In honor of just learning that Frank Ocean has released a video for one of his auditory masterpieces, “Pyramids”, I’m sectioning out my track interpretation I published a few weeks ago from the Channel Orange review.
I don’t know if you all understand how much of a problem this cat is going to be. He has the potential to impact culture much in the way of a Prince or a Kanye West if he keeps executing on his vision. NOTE what I did NOT say – I did NOT say he was as talented or as good as or whatever else. I DID say he has the POTENTIAL to impact the current culture much in the same way of his artistic predecessors. I gladly stand by that statement.
Huge shout out to allindstrom.com where I first learned of the vid. In an age where I don’t learn about the release of something via Twitter, that’s a big deal.
The visuals are pretty epic and drug induced, so pay attention and enjoy…
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?Plutarch indicates that “her beauty, as we are told, was in itself neither altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her.” Rather, what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive were her wit, charm and “sweetness in the tones of her voice.” [wiki]
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.