Thursday, October 25, 2012

This Is A Thing That Exists!: Dance (ASS) By Big Sean Ft. Nicki Minaj


I come to you all today, perplexed. Actually, now that I think about it, perplexed doesn't quite cover it. I am saddened. No, saddened doesn't work either. Put simply, I have lost all faith in mankind, and have now resigned myself to the only hope I have left, namely that the human race will soon be eradicated by some horrifying Lovecraftian apocalypse. Why have I suddenly joined a cult of Cthulu you may ask? Well, it's because just recently, while perusing YouTube for random music videos, I stumbled upon one such video that in a few short minutes proceeded to effortlessly and brutally destroy my soul with one swift crunch of its metaphorical boot heel. You may now rightly question my sincerity, and assume that I must be employing some level of hyperbole. If you are free to question this, then count yourself lucky, as this means that you have evidently not yet seen what I have seen, and as such do not have the ability to comprehend the mind-bending terror that is the song "Dance" by Big Sean featuring Nicki Minaj.

Of course I use that title in an effort to be somewhat coy, knowing full well that it does not in any way describe the content of the song, and in fact is a word that never appears in the song's lyrics, which is much better exemplified by its parenthetical subtitle - "(Ass)." Of course, once again I am being somewhat elusive, as the true subtitle, thoroughly more accurate, is in fact not "(Ass)," or even "(ASS)," but rather "(A$$)." Now, before I continue, a few preliminary concerns. First, for those of you who are used to coming to this website for articles and columns related to movies and the occasional television show, I apologize for eschewing your expectations by examining a music video. However, as I will soon illustrate, to call the content of this video music is itself incredibly misleading, and I will argue that this piece should be regarded more as a short film than anything playable on MTV, falling into the same genre as whatever that video Malcolm McDowell watches in A Clockwork Orange. I would also like to point out that I am well aware that this video was released several months ago as of this writing and has no doubt made whatever contribution to our culture that it is going to make. To this, I can only admit my ignorance of modern popular culture. As I said, I only just discovered this video a few days ago, and as I have not yet read any stories about rivers running red with blood, I feel that there is still time to get my two cents in before the full force of this terrible thing is felt by the world.

Okay. Breathe, Ben. Breathe. To begin.

I'm sorry, but you'll have to bear with me here, because this is all still very difficult to process. It is probably impossible to describe in full detail just how crapmazing this video is. Perhaps an example is in order. A few years ago, a criminally underrated movie was released called Idiocracy. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it, if only because it provides the context for my current subject in a way I could never do as well in prose. To summarize, a man is cryogenically frozen and wakes up to find himself in a future world where the human race has become somehow even stupider than it is now. There's much more to it, but I bring it up only to cite one scene in particular, when the film's protagonist wanders into a movie theater to sample the latest cinema that this new world has to offer. He finds that the top-grossing, most critically acclaimed movie of the day is a film called, simply Ass, and that's all it is. For hours. Now, with this in mind, let me quote for you the entire chorus of the song "Dance (A$$)."

"Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Stop. Now make that motherfucker Hammer Time."

In case you're worried, no, I did not just stroke out at my keyboard. That is not one, not two, but FIFTEEN "asses" in succession. And that's the hook, the part that's supposed to get us all interested in what this song has to offer. Perhaps it is to Big Sean's credit that he provides the small mercy of deliberately stopping at fifteen "asses," because clearly sixteen would have been just one too many and certainly would have ruined the whole rhythm of the song. I don't want to dwell too much on the chorus and leave the impression that it is my only problem with the song, because as you will soon see, I have many. Still, I can only go back to Idiocracy. There are those moments when satire becomes reality, when a warning made in jest becomes deadly serious and all we can do is mourn the loss of our good judgement. A few years ago when I saw the movie Bamboozled by Spike Lee, I remember thinking that as much as I loved the film, the idea that a modern white audience would tolerate the return of minstrel shows was just too ridiculous to accept. Then I saw Transformers 2 and watched as the crowd in the theater laughed uproariously as two twin robots, wearing CGI in place of grease paint, shucked and jived their way into America's hearts. These are moments that make a sane man weep, and "Dance (A$$)" is now, for me, only the most recent.

