Friday, July 26, 2013

Liquid Thunder (With Footnotes)

One thing I wanted to do is to give the story and explain the references in the songs I write and produce. I wanted to do "Liquid Thunder" first because it contains the line "my rhymes are so dense, you're gonna need footnotes," which is actually the line that inspired this series of posts. So lets take a closer look at "Liquid Thunder."

As an individual song, it came together while I was sitting at open mic night at the Warehouse. I had some verses that I had written for some Cap City Mob songs that I liked, but since the other members of the band weren't performing at that point, I didn't want them to go to waste, so I came up with this song as a place to house those other lyrics for solo stage shows. So to bring them all together, I sat down and wrote a chorus that would make it clear that this song was a freestyle song -- not the way most people use the word now -- but the way it was used in the old school, where it meant a song that didn't have any particular binding theme, that it was just a series of cool rhymes. The name of the song, which is nonsensical, but references the first two verses and the later beer line, was meant to reinforce that freestyle nature of the song kinda the way "Rapper's Delight" doesn't tell you anything about the lyrics of that song.

The earliest version of the song had a couple of verses that were written by Kane Gruber of Cap City Mob, but when we parted ways, I ditched those lyrics and added a newer verse that I had written for a song with Cap City that never developed. At this point, everything in the song was written by me, although there is some possibility some line or phrase here or there was influenced by something Kane said or wrote. The first version of the song was done a capella at the Warehouse once or twice. The final version, with the below lyrics, was debuted at my first solo show and was part of the set at the frist H20 show and is scheduled for the Gaines Street Fest later this month.

The first 16 lines were written while driving in a car back from Marianna, Fla., where I had been teaching college classes. It was an hour-long drive and I did quite a bit of writing on those drives. This is one of the earliest things I wrote, shortly after songs like "The Lesson" and "Slave." The idea was simple, to write a series of metaphors and similies that revolved around lighting and thunder. These first 16 lines originally appeared in the Cap City Mob song "Pantheon," which was performed live a number of times.

I came to drop some thunder like the Tampa Bay Lightning

When the song was written, the Lightning had won either the previous Stanley Cup or the one right before that, so they were one of the top hockey teams in the world.

My rhymes are kinda scary and my rhymes are kind of frightning
You'll pull out your strap, you'll pull out your chrome
You know you can't survive in my verbal thunderdome

And obvious reference to the third movie in the Mad Max series.

I'll hit you with a hammer like a god named Thor

I was always a big reader of Marvel comics and liked the Thor character a bit when I was younger, so this reference was obvious.

I'm gonna make you stammer like a fool on the Repor(t)

A reference to the Colbert Report starring Stephen Colbert. In the early days of the show, people who came on the show unsure of what he was doing were often left stammering in the wake of his sharp wit.

I step on the stage you're gonna get wary then
I'll slice you up like Thundarr the Barbarian

One of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid, even if it was a rip-off of Star Wars and He-Man. Thundarr, of course, had the equivalent of a lightsaber.

Boom, boom, boom, the sound of your heart breaking
Boom, boom, boom, your foundation is quaking

The "boom boom boom" line was something that I had a memory of from another song at the time, but I can't currently remember where it came from.

Dead as a ghost if ya stepping up to me
Your girl can't put her arms around a memory

"Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" is a song by punk rocker Johnny Thunders that I first learned about from the Guns N Roses punk cover album "The Spaghetti Incident."

Thunder, all through the night
You pray to see Jesus in the morning light

A direct lyrical tribute to the Prince song "Thunder," off the "Diamonds and Pearls" album.

Pray as hard as you can, pray as hard as you might
Even he can't save you from the pain you earned tonight

A continuation of the Jesus reference from the Prince song, I had to figure out a way to make the reference not imply that I was a believer, but that the target of the song was willing to try anything to get out of the conflict.

This is a song, all about how
I'm talking shit and getting on down
I know you don't believe a word I've said
I told you step up to my face and you'll be dead

The chorus, again meant to imply that the song isn't really about anything, but also to give an ironic boast, since I'm totally non-violent.

The next section was originally featured in the song "Cap City," which was originally an intro song for Cap City Mob with four different guys rapping. It was a good song and I really liked these lyrics, so I had to make sure I could re-use them. These are the first lyrics I ever wrote. Kane invited everybody over for a recording session, even though I had never done anything like that before, and this was the result.

My name is T. Rex, I love freaky sex
I'ma fuck your mama and your sister's next
My dick is hard and my back is week
I'm gonna need a nurse to be my freak

The first four lines was specifically meant to be a ironic parody of a 2 Live Crew song. I have never had sex with someone's mother and her sister. My back isn't really weak, either.

