Music Monday: AAE Playing Large Role in This Week’s Top 10
African American English is having a serious moment in this week’s top ten pop songs.*. Lines written using AAE are appearing in a number of these songs, sung by singers of varying musical styles and races.
Let’s look at some examples:
- #1 Telephone- Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce
AAE lyric: “Boy why you blowin’ up my phone won’t make me leave no faster, put my coat on faster, leave my girls no faster.”
In this line, sung by Beyonce, we see at least two grammatical features of AAE. First, we see an absence of the copula “are,” and then there are two examples of negation through double negatives (“won’t make me leave no faster” versus “won’t make me leave any faster”).
- #3 Imma Be- Black Eyed Peas
It’s hard to pick just one line in this song to talk about. The title and almost every line in the song uses the verb form “Imma,” which is used in AAE as a condensed form of the verb phrase “I am going to” or more simply “I will.”
- #5 Tik Tok- Ke$ha
AAE lyrics: “Tonight Imma fight ‘til we see the sunlight,” and “PO-lice shut us down, down.”
Here we see white singer Ke$ha using “Imma” which has already been discussed, and also employing a phonological variation of AAE. AAE speakers will commonly place stress on the first syllable of words which may be pronounced with stress on the final syllable by Standard English speakers. Here we notice that Ke$ha says “PO-lice” instead of the standard “po-LICE.”
- #6 Bedrock- Young Money featuring Lloyd
AAE lyrics: “And now we murderers/ Because we kill time” and “I like the way you walkin’/ if you walkin’ my way.”
Choosing from a wealth of examples throughout this song, I noticed a high frequency of dropped copula verbs. In these four lines, there is not a single appearance of the copula, although in Standard English it would appear three times.
- #7 Rude Boy- Rihanna
AAE lyric: “Is you big enough?”
In this line, Rihanna employs a grammatical rule wherein in AAE it is common for the verb form “are” to be replaced with “is.”
It would be nice if the popularity of these songs pointed to an overall growing acceptance of AAE. While I am skeptical of this, perhaps only time will tell.
*As recorded by Billboard for week of April 10, 2010.