A Tragedy in Song: “Hot Nigga” by Bobby Shmurda

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About a week ago, as I enjoyed abnormally slow Starbucks Wi-Fi, two young women walked up to my friends and me. They had a question that I did not expect until after it was asked. It was a cultural question composed of so many layers that I doubt they understood. I’m sure they failed to understand ONLY through lack of trying. That one question opened my already ponderous mind to a sea of worrisome thoughts. What was this awful question?

“Hey, can you guys teach us the Shmoney dance?”

Now, before (or after) you chuckle at how ridiculous my predicament was, understand that the song “Hot Nigga” had been on my mind for awhile. Not only because of how catchy it was or how infectious the featured Schmoney dance is. See, the song had plagued my thoughts because I couldn’t help but view it differently that most of the 8,000,000+ other viewers of it at the time. A fun song to a hot beat with a smooth dance. A terrible display of poor lyricism. A sign of Hip-Hop’s decline. However it was viewed by most, I’m sure my view was largely different. I saw, and continue to see, the song as a tragedy. It arouses the same emotions as Mufasa’s death in The Lion King or the moment Jack succumbs to the cold Atlantic waters in Titanic. When I first saw the dance and heard the song in a viral Vine video, I expected to criticize the song as idiocy, while simultaneously dancing along to the ignorance. In fact, I did just that. I naturally flowed into the Shmoney Dance and hit it all throughout the song. That is, until I opened my ears as I sometimes do when I listen to this type of music.

I was struck with sadness when I realized that Bobby Shmurda, the originator of the song, in his attempt to create a blazing end-of-summer hit song had actually written one of the saddest songs I had heard in quite awhile. Don’t believe me? Cut the beat and remove the dance. Change the tone a bit and tell me that I’m wrong…

In Truey, I’m some hot nigga

Like I talk to Shyste when I shot niggas

Like you seen him twirl then he drop, nigga

And we keep them 9 millis on my block, nigga

And Monte keep it on him, he done dropped niggas

And Trigger he be wilding, he some hot nigga

Tones known to get busy with them Glocks, nigga

Try to run down and you can catch a shot, nigga

Running through these checks ’til I pass out

And shorty give me neck ’til I pass out

I swear to God, all I do is cash out

And if you ain’t a ho, get up out my trap house

 

The first eight lines recount how a 20-year old and his friends routinely kill others. I understand the bravado and machismo praised in hip-hop, so I let these lines slide off my conscience. I’ll get back to them later. What I did find frustrating were the last three lines. The abrupt transition from “murder” to money and sex. No need to even transition or relate these lines to what was said before. Imagining someone writing these lines puzzled me and, in an odd way, invited me into Shmurda’s mind. I wanted to empathize with this dude. The very next line was actually the first line that I really listened to.

 

I been selling crack since like the 5th grade

Really never made no difference what the shit made

Jaja taught me flip them packs and how to maintain

Get that money back and spend it on the same thing

Shorty like the way that I ball out

I be getting money ’til fall out

You talking cash, dog, I goes all out

Shorty love the way that I floss out.”

 

“I been selling crack since like the 5th grade.” That’s 10, maybe 11 years old. I stopped my Shmoney Dance and just said “Damn.” I thought to myself: “If you turned the beat off and just listened to these words, you would see the tragedy in them.” Whether or not this is HIS reality, I don’t know. But I’m sure that it is someone’s reality. I thought of an article titled “10 Things Your 10 Year-Old Shouldn’t Be Doing” on the site iMom. It made me think about how drastically different Shmurda’s world (or his character’s world) is than what most would consider possible or acceptable (by acceptable, I mean allowed to persist) in America. 10 Year-olds shouldn’t “be drinking sugary drinks” or “have unrestricted access to social media.” This 10 Year-old was selling drugs. To blame a 10 Year-old for his environment would miss the point, which I will get to in a minute.

 

Free Greezy though, let all of my dogs out

Momma said no pussy cats inside my dog house

That’s what got my daddy locked up in the dog pound

Free Phantom though, let all of my dogs out

 

It’s amazing how intimate these lyrics are when you actually ingest them rather than dance them away. Incarceration is a reality in Shmurda’s life. In fact, he’s no stranger to it, having been placed in juvenile detention before. Prison and Jail were not abstract oddities to me growing up either, but the tone with which he recounts loss of a father and friends to the prison system moves me to sadness.

