Wale x Shades (RCL Post 2)

Today’s song goes to a determined emcee who came a long way to make it in the game. One thing that we have in common is our Nigerian roots (both born in America with immigrant parents). In this song, Wale goes in-depth with his experience and tells us the hardships that he had re-adjusting in order to fit in with the other American students. This song is very personal to me as it is to the writer and the first time I heard this track, it really spoke to me.

“Shades” is track 8 on the Attention Deficit album, which is Wale’s First studio album.


(Marvel does awesome hip-hop cover art remix’s so I thought I should at least drop it here to see the comparison)

[Verse 1:]
Chip on my shoulder
Big enough to feed Cambodia
See, I never fit into they quotas
Sneakers wasn’t fitting and my knees needed lotion
Long before I knew the significance of a comb
I roam like phone with no vocal reception
Immigrant parents had me feeling like a step-kid
And black Americans never did accept me
That’s why I thrive so much, win and respect dig
I never fit in with them light skins
I felt the lighter they was the better that they life is
So I resented them and they resented me
Cheated on light-skinned Dominique when we was seventeen
I figured I’d hurt her, she’d evidently hurt me, and all women who had light features
See, I never let a light broad hurt me
That’s why I strike first and the first cut’s deep

All my light skinned girls to my dark skin brothers
Shades doesn’t matter heart makes the lover
Boy you’re so beautiful boy you’re so beautiful shades doesn’t matter heart makes the lover
Boy (beautiful caramel),
Boy (beautiful coffeepot)
Boy (Beautiful chocolate)
Boy (Beautiful toffee)
Boy (Beautiful pecan)
Boy (beautiful licorice)
(boy you’re so beautiful)

[Verse 2:]
Just another knotty head nigga
Hoping Wes Snipes make my life a bit different
In middle school, I had the right to be timid
I had beautiful words but girls never listened
Listen, blacker the berry, sweeter the product
Well, I’m fruit punch concentrate and they water
Walk into my room thinking how to make moves
Ain’t thinking like a student but how Ice-T do it
Light dudes have the girls looking there all year
It’s not fair, the ones with the good hair
Couldn’t adapt to naps, I wavecap they naps and slept on me
Man, I hate black
Skin tone, I wish I could take it back
Or rearrange my status, maybe if I was khaki
Associating light skin with classy
The menstrual show showed and me, that was not me


[Verse 3:]
They say black is beautiful
But ask them beautiful light girls if its black they attract to usually
What if Barack skin was all black, truthfully?
Would he be a candidate or just a black in community?
Because black dudes tend to lack unity
And them blacker girls ain’t on the tube, usually
Right now, at 23, I ain’t mad at them reds no more
But for long time I had gone cold
Blindfolded my own insecurity was holding me back to reds, I ain’t know how to act
They would get the cold shoulder and know it was an act
A defense mechanism what I thought that I lacked

Lyrics and Personal Interpretation:

Wale opens up the first verse by saying “Chip on my shoulder big enough to feed Cambodia,” he uses this metaphor to describe the way that he felt becoming new and accustomed to the American culture while growing up. Because of this, he had weight on his shoulder as he claimed that “Black Americans never accepted him.” This song is entitles “Shades” and Wale reiterates the significance of his skin color while growing up. To him, he felt that the light-skinned people got more attention and they were able to do what they wanted because of their lighter complexion compared to Wale’s that was dark.  So eventually it came to a point he had a girlfriend who was light-skinned but cheated on her because he felt that she would do the same, finding someone of a lighter complexion that would satisfy her more. Here, he is stating the insecurities that he had with himself because of his upbringing and the new culture that he was living in now.

The hook sang by Chrisette Michele is beautiful. She is saying that it doesn’t matter what your skin color reflects, because everyone is beautiful the way that they are.

Now Wale opens up the second verse with imagery, describing that his head was often “nappy.” (A comb and a  brush were invented for a specific reason). But Wale continues with another crazy metaphor. “Listen, blacker the berry, sweeter the product Well, I’m fruit punch concentrate and they water.” Just think about it, concentrate is the purest form of a a drink and people tend to add water in order to diffuse the sweetness. So if he is concentrate, he is again implying that he was very dark and by water-he is referring to light-skinned people. Now, he continues on why he hated his skin color at that point-the people of lighter complexion got more attention and were popular among his crowd.

To finish the final verse Wale talks about his insecurities and tells us how he would ignore reds -short for redbone – another word for light-skin. He explains that he would ignore them whenever they tried to initiate him and it was all a part of his defensive mechanism to prevent himself from being hurt. Wale ends by telling us, he has finally grown and he has the confidence to be comfortable in the shade that he is in.

