Music Monday on July 4th: Can’t Get No Better Than This!
An eclectic mix is topping the Billboard Charts this week and everything from pop to electro-hop songs seem to reflect features of African American English (AAE). Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not claiming artists such as Lady Gaga are native AAE speakers! But we do argue that many of the artists we hear on the radio are influenced by African American music and language. Highlighted here are features commonly associated with AAE. Keep in mind, these features are not exclusive to AAE, and can be found in other non-standard dialects of English spoken across regions and social groups.
Let’s take a look at the lyrics:
- #1 “Give Me Everything”- Pitbull, featuring Ne-Yo, AfroJack, and Nayer
“I could make you my queen/ make love to you endless”
Here we see Pitbull dropping the word-final -ly when he says “endless” instead of the Standard American English (SAE) version of the adverb “endlessly”.
- #3 “Party Rock Anthem”- LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock
“We gon’ make you lose your mind” (chorus)
In this Electro-hop hit, DJs Redfoo and SkyBlu mean, “we are going to make you lose your mind” (SAE gloss). Gon’ is thought to be a reduced form of gonna, a non-standard auxiliary derived from going to.
- #5 “Super Bass”- Nicki Minaj
“When he come up in the club, he be blazing up”
Nicki Minaj is playing with AAE to describe her crush. Her lyric features the absence of third-person -s in come (comes in SAE), and habitual be. This be is particular to AAE; it indicates that the described action tends to occur often, habitually, or continuously. Finally, Minaj uses slang, blazing, to tell us he is extremely attractive. Essentially, Nikki is letting everyone know that “he usually looks good when he enters the club”.
- #6 “Edge of Glory”- Lady Gaga
“There ain’t no reason you and me should be alone tonight”
The use of multiple negative forms (in this case, ain’t and no) in a sentence, without a change in the sentence’s negative interpretation, is called negative concord. The SAE gloss of this is “there’s no reason you and me should be alone tonight”.
- #8 “Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera
“But if I share my secret/ you’re gonna have to keep it”
Once again we see gonna in lieu of going to, to express “but if I share my secret with you/ you’re going to have to keep it to yourself” (SAE).
- #9 “The Lazy Song”- Bruno Mars
“No I ain’t gonna comb my hair”
Here we see the use of ain’t for is not/are not, gonna for going to, and reduction of because to ’cause. This would be like saying, “I’m not going to comb my hair” in SAE.
- #10 “How to Love” – Lil’ Wayne
“When you was just a young’un/ your looks were so precious”
In this lyric, Lil’ Wayne uses was-levelling, which is when the verb form was can be used not just with the first person singular pronoun (I) or with the third person singular pronoun (he/she/it), but with any pronoun, including we, you and they. Wayne also employs the term young’un, which usually refers to young children or teenagers. The SAE version of this would look something like: “When you were a teenager, your looks were so precious”.
As you enjoy the holiday with your loved ones, see if you note any of these features on the radio. As always, we’ll have our ears tuned for AAE and keep you in the loop!
*Top ten songs as recorded by Billboard Hot 100 for the week of July 9, 2011