 

“And bitch if it’s a problem we gon’ gun brawl

Shots popping out the AR

I’m with Trigger, I’m with Rasha, I’m with A-Raw

Broad daylight and we gon’ let them things bark

Tell them niggas free Meeshie, ho

Some way, free Breezy, ho

And tell my niggas, Shmurda teaming, ho

Mitch caught a body ’bout a week ago, week ago

Fuck with us and then we tweaking, ho – tweaking, ho

Run up on that nigga, get to squeezing, ho – squeezing, ho

Everybody catching bullet holes – bullet holes

Niggas got me on my bully, yo – bully, yo

I’m a run up, put that gun on ’em – gun on ’em

I’m a run up, go dumb on ’em – dumb on ’em

Niggas got me on that young shit – young shit

Got me on that go dumb shit – dumb shit

 

The rest of the song is a visceral narration of the violence that he and his team gleefully inflict upon their enemies. The upfront nature with which these activities are conveyed show that they are simply a part of his story and not some metaphorical example of machismo and toughness that is integral to hip-hop. I make this distinction because it is often used to dismiss the positive power of hip-hop in teaching literary techniques and, in turn, utilized to condemn the art as nothing more than glorification of real violence. Thus, Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga” is both a problem and a chance to see the road to solutions. It is both garbage rap and a tragedy over catchy beats and an irresistible dance.

If only my view were more popular. If only more people wanted to understand “Hot Nigga” and not just the dance that made the song so popular. Maybe then, we’d cry for Bobby and the thousands of youngsters like him as we cried for Simba when he lost his father. Maybe then, we’d root for them to become Kings, of sort, rather than condemn them for simply being lost on a dirty and damaged world that they didn’t create.

If only the dance could tell that story, since the words fell upon deaf ears.

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309 Comments Add yours

  1. Curiousgeorge says:

    I found this article because the song struck a similar chord with me – the unintended depth behind a superficially catchy song. I do have a slightly different view to most commentators on here.

    I think the fame he found out of this was accidental. I suspect, like the millions that use YouTube, he was merely trying to express himself. To reach a wider audience than his ‘block’. Suggestions that somehow he is living this lifestyle to lay credibility to his music to make money is naive.

    This is his tragic reality and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that every one of his songs, at the least the ones I’ve listened to, have the same content. It’s all he knows. I in no way condone what he raps about but let’s not allow that to distract us from the fact that he, and oh so many other young black men, need help. Proper help. If we all stopped buying this sort of music would that really stop the gang banging and drug dealing? I suspect not. In a sense this type of music raises awareness and sparks debates like this.

    The real issue, and it has always been this, is socio economic. As warped as this sounds bobby schmurda is a victim. And we should remember that when we listen to his music.

    I like the song. Not just because it’s catchy but because it came from a real place. Music is about expression. As terrible an artist as he is, he is at least organic. More than I can say for a lot of the artists out there topping the charts.

    I liked your article. And glad you taught them the dance.

  2. Eric Hart says:

    I enjoy the song, I respect the man for making it, and it says a lot not only about his reality, but how real he sees it. I don’t believe it is a tragedy that with some type of counsel he would break down into tears over, rather, where many of us would be traumatized being thrust into such an environment and culture, he seems to not be broken by it. Within America more and more different systems serve to divide us. While it is beneficial to build culture with many creators working, in America too often things like wealth, race, and politics create artificial boundaries that restrict new culture from bleeding together. Over time this creates such stark differences that language, mores, and behaviors become foreign across these groupings. Much like your example with the iMom site. I worry that these differences only serve to harm any divergences from the dominant culture through oppression. When your tragic example here is written off racially by conservative whites from their walled off (picket fenced off?) culture as a natural effect of black culture or black on black crime, it undercuts the real issues we face in keeping the country strong. The talents shown in Hip Hop are just the surface, and prove worth, yet are seen by many not as selections of stories from poverty, but rather an ignorant definition of a race pigeonholed into the culture that has escaped the walls.

    I think about Fred Hampton, and what Chicago or “Chiraq” could have been if his motivations had endured. Instead the culture who has set the law and order rules continues to thrive with the poverty it enables used as the scapegoat when the resulting effects of desperation like selling crack at 10 years old look so horrid to iMom and others when authority controls the story.

    I enjoyed your article, but I also love the entertainment value of the song. Alpha males are magnetic, and although the lyrics paint tragedy, friends giving each other the squint and trigger pull gesture seems more along the lines of WWE star emulation than perhaps insensitivity. I do wish more people investigated the stories in their favorite songs. I used to have a chuckle when people of opposite political persuasion loved Rage Against the Machine but didn’t know what they were singing about. Perhaps just what comes with a multilayered medium!