I could definitely see where Wale was coming from, but I feel that his experience was not as bad as mine. Growing up, I didn’t feel as comfortable with my African heritage, due to the way the culture was back then -surrounded by ignorance. When people would pronounce my name wrong and I constantly told them how to pronounce it, it felt demeaning especially when a substitute teacher came in.  Terms like “African-booty scratcher” or other names was part of the reason I was not a big fan of my culture. But now as  I have grown and culture is much more welcoming, I am proud of my name, where I come from and who I am. It really doesn’t matter what shade you are. We are all beautiful.

Listen to “Shades” below

This I Believe

Going through high school, I never knew that I would be so dedicated to anything other than my academics. All I wanted was an activity that kept me occupied and out of trouble; eventually I found that outlet in running. Don’t get me wrong, I had the ability to compete, but I do not LIKE running. What kept me focused was the end goal in mind- Winning races, receiving medals, breaking records and bragging rights were my only incentives pushed me to attend practice everyday. So that’s what eventually happened, I began to run in the winter and in the spring seasons.

During my senior year, I had an amazing season but slowly and steadily I knew that the track season and my high school career would be over and I knew I wanted to leave a more before my forced retirement. The county meet was coming up and I knew there was a chance where I could show the entire world what I was capable of.

The day before the county meet after practice, our coach told us we already knew what to do and that he was not going to tell us anything else. Somehow I knew what he was talking about, but those words did not hit me until I received the catalyst-my baton.

On the day of the county meet, I knew the race I was going to run with my relay members but I didn’t think that anything spectacular would come out of it. I knew that we were facing teams that beat us and I knew that we were facing teams that put up faster times than my team could ever think of. I also knew that people did not even recognize my relay as a contender to at least place in the race.

Somehow, I let these thoughts run into my head and something was telling me that I had no chance at success. Another voice in my head was telling me that it never hurts to try.

When the prompter told me to line up, my emotions were at an all time high. I usually get scared to run, I get scared to feel the burn of pushing my body to its extreme limit to the point I worry about it giving out on me.

The prompter tells us to set our mark, and the gun goes off. I felt weird that day, somehow I was less nervous that I usually was before races. Somehow, when I began to run my inner beast unleashed and I am suddenly awakened into a new person, a Victor that I have never seen before.

I begin to run, and somehow I see myself keeping close proximity with the frontrunners and somehow a voice is telling me to push and go faster. So I begin to push until I know that I cannot push anymore. One second, I see myself passing a runner. Two seconds, I see myself passing another runner and after five seconds I see myself at the top of the pack.

This is when I begin to hear screaming and people yelling my name. I continue to move, left foot, right foot, and left foot again. Now I feel my senses becoming heightened. I can hear the runners behind me exerting themselves to catch up with me but it suddenly pushes me to go faster and when I get faster, I suddenly hear the thuds of the other runners becoming fainter and fainter.

When I ran that day, I felt like a different animal, there was nothing out there that would stop me. I remember my heart beating rapidly, my emotions swirling around my head and my feet throbbing after a couple minutes. Even through all of that, I did not allow those distractions to mean anything because I had the mentality to win.

That day I broke my personal record in the 800m, helped break a school record in a 800m relay and helped win my school the gold in the 800m in 20 years. I believe everyone has that X-factor that will push them beyond their normal limits. I believe that the past does not matter when you are living in the present and I believe it doesn’t matter how you start the race, but more about how you finish it.

Kendrick Lamar x HiiPoWer (First RCL 2 Post)

It looks like I am back at it again with the new semester after taking the fall off for a break. I received a lot of positive feedback on my passion blogs, so I am ecstatic to analyze even more songs. Who else to start the semester off than Compton’s finest-Kendrick Lamar.

Todays lyrics will come from one of my favorite Kendrick albums- Section 80. Here, Kendrick takes us through a journey of Compton and his life. I enjoy listening to Kendrick because you can feel his emotion and somehow emphasize his past through his various songs.

(I put the song at the bottom of this post, you can listen to it before you read the lyrics or you can do it simultaneously)


[Kendrick Lamar] (Intro)
Everybody put three fingers in the air
The sky is falling, the wind is calling
Stand for something or die in the morning
Section 80, HiiiPoWeR

(Verse 1) Visions of Martin Luther staring at me
Malcolm X put a hex on my future, someone catch me
I’m falling victim to a revolutionary song
The Serengeti’s clone
Back to put you backstabbers back on your spinal bone
You slipped your disc when I slid you my disc
You wanted to diss, but jumped on my d–k
Grown men never should bite their tongue
unless you eating p—y that smell like it’s a stale plum
I got my finger on the motherf–king pistol
aiming it at a pig, Charlotte’s Web is gonna miss you
My issue isn’t televised, and you ain’t gotta tell the wise
how to stay on beat, because our life’s an instrumental
This is physical and mental, I won’t sugar-coat it
You’d die from diabetes if these other ni—s wrote it
And everything on TV just a figment of imagination
I don’t want no plastic nation, (dread) that like a Haitian
While you mot–rfu—s waiting, I be off the slave ship
Building pyramids, writing my own hieroglyphs

