Flip Flop Rock
All genres of music lend themselves to the occasional bad song. Rock music has good and bad songwriters, just as terrible composers surely existed back in the days of Beethoven, and just like how every pop song today makes your ears bleed. And yes, one could argue that for every Bob Dylan there existed a George Thorogood (more like ThoroBAD) when it came to songwriting.
In rap music, however, the spectrum is much, much wider. For every Chiddy Bang (on the good side of the spectrum), there exist at least 10 Soulja Boys (the WORST).
If none of those names mean anything to you, that’s fine. None of that is terribly important. Rap music does have its fair share of great songwriters, its versions of Bob Dylan, if you will. And just like Bob Dylan, sometimes they don’t make any sense whatsoever.
Thus, let’s take a step back to 2003, a full decade ago, to celebrate the existence of Speakerboxx/The Love Below and in particular Flip Flop Rock, the most confusing rap song ever written.
Before we dive deeply into the song itself, let’s take a look at the full album. At this point in their career, genre-defining southern rap duo Outkast had reached a peak. In the late 90’s, they had introduced a much more soulful, blues-inspired tone to rap music, along with much more musical experimentation. This set them apart and led to huge amounts of commercial success with such hits as “Ms. Jackson,” “Aquimeni,” “Bombs Over Baghdad”, and of course bestselling albums “Stankonia” and “Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik.” None of the above song titles were jokes.
As their musical career approached the ten year mark, Outkast decided to take their experimental style to the next level, which led to creating two separate individual projects and packaging them together. Thus, Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antoine “Big Boi” Patton created Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. One critic said it was the equivalent of the Beatles releasing The White Album with the Lennon songs on one album and the McCartney songs on the other. This comparison only make sense, of course, if Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Boi despised each other and were from another country.
In the midst of Mr. Boi’s album Speakerboxxx exists the tune Flip Flop Rock, which you can find below:
(NOTE: if you’re unfamiliar with hip-hop music, please know that there is frequent and flippant use of profanity in the song. Be advised.)
First things first: the song is billed on the album as featuring Killer Mike. However, it’s quite noticeable to rap fans there are three voices here, one of them belonging to none other than Jay-Z. You might have heard of him.
While later releases of the album have Mr. Z listed as a contributor to the track, he is still given third billing, behind Killer Mike. This is the start of the confusion, as a casual music listener (anyone with ears and owns a radio) could tell you who Jay-Z is, but not as many know Killer Mike. In fact, a quick glace at Mr. Mike’s Wikipedia page points out that his greatest accomplishments have all been appearances on Outkast songs.
So why did Jay-Z not get mentioned? And when he was, why did he get mentioned last? Well, it could be because his verse was the final verse on the song. However, he performed the chorus (hook, in rap lingo) of the song as well. So ultimately? There’s no reason.
Another major point of confusion comes within a verse delivered by Mr. Boi, wherein he asks questions about the importance of ethnicity and color of ones skin. The exact line (found at the 0:37 mark) goes as such:
“.. are you black, white, asian?
Indonesian, or Borean – that’s black and Korean”
Pause for a moment. First, Mr. Boi hits on three of the major ethnic groups in the United States: black, white, and asian. However, instead of perhaps mentioning another major ethnicity, say, that of the Latin variety, he jumps into very odd specifics: Indonesian and a term that he undoubtably made up known as Borean.
Maybe there is a reason behind this. Perhaps in his hometown of Atlanta, there is a large Indonesian population that would be offended if they didn’t get a shout-out (a rap term for being mentioned in public). Perhaps he just needed to find an ethnicity that fit the syllables in his rhyme scheme. There could be plenty of reasons behind his choice.
However, there is no way to justify “Borean.” First of all, it involves making a new term for a combination of two ethnicities. Unless this is an actual accepted term, but since the only evidence of it on the internet comes from Urban Dictionary, it’s pretty safe to say it isn’t. Also, it means that Mr. Boi decided he needed to rhyme a word with “Korean” so he came up with a slight variation on that actual word. Not the most creative move ever, that’s for sure.
There are many other aspects of Mr. Boi’s verse that could be addressed, such as his need to teach basic subtraction with negative numbers, how he references Eyes Wide Shut and Legally Blone, or the fact that for no reason he proudly yells “Rap song! Rap song!”. However, at this point, attention must be drawn back briefly to the one and only Killer Mike. He starts his verse off strong, with the following line (starting at 2:08):
“watch ’em as they gawk and they gander
You can follow, or lead like Commander
Mr. Mike approaches this new opportunity to expand his “Appearing On Outkast Songs” Resume with all of the energy and wit of….a Star Trek fan? That doesn’t seem like the type of line that would fit a man whose name labels him as a killer. After all, most of the time, phasers were set to “stun”. And while he does later mutilate the word “boulevard” so that it rhymes with Picard, it still doesn’t explain why he chose this particular rhyme pattern.
Throughout all this confusion this is the particular song that has been laid out for the listener. It is just one of many on the Speakerboxxx album, and one of even more on the entire collection of Speakerboxxx and The Love Below. The album gave us “Roses”, “The Way You Move”, and of course the iconic “Hey Ya!”, all of which were well respected.
In the midst of those many gems, though, as it often is with artistic and musical endeavors, lies something like Flip Flop Rock. Something that isn’t necessarily bad….just something that doesn’t necessarily make any sense. At all.
But hey, what do you expect from somebody who calls him Sir Lucious Left Foot?
Happy 10th birthday, Speakerboxx/The Love Below!