2.19.2008

Green's Next Dunk: Falling Spikes



My 10 Bold Predictions column is up on TSN. The Cavs are officially my blind spot.

Apologies in advance for writing about the meaning of samples. I left grad school for a reason, and it wasn't to do the same shit around people who didn't find it novel.

Regardless, like all of you commenting down below, I kept getting stung by the Wade/ATCQ/Lou Reed collison. It was almost as jarring to me as when, in 2004, the intro to "Heroin" was used to sell a 4WD vehicle that helped you rock-climb better. That case was simply stupid, and within a few days the commercial had replaced the (wordless, but iconic as anything) guitar figure with some fifth-rate Yo La Tengo biting. Which might have very well been Yo La Tengo themselves.

Obviously, that case is different. That was an excerpt, and one that augured the entire song that followed. Here, there's a plausible excuse: "That isn't 'Walk On the Wild Side', it's the "Can I Kick It?". And as someone whose allegiances are seriously split, I'd say that, as soon as the vocals come in, I go with the latter. These days, we'd call it lazy, or a statement, to sample such a well-known song so literally. But that's how things worked then, and there's a grandfather clause at work that keeps it safe to this day.

However, that's all me. Bethlehem Shoals has been massively affected by both Tribe and Lou Reed. I've also spent way too long parsing the concept of sampling, or at least gauging my own aesthetic reactions to it. What struck me--and many of you, I'm sure--about that Wade spot was that it felt like a major fuck-up. For anyone who didn't know "Can I Kick It", or have a strong history with the song, it was Wade wandering dusky streets with "Walk on the Wild Side"'s loping gothic behind him. The "Heroin" commercial was, strictly speaking, more of a fuck-up. But at least there was this dissonance there. Here, the visual enhanced the ambiguity.

I have to think that—unless the ad agency is just fucking stupid—this ad just isn't for Boomer or Lou Reed fans. They're the only ones who will giggle at it, but they'll be drowned out by those who either don't know either song, and thus place primacy on the Tribe joint, or those who think of "Wild Side" as a decontextualized sample (I think it's hard to claim that it's playing off of the original song's meaning). But demographically speaking, they're just irrelevant. This isn't using the song "Heroin" in an ad for fitness, it's using a famous rap song, with its own set of connotations, that happens to draw on a sleaze-rock classic. There's an inside joke in there, but it's not a liability.



Anyway, the point of all that was to get to Dwight Howard. Billups texted me right after that dunk, saying (loose quote here) "everyone in that arena was thinking Soulja Boy, right?" I'd been thinking Shaq 2, but then Howard went out of his way to hammer it home: "It's my favorite song." And, if the white people didn't get it the first time, "it's like the song." Here's what's weird to me: Howard is one of the league's most wholesome rising stars. Why would he tempt fate by pushing unsuspecting fans that much closer to Urbandictionary.com?

Unless Dwight's smart about this, and knows that, when it comes to Soulja Boy, we really are living in two Americas. For some, the dance is about flying like a superhero, and that's consistent with the nice big dude Howard needs to sell. On the other hand, for plenty of people that reference is decidedly filthy, even if repetition has kind of reduced its edge to mush?

Of course, I've got to assume that Howard wants it both ways. That he wants that superhuman quality with an ear to the streets—without having the latter detected by anyone who might balk. And here, it's unequivocal: He wants it to mean two things, and it's both. It's a bolder move than Wade's commercial, which was only ever going to trip itself up with double meanings. Good thing it had insurance. Howard, he's out there without a safety net.

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40 Comments:

At 2/19/2008 5:52 PM, Blogger The wondering Mind said...

Shoals,

Sometimes you confound, just to be confounding.

 
At 2/19/2008 5:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

That's bullshit. This is pretty basic stuff: Playing a song that samples Lou Reed versus playing the intro of a Velvet underground song. Samples transform shit. Superman means two different things now. Dwight Howard relishes that. What the fuck is difficult about that?

Oh, and I'm never posting at HH again. Fuck those comments over there.

 
At 2/19/2008 6:08 PM, Blogger Scott said...

I'm sorry, but what exactly are you referring to? What song was Howard referencing? (Thanks.)

 
At 2/19/2008 6:17 PM, Blogger Kirk Krack said...

What's confusing in this post is that the "filthy" interpretation of "superman dat hoe" just seems like a ridiculous retronym, rather than the intended meaning--a 17 year old kid who made his name on the internet with the song "just got my report card" (throw some d's on that...) definitely didn't go blue with his first big single to hoodwink the squares.

