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Lyrics and songwriting

Ms. Dynamite – It takes more – Lyrics analysis and meanings

Songwriting

This is one of the song analyses presented in the PDF Songwriting.

This song is Ms. Dynamite‘s debut single from her first studio album
A Little Deeper (Polydor, 2002).

Ms. Dynamite, born Niomi Arleen MacLean-Daley, is a rap/hip-hop/R&B singer from UK.

Two versions of the song were released, the album version and the radio edit, which censors some of the lyrics considered “inappropriate” and “vulgar”: the terms “shit” was replaced by “things”, “fuckin’ ” by “violence”, “pussy” by “fossey”, “do your hoe’s” by “lose control”. We believe that censorship is fundamentally wrong, and the artists as everybody else have the right to express themselves the way they want – only the audience have the right to decide whether they like (and support and finance) it or not. That is the reason why we will take the original lyrics as our reference, and not the, let’s say, fuckin’ censored version 😉

Music video

Lyrics

Verse 1

The shit that you promote
Fightin’, fuckin’
Like you don’t want to grow

Your talking so much sex
But you not tell the youth ’bout AIDS
You not tell them ’bout consequence, no

Your talking like you a G
But you are killer killing your own
You’re just a racist man’s pussy

Tell me who wants to know
What when who where
Or how you do your hoe’s?

Bridge

Certainly not me
Certainly not me
‘Cause baby personally
I like to be challenged mentally

I’ve heard it all before
Gangsta’s pimps and whores
Quality is poor
A girl like me needs more

Chorus

It takes more (takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They’ve got you (got you)
‘Cause while you braggin’ ’bout your badness your just
Avoiding, adding
To the real shit thats happenin’ to us

Verse 2

Now who gives a damn
About the ice on your hands?

If its not too complex
Tell me how many Africans died
For the baguettes on your Rolex?

So what you pushing a nice car
Don’t you know there’s no such thing as superstars

We leave this world alone
So who gives a fuck about the things you own?

Bridge 2

Certainly not me
Certainly not me
‘Cause baby personally
I like to be challenged mentally
Your shit’s insignificant
And it don’t help to pay my rent
Its pure negativity
That you impose on me

Chorus

It takes more (takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They’ve got you (got you)
‘Cause while you braggin’ ’bout your badness your just
Avoiding, adding
To the real shit thats happenin’ to us

Verse 3

Now I can sit
And chat shit about dicks and sex
But my business is my business I got self respect
I can talk ’bout how my press could pimp man’s dough
Get the keys to his ride and his home
But I looked it up and that would make me a hoe
Little sisters now I really gotta let you know
Real woman ain’t sexin’ for no mans dough
Real woman work hard to make the dough
And we can all chat ’bout gats and blacks
On blacks and force the hypes and all the stereotypes
We’re used to watching, but that ain’t what I’m here for
Show them to think higher and aspire for more

Chorus (bis)

It takes more (takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They’ve got you (got you)
‘Cause while you braggin’ ’bout your badness your just
Avoiding, adding
To the real shit thats happenin’ to us

Lyrics analysis and meaning

After a brief instrumental:

Verse 1

The shit that you promote
Fightin’, fuckin’
Like you don’t want to grow

Ok, from the first line, we have a “you”. As soon as we have a “you”, an “I” is implied. So we already have two characters.

This launches the Act I. The exposition will be a continuous process, telling us who and what it is about. And those very first lines already stand as a catalyst, because they start the fight that will stay in the core of the song, the fight between the female singer, Hero, and her Antagonist. The real identity of this Antagonist can not be determined for sure. Rumors said the song was addressed to the American star rapper Lil’Kim, though Ms. Dynamite denied it, though she says in another song, Doing It Way Big: “Y’all get your diamonds from Jacob / I ain’t mad at ya / I get mine straight out of Kimberly gold mine in Africa”. So, we will not know, and if Ms. Dynamite would have liked to insult Lil’Kim in person she would have dared naming her; a sure thing is that this song addresses materialistic hip-hop/rap stars, males as well as females.

The goal of the Hero sounds clear: contradict the goal of the Antagonist, described as “promot[ing] fightin’, fuckin’ [and a refusal to grow]”. By the way: when Ms. Dynamite was awarded with the prestigious Mercury Music Prize for her album A Little Deeper, she donated the £20,000 to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Engaged, she does what she says!

Your talking so much sex
But you not tell the youth ’bout AIDS
You not tell them ’bout consequence, no

The fight is clearly launched and we already entered the development, Act II. What is particular in the plot of those lyrics is that it leaves no chance for the Antagonist to fight back. Contrarily to the Eminem’s songs built on (fictitious) dialogs, this song is a monologue, a one-way flow.

Your talking like you a G

A G is a slang term for gangster. The use of slang terms obviously helps defining the audience, and avoiding to be understood by inappropriate categories of people, for example the white middle-class or upper-class.

But you are killer killing your own
You’re just a racist man’s pussy

This line sounds ambiguous. It could allow us to identify the Antagonist as a woman. But since the insult “pussy” can also be used against a man, it is just impossible to know. Unwillingly, such a use of the term “pussy” plays against itself, since it identifies femininity with negativity…

Tell me who wants to know
What when who where
Or how you do your hoe’s?

The Hero challenges the Antagonist… without letting her/him speak back.

Bridge

Certainly not me
Certainly not me

Nice transition Verse/Bridge through the Question/Answer, that brings much fluidity to the flow.

‘Cause baby personally
I like to be challenged mentally

Implicitly, those lines accuse the Antagonist to not like to be “challenged mentally”, which is an equivalent of being stupid. A rather elegant insult!

I’ve heard it all before
Gangsta’s pimps and whores
Quality is poor
A girl like me needs more

One can hardly be clearer: committing herself personally, embodying the Hero, Ms. Dynamite dares rapping against rap’s sexism! Original!

