Monday Music: ‘Cause AAE is Still On Top
This week African American English (AAE) is still dominating the Billboard Charts. A lot of these hits seem to be playing with phonological (sound) reduction, which can be found in words like ’cause (because), ’fore (before), and ’specially (especially) . Here’s a look at some samples of the AAE-infused songs currently topping the charts.
- #1 Just The Way You Are- Bruno Mars
AAE lyric: “When I see your face/ there’s not a thing that I would change/ ’cause you’re amazing…”
Here we see a deletion of an unstressed initial syllable, in which the Standard American English (SAE) term because is shortened to ’cause. Even though this is considered a feature of AAE phonology, it’s important to note that it is also a feature found in many other varieties of English.
- #3 Only Girl (In The World)- Rihanna
AAE lyric: “Keep thinkin’ of me, doin’ what you like/ So boy forget about the world ’cause it’s gon’ be me and you tonight/I wanna make your bed for ya, then Imma make you swallow your pride.”
The most notable AAE features here are Rihanna’s uses of the verb forms wanna and Imma, which are used in AAE as a condensed form of the verb phrases I want to and I am going to (or more simply I will). She also uses gon’, a clipped version of the verb phrase going to which is frequently used by African American English speakers.
- #5 DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love- Usher Featuring Pitbull
AAE lyric: ” ‘Cause baby tonight/ the DJ got us fallin’ in love again.”
Here we see use of got in lieu of it’s SAE equivalent has, which is a grammatical feature of AAE. As we mentioned in a previous Music Monday post, full research on this phenomenon has yet to be done. Usher also uses ng reduction to n’, as noted by the reduced verb fallin’.
- #6 Dynamite- Taio Cruz
AAE lyric: “I wanna celebrate and live my life/ sayin’ “Ayo, baby let’s go”/ ’cause we gon’ rock this club”
Taio Cruz throws some AAE vocabulary into his lyrical mix of AAE grammatical features. According to Urban Dictionary, his exclamation of ayo means “hey you. It is mainly used when addressing an individual in any given situation to get his or her attention”.
- #7 I Like It- Enrique Iglesias Featuring Pitbull
AAE lyric: “I ain’t playin’ witcha/ but i wanna play witcha.”
In addition to using other AAE features Pitbull uses ain’t for the SAE phrase am not, which is often done among AAE speakers. Once again, it is important to note that these features are also found in other variations of English, as it may be the case that Pitbull is linguistically working within his own Cuban American English dialect.
- #8 Just A Dream- Nelly
AAE lyric: “I was at the top an’ now it’s like I’m in the basement/Number one spot and now she found her a replacement.”
Here we see a word-final consonant cluster reduction in Nelly’s pronunciation of and as an’. We also see the use of an object pronoun as a personal dative when Nelly substitutes her for herself. This latter feature of AAE tends to occur after a verb.
- #9 Club Can’t Handle Me- Flo Rida Featuring David Guetta
AAE lyric: “They watchin’, I know this/ I’m rockin’, I’m rollin.”
Throughout the song, Flo Rida reduces most of his gerunds to n’, as exemplified by the verbs watchin’ and rockin’ for watching and rocking.
- #10 Like A G6- Far*East Movement Featuring Cataracs & Dev
The Far*East Movement is a music group out of Los Angeles, California. Although they incorporate a number of AAE features in this song (lexical, phonological and syntactic), the group members in fact represent different generations of Asian-American backgrounds (Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Korean). This appears to be an example of appropriation of AAE by a group outside of the African American community.
One of the songs from the last Monday Music post is still rocking in the top ten: “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem featuring Rihanna (#2).
*Top ten songs as recorded by Billboard Hot 100 for the week of Oct. 2, 2010.