 
At 2/19/2008 6:21 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

That's more like it. But if I'm not mistaken, you went to grad school some, didn't you?

re: your comment. I think we're back in Gerald Green territory. Yes, Gerald Green is now shorthand for all questions of intention and interpretation in the NBA.

And btw Dwight Howard isn't as clean-cut as he used to be.

 
At 2/19/2008 6:31 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

On Mike & Mike this morning, Dwight Howard after All-Star Weekend sounded like Charles Barkley after All-Star Weekend. I don't think he was up late reading the bible

 
At 2/19/2008 6:32 PM, Blogger MaxwellDemon said...

Because stating the semi-obvious is my oxygen: the WOTWS sample works particularly well for a Wade ad because the first line mentions "Miami, Fla."

Now I'm bummed for Ronald White. When did that sick shit happen?

 
At 2/19/2008 6:33 PM, Blogger MaxwellDemon said...

BR Esq--has he moved on to the Talmud?

 
At 2/19/2008 6:36 PM, Blogger Dan Filowitz said...

This also reminds me of when the cruise line used Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" in the commercial.

Are you 100% convinced that Howard knows what "superman" refers to in the song?

I got the impression from his interviews this weekend, and it could be wrong, that he hasn't given the song much thought. He probably likes the dance, he apparently being a lover of dance, and didn't pay attention too much to the lyrics. Like how I know plenty of people who love High on Fire who don't advocate demons and behemoths of the sea.

I don't know the answer, but I wonder if the "superman" reference is really widely known, even on "the streets", or if it was even more idiosyncratic (to a specific place, or even just to souljaboy's group of friends, etc.)

If it isn't, then maybe Dwight Howard just innocently stumbled into the double meaning.

 
At 2/19/2008 6:38 PM, Blogger Kirk Krack said...

you might say some, or, too much. either way, I missed the dunk contest and don't really understand the gerald green to-do. it looked cool on youtube though

 
At 2/19/2008 7:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

About the "Miami, FL" mention: All this must relate somehow to that Wade/Rick Ross commercial, where, in the immortal words of Dr. LIC, Ross went all Raffi on us.

How could Howard not know? It's not like the song talks about being superman, it's about superman-ing a ho. Again, how sheltered and naive do you think Howard is?

 
At 2/19/2008 7:14 PM, Blogger Dan Filowitz said...

It's not as much sheltered and naive as it is "I don't know what they're saying, I just like to dance to it" and "superman" being the most audible/memorable thing said, and a part of the dance.

I heard that very conversation just two weeks ago - "that means what?" I don't know if the discussion of what "superman-ing a ho" really means was mainstream or not.

I'm not convinced Howard doesn't know - it's certainly possible, and not even that unlikely.

I'm just saying it's also possible he doesn't.

 
At 2/19/2008 7:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

need i remind you all, he had a kid out of wedlock with a magic cheerleader. . .

look, i'm not saying that he's trying to rub smut in people's faces. he probably thinks it's funny. it's flippant sex talk. some people don't get that.

and a popular dance craze.

or, if that's not someone's point of reference, that whole dunk was about superman.

 
At 2/19/2008 7:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

sorry, forgot some numbers there. it's like three levels of "down-ness"

1. sex meaning
2. dance craze
3. man of steel

putting it like that makes it even less plausible to me that he wouldn't know. if most people who read this site know, why wouldn't a professional athlete?

 
At 2/19/2008 7:27 PM, Blogger padraig said...

maxwell d - don't forget, from the talmud it's only two skips and a hop to kabbalah. there is truly nothing that madonna can't find a way to ruin.

dan f - well, it's not quite as overt as "put it in your mouth" -(best/worst line - "I be like herbie and han you a cock") or any random lil' kim song but "crank dat" is pretty unmistakeable. maybe to 50 yr old white suburbanites, but I have a hard time believing Dwight Howard isn't well aware of what "watch me crank dat soulja boy and superman that hoe" refers to.

I do think it's (unintentionally?) hilarious that you're comparing it to Matt Pike's weed-satured ramblings - who does "advocate" for behemoths of the sea? Is there some way I can get involved in this exciting line of work?

 
At 2/19/2008 7:30 PM, Blogger questionmark said...

DH actually offended me when he said he came up with the Superman dunk because of Soulja Boy, and not because he wanted to show people how omnipotent he really is. how could a song so brainless be so universally acceptable? thats another argument for another place...

...and the first time i saw/heard that commercial you're referencing, i immediately began to sing "Can I Kick It...." like any red-blooded human being. but then again, i'm the same guy who asked his mother if she listened to Mos Def and was surprised/appalled when she said she didn't.