Oh, and if you're wondering, yes, there was also an MC Hammer reference in there. And it's not just a lyrical point; the song actually samples "Hammer Time." This may not strike anyone as particularly unusual considering the prevalence of sampling in today's music, but I think it is, at the very least, a particularly egregious example. First on the general point, have they really run out of good songs from the 70's and 80's to sample that they are now picking over the dregs of the 90's? Has all the half-way decent Motown, Disco, and New Wave music been cannibalized at this point that rappers (I refuse to say rap artists in this case) are now forced to find inspiration in MC fucking Hammer? Don't get me wrong, I hate sampling and every time I hear one of my favorite classic songs re-purposed so that some talentless asshole can talk over it about his dick, who he puts it in, how much money he has, and how many guns he's bought with it, a part of my childhood dies a little. Even so, when I am forced to listen to this crap, the few familiar sounds of the sampled beat are typically the only part I can find any enjoyment in. Also, "Hammer Time"? Really? Did we all forget that that song was itself sampled from Rick James? Have we really reached a point where everything good has been stolen, and we must now steal from the thieves? Is this not how ancient Rome fell to its own depravity? And the video itself is even sampled! Through much of it, Big Sean sits in a throne in front of a white backdrop covered in graffiti in what can only be an intentional reference to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Will Smith's early rap career, which, in addition to being ridiculous, is probably the only time any music video has been so bad that it actually makes listening to Will Smith rap a more preferable alternative. It's sort of like that rule in movies, where you never reference a better movie in your crappy one, and in this case, the better thing is Will Smith rapping!

Once again, to only discuss the chorus is to tackle only the tip of the iceberg, and indeed this song is the iceberg that crashed the Titanic, on 9/11, during the Holocaust. I was at first hesitant to do this, but I think the only way to fully and adequately explain my umbrage is to go lyric-by-lyric and line-and-line, showing you in detail, in no uncertain terms, why as human beings we should all now be ashamed of ourselves for playing a part in producing this and letting it happen.

"Wobble-dy wobble-dy wa wobble wobble."

Okay, admittedly, not a terrible start. The onomatopoeia is technically accurate as many asses, particularly those of a type praised by rappers in the past, do in fact wobble, so at least we're still on point, even if said point is completely without merit.

"'I'm st-stacking my paper, my wallet look like a bible."

Here's where I start to get immediately skeptical of anything this guy is saying. With this comparison of his wallet to a bible, note how he very conveniently neglects to specify which kind of bible he's using. Yeah, maybe it would be impressive if he's talking about one of those giant monastery bibles, but once a wallet gets that big, it would seem to defeat the purpose of having one, and would only indicate that he probably doesn't know how banks and or debit card works. Not exactly something to brag about. And if that's not what he's talking about, than which kind is it? I'd guess that even my wallet, with no money inside it, is probably thicker than your average pocket bible, just by virtue of the leather, but you don't see me acting like I'm some big shot. It all seems deceptively vague to me.

"I got girlies half naked, that shit look like the grotto/ How your waist anorexic and then your ass is colossal?"

Now the problem with this part is hard to convey just from a reading of the lyrics, as it's really the lazy cadence that Big Sean employs that casts doubt upon this claim. It all just sounds like a teenage virgin bragging about sex he's never had with girls he wouldn't know what to do with. "Girlies half naked" is probably the furthest extent to which he can actually conceive of a woman as a sexual being considering his evident lack of experience, which is only further suggested by his reference to "the grotto," as if he found an old copy of Playboy magazine and has constructed an elaborate fantasy about what being a real man is like. In this vein, his description of his perfect woman, with an anorexic waist and a colossal ass, sounds almost like the "girlfriend living in Canada," who so totally exists man, seriously.

