Fist let’s start with a 1980s TV theme song:
Now let’s take the bass line from that and add in some vocals. How about we use “Mundian To Bach Ke” by Punjabi artist Labh Janjua. This Indian song warns a young girl that now that she is grown up she needs to be careful of boys, perfect.
Ok. . . this ought to be good, let’s see what happened when Punjabi MC mixes these things up.
That’s a party right there, maybe we should add a little of the “H to the Izzo” and see what we get:
My mind is officially blown.
This is one of those things that on paper seems like it would never work but it comes together in a way that is unbelievable. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised with Jay-Z, this guy did sample a song from Annie (which I wrote about in this earlier post).
Every once in a while a Western pop artist deeps into what people call “world music” for influences like Sting’s song “Desert Rose” which featured Algerian singer Cheb Mami.
I came across this song for the trailer for new Sacha Baron Cohen film The Dictator.
While the song seems to fit the vibe of this film it doesn’t really make sense. The trailer portrays this fictional dictator as being from a Middle Easter country and well, “Beware” is clearly of Indian origin. It’s like using “La Bamba” for the movie trailer for New Year’s Eve, which is set in New York City.
Besides being a pleasing mix of sounds what does this all add up to. The bass line from a show about a talking car makes sense in the way its about protection and so is the warning about men. Jay-Z’s lyrics start with typical boasting in the first verse talking about how he’s the “black Brad Pitt” but he gets decidedly political in the second verse.
Jay-Z takes this palate of sounds to talk about issues in the Middle East. He talks about screaming, “leave Iraq Alone” and wanting the troops to have a safe return. Then we get a deeper look at Jay-Z’s world view.
Before Bin Laden got Manhattan to blow
Before Ronal Reagan Got Manhattan the blow
Before I was cabbing it there back and forth
Raw we had it all day, Papi in the hallway
Cop one on consignment give you more yay
Yea, but that’s another story
But for now, Mami turn it around and the let the boy play.
Jay-Z starts talking about the attacks on 9/11 as well as referencing speculation that the Reagan administration had partial responsibility for the distribution of crack cocaine. He goes into his experience selling drugs out of a cab with his distributor. Then he wraps the verse up basically saying that it’s time to party. Like most Jay-Z lyrics there’s a lot crammed in here and he puts it across while effortlessly rapping through a variety of rhythmic patterns.
This song represent diversity in the best way. There's layers of meaning in all of the ingredients involved and each group of people these separate parts represent are invited through this song to explore cultures outside of their own.
This song isn't created for the sake of being "diverse." It's not a lesson in "diversity training," rather it's a celebration of how great a time we can have by coming together.