 
At 2/19/2008 7:30 PM, Blogger personalmathgenius said...

Dwight's Superman= Chappelle's 'skeet! skeet! skeet!' moment.

Only difference is Dave knew most of us didn't know.

@Padraig- consult Campus Crusade For Cthulhu.

 
At 2/19/2008 7:34 PM, Blogger Scott said...

1. is there a way to incorporate his not even hitting the rim into this, or did he just indeliberately peter out?

2. who was playing soulja boy and who was playing the "hoe" in this act: the crowd, the voters, the ball, the basket, Howard?

 
At 2/19/2008 7:36 PM, Blogger Scott said...

in other words, who was supermanning who?

 
At 2/19/2008 8:23 PM, Blogger Dan Filowitz said...

Only comparing Matt Pike and Soulja Boy in a "people can like the song and not have any idea what they're singing about" way.

And something about the "Save the Kraken" bumper sticker I was handed when I was in Berkley once.

People on this site know what it means because the people that read this site tend to pay attention to detail.

Though to everyone's point, there's a good chance he knows. Or, certainly if he didn't before, he does now.

 
At 2/19/2008 9:01 PM, Blogger paper tiger said...

what's HH? hoops hype? what did you post?

 
At 2/19/2008 9:21 PM, Blogger Pagoda said...

@paper tiger
HH= Heaven and Here (The Wire blog)

 
At 2/19/2008 10:46 PM, Blogger MaxwellDemon said...

Is it possible that the "real" meaning of Superman in the song is just a goof on whitey? Kind of like how people used to *know* that the lyrics to Louie, Louie were really dirty, and yet, not.

Anyway, it wasn't my favorite dunk of the night by far, but with the cape, in a still photo? Dude looks like fucking Superman.

 
At 2/19/2008 10:56 PM, Blogger paper tiger said...

oh, right, thanks pagoda. i always forget about heaven and here- out of cable, out of mind.

 
At 2/19/2008 11:12 PM, Blogger Get said...

White people don't "get" Superman? Give me a break. Who do you think is putting that shit on Urban Dictionary? Of what color was the person who told you what it was?

I realize you like to paint yourself as some keen, ear-to-the-street hip-hop head, but come on. This song was #1 on the f'n billboard charts. It's been played at more bars and clubs than any song since that "Tipsy" crap back in '04ish. You can find youtube clips of half of the teams in NCAA D1 football dancing to it on the sidelines. My alma mater, the University of Georgia, the whitest of white good ole boy and southern belle schools (1.8% black), basically adopted that tune as their anthem for the '07 season. These same white folks that never even see a black person that isn't a football player on campus were dancing in the stands to that song all season doing the "skeet skeet skeet" motion during the Superman Dat Hoe part.

I gotta think damn near anyone under the age of 30 who listens half-heartedly to current music knows what Superman dat Hoe means...regardless of skin color.

 
At 2/19/2008 11:45 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Obviously, saying "the white people" in this context isn't about race proper. It's a generational thing, like you sort of say. White people under the age of thirty have a very complicated relationship with hip-hop. Of course, they're its biggest per capita consumers, and many would argue that its produced with them in mind.

Now that other part. If I really saw myself as someone with an ear to streets—the real streets, not the pop culture version—why would I write this blog the way I do? Jesus fucking christ the internet is making me steamed today.

I paint myself as someone who has listened to a lot of rap. That's all. And there were at least as many Velvet Underground mentions/references in that post as allusion to all the time I spend in the projects.

I would thank you for making a good case for why Dwight Howard has to know what it means, but fuck you.

 
At 2/19/2008 11:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

LINK 1

 
At 2/20/2008 2:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Re prediction #5 ...

I wondered some time on Monday whether, after seeing LBJ's ASG performance, Danny Ferry woke up in a cold sweat during the darkest hours of Sunday night, certain that he's ensured that LeBron walks away in 2010. Firing Brown would be welcome, but they just signed him to a new contract, which would make them look as bad as the Sixers. Still, it might well happen as the oaf's in the Cavs front office panic ...

And I'm delighted to learn that the player who wanted to bring the power of Jesus to the NBA also used his dunk contest appearance to pay an homage to filthy act of female degradation and to a popular hip-hop song beloved by white boys everywhere ... where amazing happens ...

 
At 2/20/2008 2:32 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

I'd like to say that there is clearly a very large portion of the public that does not know what supermanning a hoe means as the song is played on the radio all the time. (I suppose one might argue that the FCC and friends are not censoring it in order to avoid making everybody run to the aforementioned urbandictionary.com, but you can say "ho" on the radio now? What's next, some kid going, "WTF" in one of those commercials where everyone talks like a text?)