We can step on the court and I'm gonna blast
Like Bill Laimbeer, I'ma bust ya ass

I've always loved playing basketball and I was playing a lot at the time I wrote this. My style of playing has changed a lot since then. At that time, I wasn't a good shooter or scorer, but was a good rebounder and defender and played a lot of rough street ball, hence the reference to Bill Laimbeer, once of the rough-and-tumble "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons of the late 80s early 90s.

Eating szechuan, drinking Union Pabst Brew
Do what you wanna do, I'll do what I wanna do

The original line here referenced being part of Cap City Mob and after that was no longer true, I felt like I had to change it. "Brew" was the first word that came to mind and since my favorite beer is PBR, that was a natural fit. It was also a direct Beastie Boys reference to the line "Eating Colonel's Chicken, Drinking Heinken Brew" from "Slow Ride." Since I don't really eat KFC, I switched the line to something I do eat. The "do what I wanna do" line, which has a different rhythm from the rest of the original "Cap City" lyrics, and is repeated below, I was always very pround of, since I love the way it sounds.

My rhymes are so dense, you're gonna need footnotes
You're gonna memorize very word I wrote
I'll write your ass into a corner
Once you hear me, you're gonna need a coroner

I really loved the "dense" line when I wrote it and that line more than any is why I came up with "Liquid Thunder" as a way to keep these lyrics alive.

The people of Tally all call me the prof
I give 'em all an F and tell em fuck off

As an actual professor, this line was written as a mildly exaggerated complaint about bad students.

And if you don't like it, then motherfuck you
Do what you wanna do, I'll do what I gotta do

This is a song, all about how
I'm talking shit and getting on down
I know you don't believe a word I've said
I told you step up to my face and you'll be dead

The repeat of the best vocal part of the song and the chorus again.

The next verse was written many years later than the first two parts of the song. The first two verses were written in maybe 2007 give or take a few months. The next verse was written in late 2011 or early 2012. Kane originally had an idea about writing a song that was about how we were older guys, but we were still kicking ass. This was my contribution to that idea. I don't think that Kane ever did anything more with the song idea.

Derailing your dreams like I was Super 8

Obvious reference to the train crash that sets off the drama in the Stephen Spielberg/JJ Abrams monster movie.

Fucking with your future like Jon and Kate

When I was married, I was forced to watch a whole lot of the show "Jon and Kate Plus 8," which was a horrible "reality" show about how these two self-absorbed and annoying people had to raise eight kids, which can't possibly be a good thing. They've since divorced.

I'm old like fire, older than dirt
Still got your girlie pulling up her skirt

Another Beastie Boys reference, this time referring to the line "I told her some rhymes and she pulled up her skirt," from "The New Style," one of my favorite Beastie Boys songs.

The girls the girls they love me

This one is directly from Heavy D "The girls, the girls they love me/I'm the overweight lover Heavy D," from "Gyrlz."

You shackle 'em and I set them free
I take 'em to heights you'll never even try

This couplet is an homage to LL Cool J's "I'm That Type of Guy," where LL explains how he's so much better than other guys at how he treats women.

I don't believe I can, I know I can fly

Kicking R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" up a level.

Yeah I'm vintage, yeah I'm old school
That means I know a lot more than you do
I forgot more things than you'll ever know

The way I say "you'll ever know" here is another Beastie Boys reference, this time to "There's more to me than you'll ever know," from "Hey Ladies."

Every word I write minimizes your flow
I write metaphors that blow your simple mind

I kinda liked Simple Minds in the 80s and their name fit well into this line.

You can't grok what I rock when I tick and I tock sock

Pretty sure this is the only rap line ever written to combine Robert Heinlein and Dr. Dre. I loved the concept of "grokking" something from Heinlein's "Stranger in A Strange Land," and "Nothing But A G Thang" is one of my karaoke staples, combining them in a technically difficult line seemed natural to me.

Tearing down the system like an SLC Punk!

The final line of the movie SLC Punk is one of my guiding philosophies, so I had to give it a shout out.

No junk in my trunk, your girl's still bitin' my chunk

Another reference to the LL Cool J song "I'm That Type of Guy."

This is a song, all about how
I'm talking shit and getting on down
I know you don't believe a word I've said
I told you step up to my face and you'll be dead

Final chorus.

The first two times I performed this song, it was a capella. The current beat I use for it was one that I was trying to use for "The Lesson," but I realized it worked better for this song, so I transferred it over.

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