  3. Kanda Faye says:

    Reblogged this on Fayed In: Looking forward to Life and commented:
    The complexity of Hot N*gga is often lost on so many people. M. B. Watson gives his analysis of the popular song that we all still hit the Shmoney Dance to in “A Tragedy in a Song: ‘Hot Nigga’ by Bobby Shmurda.’

    In reading this blog post, I am brought back to a lecture held at Wellesley College called “Can White People Appreciate Rap Music?” To a lot of people, people of all races, this song is just an example of glorified violence. We need to see this as a continuation of oral storytelling. Then, perhaps, we can see the tragedy in this song, learn about the experiences of many people for whom this song resembles reality, and start to care about the systematic ways in which youth are thrown into violent and dangerous lifestyles because of economic injustice.

    More on this later.

  4. hit man says:

    Hot nigga is bae

    1. Free breezy says:

      I agree

  5. I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon this article, considering how old it is… But this is ridiculous, dude writes the article from his pseudo intellectual ‘I’m really deep and more intelligent than most’ point of view and goes on and on about the song and how he’s sure no one views it the way he does and blah blah..

    Well OF COURSE no one views it the way you do, considering how SCREWED UP YOUR VERSION of the LYRICS are. If this guy is so smart why would he write an article all about one song, and have the lyrics messed up from the first line of the damn song. Absolutely ridiculous.

    And this BS got almost 400,000 hits. Like he couldn’t have came back and edited it? I guess he was so busy being smart that it never occured to him. Either way, what a jackass…

    1. Appreciate your thoughtful comment! Thanks for reading!

      1. amos says:

        i lov the moves and even the quality of the video ,big up,youre going far bro

  6. Eric says:

    I love this song. Free Bobby Schmurda. I give this sounds two thumbs up.

  7. Bryan Smith says:

    Yep….my middle school students will be analyzing the psychological impact of hot nigga…thanks…I’ll be peeping your book too

      1. Chloe Dunlap says:

        MarquesBWatson, I love how you respond to negative comments. The hypocrisy of people who attempt to disrespect your view, opinion, and perception while rudely pushing their view, opinion, and perception on you with no explanation or clear and valid reasoning as to why their opinion should be seriously taken into account. I agree with you though. While this song is uber catchy and the dance is so basic that it is perfect for this song, the beat, and everyone of every age, race, and gender. I feel old when I have feelings like this about this generation’s music though. It all contains the same mixture of (please excuse my language, but I must express my point clearly) I have money, I had money way before this rap career (I guess they’re just doing it for plum entertainment huh?), I am a kingpin in my city, I fucked your bitch, I’ll kill you and your whole family, I use drugs (lots of weed, still sipping on sizzurp, now we are implementing prescription pain pills into the mix, poor kids don’t even know how addictive these are and that they may be an addict and they won’t know until they get addicted… I’m very knowledgeable about this part), and I’m still a dopeboy in high standing cause remember I do this for kicks and giggles. Now put that on repeat throughout the whole song but rephrasing it of course and let’s not forget a crazy good bumping beat and that’s how the majority of today’s music sounds to me. None of the Andre 3,000, Common, Jay- Z, Lil Wayne metaphors that make you think and some so deep that you have to pause it to meditate a sec. Anyway, sadly we find out that in Young Bobby’s case these things were factual. Also the fact that he basically snitched through the whole song and all those people (Mitch caught a body bout a week ago…) are currently serving nice sentences for the crimes bragged about in the lyrics of the song (while the offender proudly danced in the background making sure you knew exactly who they were no doubt for “bitches” and street cred). I guess on a positive note at least we know that he’s being honest about his life experiences. I know this is quite long but I hope you read it. I truly enjoyed your article and want to read more of your writings.

  8. Rowdy Joe says:

    I’ll take things that never happened for $1000 Alex! Copy pasta straight off 4-chan!

    1. Chloe Dunlap says:

      They did actually do these things. The people named in the song are locked up for the crimes that were so proudly bragged about with names included and the criminal dancing with pride in the background so that you knew exactly who they are. But, I do believe that the majority of these rappers are making up things that they saw in movies… Or read on 4Chan. If you are interested you should Google something like “Bobby Shmurda snitching lyrics”

  9. Bryan DeWitt says:

    Bobby shmurda is produced by the same people who are invested in private prisons. (Multi billion $ a yr business in which the government pays the prisons per inmate basis ) rich white people (Sony) promote young blacks like this (through epic )to influence the young black culture to sell drugs get guns and end up in jail . The more behind bars the more $ the shareholders to the prisons make. It’s very simple. If your wondering why this video seems a little bit off.. that’s why. That’s why you know who bobby shmurda is. For the sole purpose of influencing black people to act like this and end up in jail. It worked and they have slaves back 25 cents an hr.

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