Also, "Tipsy" had a tight beat. Be nice to it.

 
At 2/20/2008 4:25 AM, Blogger Kaifa said...

Re Cavs' front office: If the Grizzlies have actually put Miller and Lowry on the trading block, isn't that exactly the type of players needed next to LeBron? When does the contract of Larry Hughes expire?

 
At 2/20/2008 7:13 AM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

"they're its biggest per capita consumers, and many would argue that its produced with them in mind."

Are you referring to shit like "Soulja Boy" and "Tipsy" and whatever? Because I think that the u-30 male that considers themselves a hip-hop fan wouldn't begin to lump that shit into the hip-hop category. Don't get me wrong, I'm no snob, and not a poptimist either (lil' boy still pushin big wheels=my favorite line of the year [Kanye and HOV excluded])

But real rap? the shit that sells? I would find it hard to argue that shit like Graduation, Gangster, The Cool (mainstream selling true rap) is so popular because it is black hip-hop, and in most cases has an ear to the streets.

 
At 2/20/2008 8:12 AM, Blogger flam(buoyant)4Life said...

DH = Dancing with the stars 2112

 
At 2/20/2008 11:31 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

I assume you've seen RapeofTamar Punchmat's post. Neglected to mention the Cavs were your blindspot.
http://mvn.com/nba-cavaliers/2008/02/20/nathaniel-friedman-or-bethlehem-shoals-stick-to-your-day-job

 
At 2/20/2008 11:36 AM, Blogger Kirk Krack said...

true rap! vs untrue rap!! I love it

 
At 2/20/2008 12:02 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

In my column today, I offered the Cavs Miller and Lowry. Maybe that will make them feel better.

 
At 2/20/2008 12:38 PM, Blogger MaxwellDemon said...

A propos of the top of my head, note that "Superman" and "ho" are the only intelligible words in the song. Whither hip hop elocution?

 
At 2/20/2008 2:05 PM, Blogger Nicholas said...

You mean falling spikes like in Double Dragon? That would be some wild shit! Can you imagine it now, huge 6 foot long metal stalagtites falling from the rafters, while Green spin moves and pump fakes his way to the basket, finishing in a thundering two handed jam. After that, he defeats his evil twin and saves Marian.
Darryl Dawkins would give him at least a 9.8 for that.

 
At 2/20/2008 2:07 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Okay, here's my problem with this:

sorry, forgot some numbers there. it's like three levels of "down-ness"

1. sex meaning
2. dance craze
3. man of steel


I think #2 should be #1. That's it. It was a sex meaning first, but it is a dance craze now. Period. Sure, a lot of people know the "real" meaning of the song, but you know what... ten dollars says if we go to a Murray Hill bar/frat party right now, and ask the people dancing, a majority will still not know the real meaning. That's my bet.

Relating to Howard: He was simulating the dance in his dunk, not the sex act. Now, had he pulled his d*ck out and cummed over the ball before dunking on it, then I would agree with ya'll. But his intention is probably not too differently than the intention of the dude who tries to dunk while doing the Macareña or some sh*t.

I do agree with Shoals that Howard was probably trying to have it both ways. And that the brains behind Wade's commercial were also trying to have it both ways - they made the sample so hard to tell where its from that they were clearly hoping to appeal to both Lou Reed fans and ATCQ fans. Sort of like taking using a snippet of Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" for a commercial that leaves it open to speculation that it might be the Kanye West song being used. Only in this case it has more specific goals - to appeal to both "sleeze rock" lovers and "true hip hop/old school hip hop" lovers.

Whatever. It beats the "Who's in your 5" commercials with Barkley...

 
At 2/20/2008 2:33 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I don't think that there's some secret meaning to the song. Just one lurking below the surface.

It's there if someone wants it--either because they knew it already, because they like decoding stuff, or they're just perverted. On the other hand, that song can also play as pop candy that offends no one.

 
At 2/20/2008 9:12 PM, Blogger themarkpike said...

Shoals, would you please be our mayor? You'd be doing us a really big favor.

Glad somebody pointed out that Obama plays "Moving On Up" at his rallies. Having been to a few, I always see one demographic toe-tapping and remembering old times like Cutty, the others quoting "Jay's favorite line? Dawg, in due time."

I'm just happy Howard didn't dress up as Robo-Cop. The urban dictionary site would have flooded, and there's no way Stern would have been spotted jumping out of his seat and yelling "superman!" with approval.

Howard flows in layers.

 

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