turf in a Boise State, can’t see a play or the team cause..."
Lots of nice play with color here, first with green for the envy each sort of man feels for the other, and then with blue, which is what Dre feels.
"Leaves your turf in a Boise State" is a beautiful line because it’s so visually sharp—Boise State of course plays on a blue field so "in a Boise State" means in a blue state. It also references the blindness he just touched on by adding "Can’t see a play or the team"—Boise State plays in blue uniforms on a blue field, thus almost camouflaging them.
In Dre's meaning, the blue on blue makes everyone in the club blind to the fact of what's really going on in there. Also really nice rhyming "greener" with "team cause." Ah, the things Dre can do with that drawl.
"Yeah, everybody has an addiction; mine happens to be you."
Back to the girl who'd begun the whole story, the girl he's in the club to forget about. (Erykah?)
”And those who say they don’t, souls will later on say to them ‘That ain’t true’ /All of them will have an opinion, but y’all know what y’all can do with them .”
This is just funny smack talkin’—with a nice cadence shift in the first line. But Andre's still defensive because he's getting hurt in love, still lusting for some trust.
“But if you’re unsure, I’ll take you on tour to a place you can stick that in. ”
Oh he's not done telling you what you can do with your opinion and if you're unclear about anything, I can show you where you can stick your opinion—ie, your asshole.
Back to the girl who'd begun the whole story. The girl he's in the club to forget about. Erykah?
This subtle reference to asshole fits in a rhyme about life in the strip club, though I'm not totally sure what this section of the rhyme has to do with the first part. Earlier he was giving us a brilliant, detailed look into the strip club universe. Now he's getting defensive, so if you don't agree with him, well everyone has an opinion and an asshole—and both stink. OK.
“Well, sittin’ here sad as hell, listenin’ to Adele, I feel ya baby.”
Damn, Dre's depressed! He's obsessing over some girl so badly he can't enjoy the strip club—and if that's not bad enough, he's so blue he's listening to Adele! That's the gold standard of modern cry-fest moment songs. Saturday Night Live just did a sketch about people listening to “Someone Like You” and crying.
Note: I'm a sucker for songs that mention other songs. Most songs don't include these sorts of references to other songs even though songwriters know well how songs function in the lives of people. It's kinda like songs don't exist in the world of songs—in much the same way that movies generally don't exist in the world of movies. In most movies they don't go to see a movie, and they almost never realize that that person looks exactly like a Hollywood star Tom Cruise or George Clooney or whoever. So most movies exist in a world in which Tom Cruise (for example) doesn't exist just as in most songs when someone's sad they don't go listen to Adele. But this is Andre 3K.
Damn, Dre's depressed! He's obsessing over some girl so badly he can't enjoy the strip club—and if that's not bad enough, he's so blue he's listening to Adele!
Aside: surely he's not the only one who feels sad in a strip club. He's sad because of a specific woman, but I sometimes feel sad in strip clubs too, wondering what pain these women have been through, how many were molested or raped in their past, and how much do they hate men?
“‘Someone Like You,’ more like someone unlike you, or somethin’ that’s familiar, maybe."
I love this playing with Adele's song title. And why would he want someone like you, someone who dissed him? He needs someone unlike you, who won't diss him. Wonder if he's still talking about Erykah here.
“And I can tell that she wants a baby, and I can yell: ‘Girl, that you’re crazy’ /Aw, what the hell, nope, can’t be lazy. Pease be careful, bitches got the rabies."
Interesting (in a linguistic sense though not in a political one) linking female dogs and rabies to say some women are sick and crazy and rabid and must be avoided. This isn't the greatest finish—I'm not sure why he's suddenly dissing this woman he's obsessed with. Maybe it’s easier to retreat into casual misogyny after so many lines where you're honest about your feelings. The return of that sort of icy pimpspeak that's so prevalent in hip-hop is a bit jarring after hearing him concede that he's so sad he's listening to Adele.
But maybe this ties back to his realization about the grass being greener. Once he starts to take a serious look at the other side, he realizes that means having a baby, which frightens him back into misogynistic machismo. Awkward ending aside, this is a very smart rhyme overall. I can imagine a video set in a strip club with us seeing what we're supposed to see and Andre seeing deeper, seeing the hierarchy of the women, the longings of the men and this woman who he's obsessed with everywhere.