Originally posted on my personal blog, December 29 2010, reproduced now for Let’s Get Lyrical
You know Will Smith? The Fresh Prince? The only black lead in any of the fifty highest grossing films ever (unless you count Eddie Murphy in Shrek, which I wouldn’t – Donkey is a sidekick)? His career trajectory has been pretty astounding, hasn’t it? And now his kids are following suit, which is nice, but dear god his daughter’s debut single is annoying.
The song begins with the line “I whip my hair back and forth,” which is repeated 8, 9, 10, or maybe even 100 times… or until young Willow gets distracted by something shiny. The verse goes:
“Hop up out the bed turn my swag on” –
I had to conduct not one, but two internet searches to find out what that meant. She’s not referring to ‘swag’ as in a sackful of loot stolen by a burglar in a book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, or SWAG as in the elite unit of the Philippine Navy. She’s only ten, which lead me to surmise she didn’t mean the type of valance, either. No, according to urban dictionary, ‘swag’ refers to the way one carries oneself, eg “he got a killa swag.” I am going to be using that, sounding whiter than anyone ever dreamt possible of a white girl from Scotland.
“Pay no attention to them haters,” she continues, encouragingly.
What haters are these, one wonders. You’re ten years old, what have you been doing to accumulate haters? Helpfully, she explains:
“Because we whip em off.”
Get your mind out of the gutter, people, that can’t possibly mean what it sounds like. Maybe she literally has been whipping them with like a riding crop or something. Ouch. But then she elaborates,
“and we ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong,” which puts paid to the whip attack idea. She must know that assault is bad, irrespective of whether haters have been hate-ing on you. Or does she?
“So don’t tell me nothin’ / I’m just trying to have fun,” she interjects defensively. This implies she is well aware of the ‘turn the other cheek’ advice, and is deliberately choosing to ignore it.
Although that’s pretty standard kid chat, isn’t it.
Adult: Hello, small child! What are you up to?
Child: Nothin’. Just trying to have fun, jeez, leave me alone already. You’re so embarrassing.
“So keep the party jumping,” Willow continues vaguely, perhaps referring to the time mom and dad got her a totally sweet bouncy castle for her birthday.
“So whats up? Yeah. / You know they don’t know what to do / we turn our back and whip our hair…”
Sage advice for you there. If you got some haters all up in your grill, whip your hair back and forth. They won’t know what to do. To prove the point, Willow proceeds to whip her hair back and forth for about eight years, occasionally exhorting haters not to get her off her grind, until Jay-Z caves and gives her a record contract. Hopefully she will annoy him into writing her a proper song.