Continued from earlier…
In the spirit of President Obama, let me be clear – this entire review could stand on the merits of this track alone. It’s a BEAST of a song. How dare he pen something this good. AND at his young age? WHAT?!
GTFOH Mr. Ocean. Fyuck you for being this talented, sir.
There are so many levels to this track. Sonically – LEVELS. Writing – LEVELS. Emotion – LEVELS. Racks on racks of levels, son. RACKS. Pyramids is the real Rack City, bitch.
Leeeeeeeeeets start from the beginning. This is how I hear the song. How you hear it will most likely be different.
Set the cheetahs on the loose.
The first part of the track takes place in ancient Egypt. It COULD ALSO take place in your friendly neighborhood strip joint – if it was hottest strip joint in town. But for now we’ll stick with the ancient Egyptian theme. You can go back and figure out the strip club references.
Basically, Mr. Ocean was like, “Yo, if old skool Egyptians had a club and came to me for a hot banger, what would I make for them? Cool…this…this is how I would make the stones shake.”
I love how he describes the prominence of the ruling African culture at the time:
And we’ll run to the future
Shining like diamonds in a rocky world
Our skin like bronze and our hair like cashmere
As we march to the rhythm
On the palace floor
This is not what we think of when we hear ‘Africa’, but it is in fact what it was. They were running into the future as rulers. As the most modern society of their era building structures of ungodly opulence that reflected their superior status in the world. I also love the proud pronouncement of their physical features that are associated with their race.
So we have the actual Cleopatra, and now she’s missing. Pharaoh, ruler of the land and god on earth is none too pleased that he can’t find his main squeeze. Since he’s the Pharaoh, he can’t have Cleopatra running around all wild, so what does he do? He sets the cheetahs on the loose.
AND WHERE DOES HE FIND THIS GODDESS WENCH?!
Laying with Samson’s foreign ass. Really…Samson? Out of all the niggas in the land, you laying with Samson with the good hair?And that’s when things go south for Cleopatra. She’s killed. Dead. Pharaoh can’t have that, so she has to go. But it’s genius the way Mr. Ocean also says she lives no more and then reference’s there being a serpent in the room, which could also easily be a reference to both the historical equivocation to trickery and evil as much as it was a reference to Cleopatra losing her life over Samson’s horny ass serpent.
The jewel of Africa
What good is a jewel that ain’t still precious
How could you run off on me?
How could you run off on us?
You feel like God inside that gold
I found you laying down with Samson
And his full head of hair
Found my black queen Cleopatra
Bad dreams Cleopatra
Send the cheetahs to the tomb
Our war is over, our queen has met her doom
No more she lives, no more serpent in her room
No more, it has killed Cleopatra, Cleopatra
Fyuck you Mr. Ocean….
Then the beat drops. This acid-dubstep-egyptian-hallucinagen induced-orgy beat just builds the excitement over the Jerry Springer chaos that JUST HAPPENED.
Another layer. He slows it down for us. Brings it down from the high. THEN FLIPS THE WHOLE SHIT ON ITS HEAD.
Now its current day. And we wake next a girl in a hotel, we’ll call her…Cleopatra. Seems Cleopatra been trickin’ on the side. WHAT? The ancestor of our beautiful Goddess Queen Cleopatra is now trickin’ in a cheap ass motel?! That’s how she’s living life now? Damn…
Seems like most present day folks, Cleopatra needs to work to pay the bills, so after finishing up with her John, she’s off The Pyramid to work. In modern times, you can only name so many establishments, The Pyramid, which in this case we’re assuming your friendly neighborhood strip club.
I don’t know if anyone else caught this, but Mr. Ocean likes to sing things that sound one way, but the actual words he’s saying is different from what you’re hearing. BUT BOTH INTERPRETATIONS WORK. The actual lyrics here are
She’s working at the pyramid
She’s working at the pyramid tonight
BUT SOUNDS LIKE and could be interpreted as
She’s working up the pyramid
She’s working up the pyramid tonight
BOTH work AND give her work multiple literal functions. She’s gotta work AT the Pyramid as her place of employment, but if she does her job well, she (like all of us) could work her way UP the pyramid. Maybe she twerks long and hard enough to catch the attention of the right balla to come through in VIP and change her damn life. Lord knows it’s happening. Athletes and artists are king save-a-hoes on damn near a weekly basis. Let’s do a quick review:
- Amber Rose – Kanye Save-a-hoe
- Maliah – Drake Save-a-hoe
- Joseline – Steebie J Save-a-hoe
But Cleopatra doesn’t get chosen this night. Instead she has to go see her pimp in his ballin’-on-a-budget cheap ass motel.
Got rubies in my damn chain
Mr. Ocean not only blatantly shows us this pimp’s wack ass balla status, but it’s also a direct reference to his earlier question:
What good is a jewel that ain’t still precious?
EVERYTHING GOT DEVALUED IN THE FUTURE. Cleopatra before? Goddess. Now? Prostitute stripper. Exploited by Samson before. Now? A Pimp Named Slickback. And Mr. Slickback is getting paid off Cleopatra’s work.
How far we have come since the days when we proudly wanted to run to the future as royalty shining like diamonds.
HE’S NOT DONE WITH THIS BITCH YET. After all that has fallen upon our African woman, he has Cleopatra go find solace in the arms of a man who once was hers, and turns his attention to the African man. Cleopatra’s pharaoh. He knows her as she truly is and loves her anyway. He comforts her from a hard day. She embellishes.
But he’s still a man. A broke-as-a-joke man, but still a man. He wants to indulge in her. She complies and by the nature of her trade, temporarily makes him feel like a man again.
