In her song, “Gucci Gucci,” Kreayshawn raps, “Bitch, you ain’t no Barbie/ I see you work at Arby’s/ Number 2, super-sized, hurry up, I’m starving” — because it is just not nearly as entertaining, nearly as hip, to go about it directly. What if she had used instead, “Hey, you/ You’re pretending to be something you’re not and I can see exactly what you’re trying to do/ I’m better than you/ Make me a sandwich”? Kreayshawn’s lyrics just get the job done efficiently with added rhyme.
But Kreayshawn is no pioneer. Similes and metaphors have long existed in the history of speech, after all, and that history includes rap. However, one can’t help but notice how aggressively these artists throw in their comparisons nowadays. In his “Break (All Of the Lights),” Childish Gambino refers to himself as “Cheezy, ho” and continues with “I’m so cheesy, ho, my swag’s got high cholesterol.” If you didn’t get the point, Cheezy is really cheesy (morbidly cheesy, in fact) and so is his swag. Despite the cheese, this kind of rap has become acceptable and widely popular in the works of Breezy, Jeezy, Weezy and other -eezys alike.
So what does pop culture have to say about Harvard and Yale, two timeless and trendy institutions?
In rapper Nas’ “Book of Rhymes,” he says “my people be projects or jail never Harvard or Yale.” Chiddy Bang is “well-endowed like Harvard and Yale,” Drake says, “Sounds so smart like you graduated college/ Like you went to Yale, but you probably went to Howard.” Harvard and Yale are convenient and effective references in lyrics. According to these artists, according to pop culture, Harvard or Yale is the opposite of the projects or jail. We are fortunate. Harvard and Yale are well-endowed. And they think we’re smart! But then so are Harvard students. “Harvard” just had one too many syllables to fit in that line. In that specific situation, the rivalry between Harvard and Yale came down to that one syllable. Even so, whether Drake meant to shout out to Yale or Harvard, his message was clear with no further explanation necessary.
Over time, pop culture has enabled these ridiculous and often extreme comparisons that thrive on the assumption of an up-to-date public with these pop-cultural comparisons — we are expected to understand exactly what they mean and to enjoy it while nodding yes at the same time (maybe even to the beat). Because of this honest yet implied dialogue between the public and the artist, a general consensus surrounding each specific reference in pop culture is created. Needless to say, Barbie is perfect and Arby’s is lackluster. Rap does not explain what it means by Harvard and Yale because pop culture is already familiar with the two. As demonstrated in these few lyrics, both Harvard and Yale can fill in the “insert-here” that will go on to epitomize the same privilege, the same education and all of the other Ivy stereotypes whether we agree with them or not. Harvard and Yale become one Harvard-and-Yale in pop culture.
But we’re still better, obviously.