Fight for Your Right to Party


Worried about the declining attendance at your square dance? Here’s your chance to do something about it.

Rob Sheffield asks, “Is it just me, or does the new DMX song sound exactly like Depeche Mode, specifically ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’? (Maybe it’s not so new—it’s the one that goes, ‘Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here.’) I think that’s why I love DMX so much, he’s such a tough guy, but he looooooves his Depeche Mode records.”

I myself think the true root is square dancing. The first time I heard DMX say “up in here, up in here,” I thought, “He’s doing it as if he really means ’round the outside.’ ” And then, about a minute later in the song, he says, “Meet me outside,” just as if it were “round the outside,” even though I think he intends it as an invitation to fight rather than to swing around.

(Rob: “Have you ever square-danced? I think it’s kind of fun. Promenade is fun, do-si-do is hard, honoring your partner and corner is easy. Riding or dying with your ride-or-dye-bitch is somewhat difficult.”)

In any event, the song is totally hilarious. The lyrics are the usual nonsense about DMX putting holes in people’s chests and being pissed off that these guys are such weak-ass whiners that he’s gotta shoot them. The aesthetic adventure in the lyrics is to come up with yet another way to describe his enemy’s demise: “Listen, yo ass is about to be missin’/You know who gon’ find you? (Who?) some old man fishin’.” (Speaking of pêcher, this isn’t the only time fish have appeared in a DMX song. Elsewhere on . . . . And Then There Was X he hits a guy’s wife with a dead fish, and back on Flesh of My Flesh his comrade Sheek raps, “Yo when my gun bust, send niggaz to the fish like Swanson,” unless it’s not Swanson—the lyric sites on the Web can’t agree, but it should be Swanson since that way it’s like both “sleeps with the fishes” and “sleeps in the freezer.”) But the real aesthetic adventure is to play Bang Bang and play Party Hearty like they’re the same thing, so that the act-a-fool lose-my-cool stuff in the chorus could be both DMX going crazy—bang!—with anger and his giving himself up to the dance; and though the “meet me outside, outside motherfucker” at the end could be an invitation to brawl, he’s calling for all the fly ladies and big ballers and street peeples and Ruff Ryders, so it seems that he’s just looking for someone to swing around. There’s a parallel here: the crap about killing people is—maybe—really just a metaphor for beating them on the mic (“So whatever it is you puffin’ on that got you think that you Superman/I got the kryptonite, should I smack him with my dick and the mic?”).

And as Rob says to me: ” ‘Meet me outside’ is probably the closest you can get to ’round the outside’ in hip-hop, since you can’t really rap about dancing anymore, unless you hide it between the lines as DMX does here. If I understand you correctly, it sounds like the murder invitation functions as code for what the audience understands as a dance invitation. Kind of the opposite of ‘Dancing in the Streets’—to get on the radio now, the only way you can sing about dancing in the streets is if you pretend to sing about fighting in the streets.”

Not literally true (there are rappers—for instance, Kool Keith—who’ve actually said “round the outside” in recent hip-hop, though not with DMX’s foot-smacking fervor), but true enough in spirit. There’s an ongoing party in hip-hop and r&b, just as there’s always been—turn on the radio, and DMX is bouncin’, and then Destiny’s Child is bouncin’ and jumpin’ right next to him—but hip-hop’s too often like the young clod who’s afraid of being called a sissy and who’s got to show he’s tough before he’ll come to the dance.