THEN THE FINAL FLIP. THE FINAL FLIP – The Final Insult
But your love ain’t free no more, baby
But your love ain’t free no more
This nigga is her EX and he still HAS TO PAY to be with her! That’s some bullshyt. How insulting? How damn powerless is the man with no money? They presumably used to LOVE each other. He was her pharaoh at one time and now he knows she won’t sleep with him without some ducketts? Slickback has mind control over Cleopatra like THAT? The man with a little bread has power over her like that???
It would seem much more so than the man with NO bread.
Damn Pharaoh…look at your ancestors.
This will be known as an anthem for the youth today. This is how many of them feel about religion today. But for most, it’s been and has been a journey. It’s a struggle to fight against what you’ve been taught as divinely moral since you were born.
What if your god doesn’t accept you as you are? What does that say about you? Why did god make you that way if he didn’t want you to be that way? Why is it your burden to carry and not other people’s? Why would god want to make you feel unworthy of his love? What about other people, other gods, other cultures, other messages of differing divinity? What’s good, what’s bad? Who’s right?
Am I wrong?
Somehow in a relatively short narrative, Mr. Ocean somehow explores the whirlwind of all these competing questions. People have filled volumes of books trying to answer these deeply personal questions many of us that have been raised with a particular belief system deal with.
Frank does it in a couple short stanzas AND comes up with his own proudly proclaimed truth. He refuses to kneel to a religion that 1) hasn’t proven itself, and 2) ultimately makes him feel like shyt and not worthy.
This unrequited love
To me it’s nothing but
A one-man cult
And cyanide in my styrofoam cup
I could never make him love me
Never make him love me
His response is to not kneel. To stand up. To look up. To hold his head high in the face of the divine. It’s such a bold visual. It’s a powerful visual. An EMPOWERING stance against something that has always made you feel less than or not worthy of. It’s stupidly beautiful imagery.
In most religions, that’s the first thing we learn is to bow our heads and kneel. Same with kings in the past. It’s a sign that your beneath those that stand above you. A sign of surrender to what’s in power.
Religion has power. Immense power. Spiritual, personal, political, societal, familial, romantic, national…POWER. Frank’s response after years of internal searching and struggle is to STAND.
I’ve heard this song has broken down niggas. I mean I’ve been told that this song has made cats feel hella Guilty just for sitting there listening and RELATING to it. Dudes thought they was gonna step outta the car and get hit a bolt of lighting for sobbing cathartic tears in the Target parking lot, son.
That’s the power of good songwriting. #SaluteMrOcean
This is my track right here. Perfectly placed after Bad Religion, it answers the ‘What Then’ question. So many people live their lives with a belief that the most powerful being that ever could be in existence that’s also perfect in every way possible is personally vested in the benefits of their day-to-day life. Actually, in everyone’s day-to-day life – equally. Seems a little paradoxical, but that’s another post.
So when you have to come face to face with the possibility that you may simply be the literal stuff that the universe is made of…………..what now?
Through Mr. Ocean’s new-found experiences, he concludes that he might as well spend his time on Earf happy. There’s no telling what the next world holds, or even if there is one. What he does know is he’s here now, and while he’s here, he would prefer pleasure to pain.
Her pleasure. Is there one greater? That Pink Matter?
GTFOH, Mr. Ocean.
How dare you make eloquent my love for that sweet thang that make men powerless. Sometimes I secretly like the fact that I shouldn’t be liking that Pink Matter so damn much, but NOW you make it MAKE SENSE.
What’s wrong with that pleasure? What’s wrong with desiring the pleasure from a person willing to supply it? What’s the alternative? Not having pleasure. I’ve heard that kinda sucks on a daily basis. Hmmm, we’re gonna die – pleasure or no pleasure? BITCH! Give me that Majin Buu.
Side Note: Frank Ocean gets every songwriting credit that could ever be received by comparing the female reproductive organ to Majin Buu. If that’s not creative, progressive, synthesis, then I don’t know what the hell is.
“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” ~ Federico García Lorca
What do you think my brain is made for
Is it just a container for the mind
This great grey matter
Sensei replied, what is your woman
Is she just a container for the child
That soft pink matter
Cotton candy Majin Buu
Close my eyes and fall into you
My god she’s giving me pleasure
If the track couldn’t get any better, Andre 3 Stacks himself blesses the track with his .02 cents.
You’re good at being bad
You’re bad at being good
For heaven’s sakes go to hell
Knock on wood
For heaven’s sakes go to hell
Knock knock knock on wood
Well frankly when that ocean so mahfuckin’ good
Make her swab the mahfuckin’ wood
Make her walk the mahfuckin’ plank
Make her rob a mahfuckin’ bank
With no mask on and a rusty revolver
DAMN this is GOOD MUSIC!
Last, but not least…
Yes, if you didn’t get the memo, Mr. Ocean is bisexual and this is his track for the men. Made me squirm and it’s 100% un-sing-along-wittable.
BUT…It’s catchy as fuck! And for a certain demographic of fan, they finally have a track they can proudly bump in the car. It will speak for generation of people who felt they didn’t have voice. They do in Mr. Ocean. #salute
I won’t be bumpin’ that shyt doe. #LetsBeClear
I’m not really into rating someone else’s art like that, but I can say channel ORANGE should be in your catalogue. Every time you try to say that music isn’t well written anymore and kids don’t have any good music to listen to, I hope you remember that this album proves you wrong every time you press play. And you should be happy about being wrong for once.
Vote for good music and artistry with your purchase.
Any track stand out for you on the album? #TellMeBoutIt