"Drop that ass, make it boomerang/ Take my belt off, bitch I'm Pootie Tang/ Tippy tow tippy tay, you gonna get a tip today/ Fuck that, you gonna get some dick today"

I'm just going to assume that the Boomerang is a new dance craze from Australia that has taken the country by storm in recent months, and I just missed it somehow, but Pootie Tang? Really? Don't get me wrong, I actually like this movie, and it's another one of those underrated ones that any fan of writer Louis C.K. should check out if they never gave it a chance the first time, But come on. You might as well make an Austin Powers reference. And for the record, anyone who saw Pootie Tang knows that he was far too honorable a man to objectify women as Big Sean does here. Yes, the sheer power of Pootie's awesome would often cause the women around him to objectify themselves, but he never personally indulged in it. If you're going to take up his mantle, I think you should at least live by his example. And I know this is a common trope in rap music today, but at this point, he's given no indication thus far that his penis is sufficient to be worth more than a monetary tip. I'm not saying it isn't, but you have to prove that. You can't just assert it without evidence.

I walk in with my crew and I'm breaking they necks/ I'm looking all good, I'm making her wet/ They pay me respect, they pay me in checks/ And if she look good, she pay me in sex."

Again, his laconic, almost dismissive delivery seems to suggest that for all his bluster, he doesn't even believe what he's saying here. I know it doesn't sound all that different from any other rap song, filled as it is with the same sort of empty machismo you might find on a thousand identical rap albums, but there's just something about the shallow and hollow way in which this particular declaration is presented that makes it even more excruciating. There's no wit or wordplay involved. He just states bluntly a list of things that he says makes him awesome with a lack of subtlety that would make Krispy Kreme sound like Voltaire. There's no attempt to be clever at all, almost as if he's deliberately removing any sense of style so as to deconstruct and parody the genre. If I thought for a moment that it was intentional I might even herald it as genius, but there's no way that's possible. Also, what ho pays their pimp in checks? Once again, this guy doesn't understand the modernization of commerce nor apparently the pimp/ho dynamic.

"Bounce that ass (ass), it's the roundest/ You the best bitch, you deserve a crown bitch right on that."

His immature understanding of female sexuality and the male libido is evident again here. It's the roundest? That's the standard we're working from? It's like he tried to come up with all the things that could possibly be positives about a woman's ass, not being able to summon any direct knowledge of the subject, having never actually touched or been near one personally, and he just picked the first dimension he could think of. It's starting to sound like Steve Carell in that scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin when he tries to fake a story about a sexual encounter, revealing he's never actually had one. It's like that, only in (shitty) song form. Also, the lyrics I found online have the last line as "Right on that," but I always hear it as "Write on that." I point it out because this line comes right before another repeat of the chorus, so it sounds a lot like he's saying "Write on that ass, ass, ass, etc," which fits a lot better with the rest of the song, and its main theme of Big Sean not knowing anything about what to do with a woman's ass. The utter gall to write a song devoted to it would be commendable if I didn't want to stab out my ear drums.

"Go stupid, go stupid, go stupid"

Apparently this is the song's mantra, and I have no further comment other than to say that it is the most self-aware portion of the proceedings. Oh, and it leads in to the Nicki Minaj part next, which makes me smile for reasons that I can only guess are not intentional.

"Ass so fat, all these bitches' pussies is throbbin'/ Bad bitches, I'm your leader, Phantom by the meter/ Somebody point me to the best ass-eater."

First off, no, sorry, not buying it. Bad bitches, good bitches, whatever, I refuse to believe that there is any class of bitch or any women for that matter to which Nicki Minaj is any sort of authority figure. But going back a bit, so wait, is her ass turning all women into lesbians? How did we go from the worst of chauvinistic female objectification to the worst of faux hyper-sexualized female empowerment in the span of fifteen more "asses" and a demand to "go stupid"? Okay, maybe I answered my own question with that one. I have to assume that "Phantom by the meter" is a metaphor that I don't understand, otherwise I would have to think that Minaj is saying that she's some sort of ghost that haunts parking meters, gas meters, or some other type of measurement devices, which would take this song into a whole different direction. And wait, we're eating asses now? I thought we were fucking asses or just appreciating them for their roundness. Make up your mind, song! And for some reason in the video she's wearing a British flag design for both her shirt and short shorts. Is Nicki Minaj British? Does Britain have something to do with asses? Someone help me before I actually do stroke out!

