“Black Beatles” is an iconic song released by Rae Sremmurd in 2016. It belongs to the hip hop genre and is immensely popular, having topped music charts all over the world. The band Rae Sremmurd consists of two brothers, Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee. They have been releasing music since 2015, and this is their first #1 single. While hip hop is a genre that has an iconic history of its own, “Black Beatles” is a song that takes bold initiatives with the conventions of the genre. It does not lose its unique identity in the name of paying homage to the past.
There are obviously political meanings that music created by Black artists has in the context of #BlackLivesMatter as well as America’s violent history of racism. It is inevitable that a song such as “Black Beatles” is often read in terms of representing contemporary Black experiences.
What does the title mean
The title is the first indication of why this song is so iconic. It boldly invokes the Beatles, arguably the most successful band in the history of rock and roll. It’s a risk for a new band to align themselves with such a famous group, but Rae Sremmurd don’t shy away from making impressive statements. Also, the first word of the title is “Black,” firmly locating the contexts of the song in the contemporary political situation in the United States.
Further, the title juxtaposes the word “Black” with the name of a historically popular white band. This interesting juxtaposition seems to suggest that race or skin color should not be a barrier either in musical genres or in real-world contexts. It indicates racial solidarity and the need for equal rights. Every musician and indeed, every human being, should have the same rights as others regardless of their ethnicity.
Verse 1 – What does it mean
“Black beatles in the city be back immediately to confiscate the moneys
Rae Sremm, Guwop, Mike WiLL!
I sent flowers, but you said you didn’t receive ’em
But you said you didn’t need them”
The opening line of the first verse takes the audience immediately into the song’s iconic visual imagery. The image strongly invokes the idea of swarming beetles, which could possibly refer to law enforcement agencies that have come under deep suspicion following their treatment of BIPOC people in the United States. The word “confiscate” has strong connotations of law enforcement that arbitrarily attacks individuals.
After establishing the context, the first verse moves from the general to the specific. The singer says that they sent someone flowers, but the recipient said they didn’t need them. This part could be read as a subversion of typical social conventions. Sending flowers is a stereotypical way to indicate one’s affection for someone. But in this case, the recipient does not seem to want a conventional form of love.
What does the chorus mean
“That girl is a real crowd pleaser
Small world, all her friends know me
Young bull livin’ like an old geezer
Release the cash, watch it fall slowly
Frat girls still tryna get even
Haters mad for whatever reason
Smoke in the air, binge drinkin’
They lose it when the DJ drops the needle”
The chorus sets up a refrain that seems to reinforce the idea of questioning conventional ways of looking at love and other socially constructed bonds. “Crowd pleaser” is a term that emphasizes how the speaker does not seem to want to be someone who does things to please others. It also conveys how the notion of popularity works in social contexts. Stereotypical identities such as “cheerleader” or “jock,” for example, emphasize that popularity often comes at the cost of individuality.
Next, the chorus interrogates the idea of money ruling the world. The word “cash” also recalls the first verse of the song. There seems to be a running motif in the song of how money is a part of all our social contexts, even our personal relationships.
Images of smoking, drinking, and partying to a DJ’s music also emphasize how going out and having ‘fun’ are conventional ways of expressing yourself. “Haters mad” is especially complex in this context, conveying the idea that young people are conditioned to embrace conventional ways of expressing themselves even as they try to break free from traditional oppressions.
Verse 2 – What does it mean
“Gettin’ so cold I’m not blinkin’
What in the world was I thinkin’?
New day, new money to be made
There is nothing to explain
I’m a fuckin black Beatle, cream seats in the Regal
Rockin John Lennon lenses like to see ’em spread eagle
Took a bitch to the club and let her party on the table
Screamin’ “everybody’s famous”
Like clockwork, I blow it all
And get some more
Get you somebody that can do both
Black Beatles got the babes belly rolling
She think she love me
I think she trollin’”
The uncertainty the speaker has about whether the woman he loves returns his affections is relatable to most audiences. The idea of trolling also invokes the ways in which social media creates ‘influencers’ as well as ‘trolls’ who spread online hate. Online hate and digital oppression can be as harmful as other kinds of subjugation. The verse again questions the societal notion that we must make money in order to be successful.
By referring to himself as a Black Beatle and specifically mentioning John Lennon’s name, the singer creates a strong sense of self-identification with the iconic musician.
Verse 3 – What does it mean
“Came in with two girls, look like strippers in their real clothes
A broke hoe can only point me to a rich hoe
A yellow bitch with green hair, a real weirdo
Black man, yellow Lamb’, real life goals
They seen that Guwop and them just came in through the side door
There’s so much money on the floor we buyin school clothes
Watch me break the money machine till her clothes fall
Pint of lean, pound of weed, and a kilo
I eurostep past a hater like I’m Rondo
I upgrade your baby mama to a condo
My Chapos servin’ yayo to the gringos
Black Beatle, club close when I say so”
This verse sees the singer progress to a more confident place. He seems surer now of his own valid space in the musical tradition. The reference to colors such as Black and yellow also seems to reinforce the fact that the song is about racial identities.
The controversial reference to strippers can also be seen as a way of questioning how we judge other people in society. It seems to be a veiled reference to the fact that we see certain professions as ‘immoral’ and illegitimate. In a class-based society, the song seems to reinforce the idea that questioning social constructions of identity is desperately needed.
Verse 4 – What does it mean
“She’s a good teaser, and we blowin’ reefer
Your body like a work of art, baby
Don’t fuck with me, I’ll break your heart, baby
D&G on me, I got a lot of flavor
15 hundred on my feet, I’m tryna kill these haters
I had haters when I was broke, I’m rich, I still got haters
I had hoes when I was broke, I’m rich, I’m still a player
I wear leather Gucci jackets like its still the 80’s
I’ve been blowin’ OG Kush, I feel a lil’ sedated
I can’t worry about a broke nigga or a hater
Black Beatle, bitch, me and Paul McCartney related”
The final verse mentions another Beatle, Paul McCartney, and brings the song full circle to where it began. By aligning its messages with iconic music from the past, the song connects the present and the past to reinforce its message about the need for social change.
The verse also uses controversial language that is typically used by haters. In doing so, it reclaims the use of language by oppressed people. The very words that others use to oppress a marginalized community can be empowering when you reclaim it and embrace those aspects of your identity that are disparaged by others.
Listening to the song is a liberating experience for most fans. It connects people with each other and encourages them to be individuals. The song constantly presents the idea that each of us must question normative ways of thinking. We must look beyond our rigid societal structures if we’re ever going to be free as a society.