If you remember, Vero’s post about the Grammy award-winning song “Royals” kinda blew up the Interwebs by pointing out the cognitive flaw in Lorde’s cultural critique of music, youth, and consumer culture.
Vero rightly pointed out something that didn’t sit well with me either. The concern I shared with Vero was that while the lyrics serve as a valid critique of the excessive consumerism in hip hop (and the entire music industry, really), for casual listeners, they run the danger of becoming just a racialized backhanded indictment. Lorde’s “Royals” definitely made me wince in places even though I kind of liked the song in a fairly meh music season of 2013 (before King Bey blew everything up and made me forget about Yeezus, Magna Carta, 20/20, Overgrown, Nothing Was The Same, Because The Internet…whatever Miley did, etc.) While I appreciate the spare, light confection of “Royals,” I also felt that it lacked depth in its cultural critique of the mass consumerism in the music industry.
Enter Washington DC artist Maimouna Youssef, aka “Mumu Fresh,” whose cover of Lorde’s track addresses that cringe-inducing flaw. “We’re Already Royals,” thankfully, fulfills the missed opportunity of the original and contextualizes American hip hop culture’s materialism in a way a 16-year-old
Aussie New Zealander probably never could–effortlessly rooting it in a deep understanding of the historical, social, and economic events that account for a key thematic narrative in nearly every hip hop track: triumph over adversity, the individual grinding so hard by whatever bootstraps afforded them to succeed in manifesting something of an American dream.
Youssef’s appropriated pre-chorus just slays:
Now everybody’s like
Come on lets celebrate
Finally we getting cake
Every day we hustling
Tryin’ fill that dinner plate
We don’t care/
The underdog don’t have no fear
So if we sing about gold teeth/ Maybach’s/ diamonds on our time piece
You should raise a glass
Help us free from this poverty
Give us free from this love affair
But seriously–stay for the rap verse because it just owns everything. And let me know if you let out a YAASSSS afterward.
The ones you see stuntin’/ are the ones who never had nothing/ so first piece of the pie we tryna’ grab something/ snatching and running/ packing in gunning / landing a hundred/
Flashing n’ frontin’/ scared of everything but call it nothing/
We don’t know that old true blue blood slave money/ slave money/ war heroes
take it to their grave money/
cotton money/ cane money/ …
Diamond blood stain money/
They tell us to save money/ we know getting paid money/
Only talking small money/2 for 5 pack of pampers, black n’ mile money/ mattress piled high money/ we know sneaker fly money/
we know racks on racks on racks on racks on racks money/ what about that tax money
oil money/ Africa’s rich soil money/
so thick you cant fold money
British East Indian company old money/
Its like the whole world’s up side down
And the real royalty has been reduced to clowns
Lost in the sauce and we don’t know which way to go
They blew the nose off the sphinx so we’d never know
… We royal
Yup. We all looking for a come up.
Syreeta McFadden would like you to know that music makes her high.