"I Tell 'im "Pussy clean!" I tell them "Pussy squeaky!"/ Niggas give me brain 'cause all of them niggas geeky."

What? Now we're talking about pussies? I thought the whole point was asses. Was that not why the fifteen "asses" were there in the first place? Still, being somewhat geeky myself, I can appreciate what appears to be Miss Minaj's preference for having sex with men of a more intelligent persuasion. At least I assume that's what this line means. I think I've heard somewhere that "brain" is a euphemism for penis, perhaps both as a reference to it being the true male brain, as well as due to both the penis head and testicles each having a physical resemblance to a miniature brain, though this could just be the product of an imagination driven insane by trying to create an internal logic for this very song. The only caveat I would have, apart from the fact that she genuinely sort of scares me a little bit, is that if you have to tell men that your vagina is squeaky clean, it must only be because they have some reason to believe that it is not or historically hasn't been. I do not know enough about Miss Minaj to know what this reason might be, but it does make me somewhat hesitant to inform her of my openness to have geeky sex.

"If he got a mandingo, then I buy him a dashiki/ And bust this pussy open in the islands of Waikikiiiiii…"

A mandingo, for those who are unaware, is a reference to a very large penis, which is taken from a porn star of the same name. I don't know if a dashiki is the appropriate reward for having a mandingo, or if it is a clothing option that accentuates the mandingo, but at the very least, I think we've established, at least in Big Sean's case, that busting open one's pussy, even in exotic locales, is not the ultimate goal here. Haven't you been listening, Nicki? The man's all about asses. I'm sure you have a very nice vagina and you should be very proud of it, but it seems like Sean was nice enough to invite you onto his song to join in the conversation about the female posterior, and all you want to talk about it your own thing. Oh, and the Waikikiiiiii part is extended for like five seconds for some reason. I'm not talking like a Whitney Houston-style epic holding of a note; this is just a long, monotone sound like something out of a Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. In the video, the line is punctuated by the two pantomiming anal sex as Big Sean gives an exaggerated shrug and a smirk, as if to say, "Yeah, this is terrible and we're gonna make millions of dollars that we know we don't deserve, but who cares?"

"Kiss my ass and my anus, 'cause it's 'Finally Famous.'"

Okay, there are like three things wrong with this part. First off, "Kiss my ass and my anus?" Must we do both? Isn't one sufficient? Also, she doesn't say "cause they're finally famous," but rather "cause it's finally famous." This woman clearly doesn't know that the ass and the anus are two separate things. Granted, the term "ass" can be used to describe the entire operation, anus included, but generally is meant to refer to the exterior portion, analogous to the ear, the anus being its ear canal. These are basic biological facts that are being missed here. And finally, while you could possibly make the argument that as a well known public figure considered by many to be physically attractive, that in fact her ass could technically be considered famous in and of itself, I would take issue with the proposition that her anus has somehow also achieved an equal level of fame.

"And it's finally soft, yeah, it's finally solved!/ I don't know, man, guess them ass shots were off!/ Bitches ain't poppin', Google, my ass./ Only time you on the net is when you Google my ass"