Chorus

It takes more (takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They’ve got you (got you)
‘Cause while you braggin’ ’bout your badness your just
Avoiding, adding
To the real shit thats happenin’ to us

This chorus widens the debate and the conflict: instead of “I” Vs “You”, it is now “They” Vs “Us”. Who is “They”? Who is “Us”? We can only guess without being sure: something like “They”, the oppressors, the exploiters, the riches, the white, the men, and “Us”, the oppressed, exploited, poor, black, women?

Verse 2

Now who gives a damn
About the ice on your hands?

The ice means the diamonds, in a poetic metaphor about eye-catching jewels, a usual accessory of male and female rappers. Another attack against materialistic stars.

If its not too complex
Tell me how many Africans died
For the baguettes on your Rolex?

The “If it’s not too complex” continues with a subtle irony to insult the Antagonist taken as someone stupid.

The reference to the Africans strongly hits the target, those afro-American (and other African descendants) musicians of hip-hop.

So what you pushing a nice car
Don’t you know there’s no such thing as superstars

This lets us think that she addresses someone who pretends being a superstar – not an ordinary person.

We leave this world alone
So who gives a fuck about the things you own?

“We leave this world alone” sounds particularly engaged, and contributes sorting the song in the minority genre of “conscious rap”, a more political and involved tendency in this style, opposed to mainstream commercial rap. It makes clear that the song is not about people, but about values and attitudes.

Bridge 2

Certainly not me
Certainly not me
‘Cause baby personally
I like to be challenged mentally
Your shit’s insignificant
And it don’t help to pay my rent
Its pure negativity
That you impose on me

The four last lines of this bridge change topic. The terms “pure negativity” have a philosophical connotation (for example, in the german philosopher Hegel, and his followers, among which a certain Karl Marx…), which confirms that the singer-Hero likes to be “challenged mentally”, which confirms that she is someone honest, contrarily to her Antagonist.

Chorus

This chorus stays unchanged compared to the previous occurrence. It underlines again that the conflict is between “They” and “Us” through “You” and “I”.

Verse 3

Now I can sit
And chat shit about dicks and sex
But my business is my business I got self respect

It the equivalent of an insult again, the immodesty attributed to the Antagonist consists in being a “hoe”.

I can talk ’bout how my press could pimp man’s dough
Get the keys to his ride and his home
But I looked it up and that would make me a hoe

Paraphrase over the same themes than before: materialistic people.

Little sisters now I really gotta let you know

Interesting: the singer now reveals who she is singing for, the recipient: her “little sisters”. It makes the song’s genre feminist, woman-to-women, in a kind of freestyle predication.

This line starts the Act III, with the Crisis.

Real woman ain’t sexin’ for no mans dough
Real woman work hard to make the dough
And we can all chat ’bout gats and blacks
On blacks and force the hypes and all the stereotypes

Same process: those lines complete the definition of the recipient: the real women, and the blacks, two categories that belong to the oppressed and discriminated. By the way: Ms. Dynamite is the daughter of Jamaican father and a Scottish mother, with Bajan, English, Irish, German and Grenadian ancestries.

We’re used to watching, but that ain’t what I’m here for

A probable allusion to the condition of women and blacks before political equality.

Show them to think higher and aspire for more

This can stand as a climax: the goal is not precisely reached here, but it is symbolically shared, put in common with the audience, and redefined more clearly than before. “To think higher and aspire for more” sounds as a credible political program, which is rather rare in rap/hip-hop, styles that are too often short-sighted, self-centered and lack ambition. In the Story&Drama tutorials, we assert that a story delivers a message, even under sometimes very subtle, implicit or unconscious forms. Here, the message can hardly be clearer, and sounds like a slogan.

Chorus (bis)

No new information.

Commentary

A mix of narration and discourse

It takes more is a good example of a work mixing narration and discourse.

Indeed, it has some elements of a story, since there are characters involved in a conflict, characters having goals, motivations and values. But some elements that make a standard story are here missing: there is no proper dramatic development from one situation to another, and there is no real crisis and climax telling about the result of actions performed so as to achieve the goals of the characters.

On the other side, it has elements of discourse, that is: a speaker developing ideas and arguments in a more or less logical order.

“Conscious rap”

The singer’s attitude and message are very original. In a testosterone-driven hip-hop world, she dares claiming her point of view as a black woman (we already saw that she can not really be described as a “black” woman, her black African origins being only one between many other ancestors: but she chose to present herself as a black person, so let’s deal with her chosen identity) and opposing the majority point of view of the dominant male and female Afro-American superstars (and here we can think about so many possible targets…) One by one, she destroys the main platitudes of the genre of music she is herself contributing to: the emphasis on sexually explicit and shocking lyrics, the taste for violence, murder, firearms and “cocky” attitudes, and the often ridiculous show-off mentality that characterizes this world. There is much courage in criticizing all of that: she risks not only being excluded by the white male minority, but also by her own reference milieu. She is the Hero of her song, and she deserves it.

The question of violent communication

One problem remains. If we follow her: she criticizes those who promote violence and sex. But paradoxically, her lyrics are full of slang insults, she uses aggressiveness, irony and contempt against her opponents. Does she think that evil is able to cure evil, that violence can solve the problem of violence, that hatred will bring love? That is a limit of this song.

For those who are interested in this important philosophical debate, those who want to, as Ms. Dynamite says, “think higher and aspire for more”, you can read the books of Marshall Rosenberg about the technique he invented, developed and promoted: the Non-Violent Communication. This man who grew up in one of the most horrible ghettos of the USA, made clear that it is possible – as Ms. Dynamite wishes it – to make one’s life outside of violence. Interested, search for it online!