29 September 2005

Gold Digging

So let's consider Kanye West in relation to our little grammar question. Does the Kanye West listener suffer as a result of West's poor use of grammar?

Think about the song *Gold Digger* and this particular couplet: "I ain't saying she a gold digga/ but she ain't messin' wit no broke niggas.*

If we choose *fix* this couplet to correct the grammar and lexis to be more clear, we might say: *I am not implying that she only dates and (or) has sex with [black] men who have money and status/ but I am certainly saying that she does not date and (or) have sex with [black] men who have little or no money and status.*

West's grammatical and lexical choices are interesting (and be assured that these are choices, not an inability to speak in grammatically correct forms). Why does he choose the words that he does? This is, of course, a question of discourse--that is, West is doing his best to speak with lexis and grammatical patterns that are best understood by the listeners he either perceives or would like to attract and which he perceives to be the most clever. The question is, do his choices make his lyrics harder to understand?

Well, yes and no, depending on who you are. My father would have a very hard time understanding the first couplet, but would understand the second much more easily. Conversely, the young, black market that West is presumably targeting understands the first much more clearly because they negotiate this structure and lexis on a daily basis. I also find it interesting that this song has enjoyed a great deal of mainstream success, proving that even suburban white kids and their parents, from the looks of the Billboard charts can understand West quite clearly.

This seems to show that improper use of grammar doesn't necessarily mean a lack of understanding on the part of the listener. Moreover, it could be argued that this more vulgar or incorrect use of grammar conveys West's philosophy/ thesis much better than proper use would.

A quick question of translation: would you translate the n-word in this case to mean *men* or specifically *black men*?