From what research I was willing to do for this article before passing out from the pain, I gather that this is largely a reference to rumors that once circulated about Miss Minaj's ass containing implants. I do not believe these for a second, not because I give the woman any benefit of the doubt, but rather because if I let myself believe that such a thing is a thing, I will stab someone. I don't know what "bitches aint poppin'" means so I'll ignore it for now, but the next thing is particularly annoying. Even if, for the sake of argument, I did spend an inordinate amount of time Googling "Nicki Minaj's ass," to be so presumptuous as to suggest that the only thing I do online is Google her ass is just absurd. The Internet is far too important to my life to make this claim credible. My job is done mostly through an online platform, so right there that's eight hours a day I spend on the Internet, not Googling "Nicki Minaj's ass." Even if you just consider the time I spend online specifically for masturbation purposes, there are so many other more effective avenues to find masturbatory material; limiting myself to photos of one ass would just be ridiculously inefficient. If I cared enough about Minaj's ass specifically to Google it at all, I imagine it would take up, at most, 5% of my Internet usage doing so.

"Y-y-you fuckin' little whores, fu-fuckin' up my decors./ Couldn't get Michael Kors if you was fuckin' Michael Kors./ B-B-Big Sean, b-boy, how big is you? Gimme all yo' money and gimme all yo' residuals./ Then slap it on my ass, ass, ass…"

I think decors refers to interior decorating. I'm probably wrong on that, but fuck it, I don't care anymore. I don't know who is breaking into Nicki Minaj's house and destroying her property, but I kind of think that's more an area for the police than a song that is, once again, supposed to be about the much more important topic of asses. I had to actually Google who Michael Kors was, which only serves yet again to disprove Nicki's silly ass-Googling claim. And yet again, we have a complete lack of understanding about basic finances. Residuals are not typically doled out in a form that is conducive to slapping them on one's ass, being relatively small payments delivered repeatedly over many years, and even if they were, why would you? Is this why it was so important for me to know how fat Big Sean's wallet was? If I knew that all that bible-sized cash was just going to be slapped on Nicki Minaj's ass, I would be even less impressed than I already was. Neither of these people seem to understand the sexual or biological uses for asses, or the actual real world benefits of the currency they are so proud of having. Asses seem to be little more than an abstract concept to them, and money is used as a cold compress for said asses!

The rest of the song is less egregious, just a litany of the various ethnicities and body types whose asses Big Sean would like to see moving rhythmically to MC Hammer music, and while you can give him some credit for being all inclusive in his desires for ass, he never goes any further or delves any deeper into what it truly means to be a lover of asses. Maybe it was too much to hope for some poetic sense of appreciation for the female backside, but at least some justification for his argument in favor of them would have been nice. Also, through the whole video he keeps holding up a chain, the significance of which is apparently supposed to impress me, but since I don't understand what it signifies, it does not have what I assume to be the desired effect.

As of this writing, this video has 43,245,521 hits. Granted, like four of those were mine, first watching it, then re-watching it to confirm that I wasn't just having some dying nightmare like An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, and then watching it again to embed on Facebook to alert others, and finally one last time to prepare for this column. But still, come on people. As it turns out, "Finally Famous" is actually a reference to the album from which this song was shat out, implying that at least some of you were waiting for this to happen. A little warning would have been nice.

I used to think that rap music was basically a wash in terms of quality, that for all the crap, there was still some decent, socially conscious, or at least innovative stuff to balance it out. For every Lil Wayne there was a Busta Rhymes, for every D12, a Furious Five. Now, with this song, that assumption is officially dead. The balance is forever skewed and the Dark Side has won. Shao Khan's forces have beaten the champions of Earth in Mortal Kombat, and the armies of Outworld will soon be upon us. Or you know, whatever the rap music equivalent of that is. At this point, anyone who has ever made a positive argument in favor of rap owes me a personal apology right now. I'm not kidding. This song proves what I have long suspected, that this was not a genre of music but rather a massive, incredibly elaborate practical joke on me, culminating in this, the most ridiculous of punch lines. I can only imagine back in the day, when Public Enemy was in the studio making music that mattered about important social issues, how amused they must have been thinking about how, thanks to them, we would never expect that all of this was just one huge jape on some guy in Ohio in 2012. Kudos for your commitment to the bit, every rapper in history, but please, I get it. You can officially stop now.

Ass.
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