Just call the s—t HiiiPoWeR
N—a, nothing less than HiiiPoWeR
Five-star dishes, food for thought bit–s
I mean the s–t is, Huey Newton going stupid
You can’t resist his, HiiiPoWeR
Throw your hands up for HiiiPoWeR

Interpretation of Lyrics and Thoughts

When Kendrick opens up the his first verse with, “Visions of Martin Luther staring at me” I somehow, in the moment can see the same visions. Ironically, I am writing this post on MLK day and it gives me the chance to sit down and reflect on everything that MLK has done to fight for the civil rights of colored people in America. Kendrick continues the next line by referencing Malcolm X, who was another civil rights activist but often took the route of violence and had less influence than MLK.

Another thing to take into note is that Kendrick’s father was involved with the black power gang in Chicago. In order to escape the violence that was going on, his family moved to Compton. Thus, having Malcolm X having a hex on his future.

This I believe is an amazing way to open up the song, because Section 80 is an album where Kendrick talks about his background and he explains on how he is trying to empower the people from his familiar background.

In the theme of civil rights and justice, Kendrick continues verse one by claiming people (notably grown men) should speak up when they need to. He says that “Grown men should never bite their tongue.” If you feel that an injustice is happening, SPEAK UP.

To me Kendrick is an awesome lyricist, as in, his figurative language is very well thought out and complex. It may take a couple of listens before I can finally decipher everything that he is saying. With that disclaimer, I may not be able to pick everything up within his first verse.

In terms of the last paragraph, Kendrick tells us that he has his pistol pointed at a pig and that Charlotte’s Web will miss it. Again, to bring up the rhetoric of civil rights and justice the pig represents the police and the “web” represents the government.

Now what he says next I feel very strongly about. He goes on to say “My issue isn’t televised” meaning that the problems that people from his background (particularly people living in Section 8 housing) are not known to the average American or that the average American does not even care.

Again with the comment that I meant by Kendrick’s wordplay – “You’d die from diabetes if these other ni—s wrote it.” Kendrick is saying that he is trying to tell nothing but the straight, hard facts. If other people wrote it, they would try to make it sound much better than the situation really was, thus “sugarcoating” it. Side Note: You can get type 2 diabetes from eating a lot of sugar!!

To finish off the verse, Kendrick goes into the deeper meaning of HiiPower. I believe it is the initiative to finally think for yourself and not to go full-heartedly into everything that is told to you. As my history teacher told me; “The winners are the people that write history.” To get into this tangent I will explain a personal experience that I had with this issue. [ When I was in elementary school, we learned about Christopher Columbus and how he found the “new world” by coming to America first. The only problem I had with this was that as I grew older, I learned about all the heinous acts that Columbus committed specifically to the Native Americans. I didn’t learn the full truth behind Columbus because authority did not want me to know.] Like Kendrick is trying to tell us, the government will only tell us the half-truth or anything short of the full truth. That is what he means by “anything on TV is a figment of imagination.”

Kendrick ends by saying that he will create his own movement while everything is going on in the background. By being African American, Kendrick will embrace the situation he is in and use it to empower his people-which I can say that he is doing an amazing job. But don’t take my word for it.

Listen to HiiPoWer below


First RCL Post

Once I have a good topic, it is really easy for me to keep writing and writing about it. The only issue that I have now is deciding on what issue that I wan to write about. Let’s take a journey into my brain..

For my passion blog, I think I will stick to  the music theme that I used last semester. For my first idea, I think I believe that I will keep writing and interpreting music lyrics while giving my personal thoughts and opinions on how they influence me. I loved doing this because it also allowed me to self-reflect on myself and see the deeper meanings throughout the lyrics that I listen to everyday. Another idea that came to mind was instead of individual songs, I can rate and give a reflection on the whole album. The second option will allow me to go more in-depth with my ideas and see the “big picture” that the artist is trying to promote.

For my civic issues topic, I think that I will either write about corruption in countries around the globe or the increasing police brutality in America. Of the many great things that Nigeria has to offer, one of its downfalls include the corruption and the embezzlement of millions of dollars by the government. I feel that talking about this issue will allow me to understand more and shed light on the wrongdoings of authority around the globe. In reference to police brutality, the  movement entitled #Blacklivesmatter has started to shed light upon the issue of the beatings, killings and “injustice” that have been frequent from this issue. I believe that blogging on this will give me more insight and see the issue from both parties involved.

I think my “This I believe” idea will center around creativity and how it is defined in today’s day and age. I feel that I can also talk about creativity on a personal level and describe what I see as creative in todays age. All of these combined will be what I “believe.”