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(7) Dedication 2 (2006) DJ Drama, Lil’ Wayne

This is all about the tension between the sample of Nancy Sinatra’s cover of Cher’s Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), the sample of the Diplomats’ anthemic Ground Zero and Wayne’s vicious abstract boasts. This song is from the era when everyone almost thought that Wayne was the best rapper alive. He made his case for the throne by overwhelming us with albums, remixes, freestyles and random tracks that never made it on an official release. Wayne seemed to have an inexhaustible reserve of energy. Wayne’s best songs begin in media res, filled with lines that were uneven in quality but which always felt  spontaneous. There’s a thrill that comes from the feeling that you’re listening to someone in the midst of the creative process.

On a separate note, I’m still waiting for a rapper/producer to sample Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) in a way that comments on the meaning of the song. Bang Bang is a 1966 song written by Sonny Bono for Cher’s second album and covered by Nancy Sinatra in the same year. To my ears, it sounds like a torch song from the prior decade.

Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) is a song about how a man harms a woman (and about how men harm women) through rituals that appear safe and ordinary. It starts with a woman recounting a children’s game she played with an unnamed male friend, a pretend battle between good and evil cowboys that always ended with his victory. It’s a game played for ‘fun’, but there are echoes of real conflict beyond the reference to unrest during America’s westward expansion. She describes the sound of imaginary gunfire as awful and the listener isn’t just reminded of the jarring sound of actual gunfire, but all of the ways in which we sanitize the terrifying sound of a firearm discharge. The woman continues with a scene set later in her life. She is romantically involved with the male friend, who frequently reminded her of their childhood game that he always won. He seems to acknowledge that the game was more than play when he echoes her comment about the awful sound. The third verse takes place some time later after she married the man and he left her for mysterious reasons. The uncertainty is painful. When I first heard this song, I thought that he died. Maybe it was all the violent imagery that preceded that moment or the plaintive “never had a chance to say goodbye” line earlier in the verse that made me think that she had become a widow, but the line telling us that he didn’t take the time to lie removed much of the doubt.

I first encountered Nancy Sinatra’s cover of Bang Bang in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill 1, when he used it to accompany a silent black and white flashback of the Bride’s wedding day that ended in a brutal betrayal and assault – transforming emotional betrayal into an ugly, physical reality.

The songs that sample Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) tend to use the song for a similar purpose. The producer/artist typically sample the chorus to accompany or introduce violent stories that involve firearms. The resulting song highlights the darkness in the original by transforming the violent metaphor at the heart of Bang Bang into literal text. The blend of two incongruous works with superficially similar lyrics can also inspire some interesting, possibly unintentional interpretations of the finished product. Sometime the references to guns in the sample and the hip-hop song feel like a sly reminder that gun culture has always had a place of prominence in the American pop imagination. America’s love affair with guns predates hip hop. In some songs, (like Dedication 2) the sample suggests that the violence referenced in the hip-hop song is as imaginary as the make-believe gunfight between two children. More than anything, I’d love to hear a hip-hop song use it to explore the kind of relationship like the one suggested in Bang Bang – defined by power struggles and betrayal.

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Running Mix 1: The Devil’s In Him Lord, Open His Eyes
Running Mix 2: I’m Still Running With Cats That Rob 
Running Mix 3: When Will Queens Realize That the Flow Don’t Stop? 
Running Mix 4: The Thug N***** Have Arrived And It’s Judgement Day
Running Mix 5: Ain’t No More Sqad In Me
Running Mix 6: Bumping E-40

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