Our Most Famous Rappers Love Referencing “The Matrix”: Why?
By: Alex Marcheschi
I love listening to rap music, specifically rap lyrics. It’s really funny because many people just assume rap lyrics are garbage because of the way they’re presented, but if you look at the actual lyrics, they’re typically extremely witty and/or thought-provoking. It’s all about the delivery. That’s why a song like this:
Can seem like a happy and fun summer song when it’s really about hardcore drug addiction and depression.
And a song like this:
Can be seen as ghetto or aggressive when it’s actually an eloquently written song about accepting yourself for who you are.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get into what this #deepdive is actually about: our most famous rappers referencing “The Matrix” at an alarming rate. Let’s get dirty fam.
Drake – “I am in the Matrix, and I just took the blue pill.” – “6 Man” (0:19 video mark)
(excuse the weird video)
Here’s a quote that Morpheus says to Neo (ps if you’ve never seen The Matrix trilogy, this blog could (aka definitely will) get weird, I don’t really have time to fully explain the premise of the trilogy).
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” ―Morpheus, to Neo. The term redpill refers to a human that is aware of the true nature of the Matrix (aka typical societal life).
By saying he took the blue pill, Drake is saying that he is aware of how messed up the music industry and society really is, but he’s choosing to capitalize on it and profit, instead of trying to do something about it. I don’t really respect that move, but I do respect the honesty. At least he’s being transparent. It’s the same way I view the NFL and NCAA.
Common – “I’m the black pill in The Matrix, the saturated life.” – “They Say” (1:35 mark)
This one is wild. I’ve never been able to figure out Common. He’ll hit you with the deepest rap lyrics you’ve ever heard, and then go star in a Rom-Com. Who knows, but I do know this is a Grade-A Certified Mr. Krabs Meme-Level line. According to Colin Lindell of Radix, this is what the black pill means:
The Black Pill is the least dialectical of the three. It leads from actual inferiority back to actual inferiority. It is nihilism, but nihilism made flesh calls forth absolute egoism, a sense of the self detached from wider contexts and responsibilities—it is this that makes it evil and murderous.
The inferior person can either accept context and therefore inferiority, or fight it. The Blue Piller rejects his future inferiority by retreating backwards into illusion. The Red Piller rejects his present lack of superiority by marching forward through positive consciousness and action to redress the situation. The Black Piller, however, chooses neither the palliatives of illusion nor the challenge of positive action. He stares into the abyss—passively because his actions will never be capable of changing it—and, as Nietzsche so pertinently observed, the abyss stares back.
That explanation just confuses me even more than Common does, but I think I get it. The fact that Common also says “the saturated life” makes me think that he sees the world as a glass spilling over the top, with too much going on. But, he knows he has to make money somehow, just not on a Drake level. The black pill philosophy is explained more simply in this excerpt from an Amerika.org article (p.s. not saying I support that website, just think they explained this concept perfectly, much easier to understand than the explanation above).
The black pill provides a gateway into an entirely different way of seeing the world. Where most people live in a purely social world, where they assume the goodwill of others, black pilled people see a natural struggle every bit as violent and constant as that experienced by a common mouse. Predators surround us and parasites infest us unless we actively and aggressively remove them without mercy.
In the black pill world, government is nothing more than a parasite. Salesmen are predators, hoping to convince you to pay high prices for something that is easy for them to acquire. Police and taxmen are parasites as well, looking for some way to justify taking money and time from you. Most people are parasites and predators alike who want to use you as a means toward their own aggrandizement. In addition, all but a few people — one in a hundred, maybe — are delusional to the edge of clinical insanity.
Jay-Z – “She get a glimpse of Shawn and she likes that. He 2-ways here, so she writes back, smiley faces after all of her phrases. Either she the one or I’m caught in “The Matrix.” But fuck it, let the Fish-burne. Red or green pill, you live and you learn, c’mon.” (2:34 mark)
First of all, holy shit, that Laurence Fishburne line was insane. Second of all, I think HOV messed up by mentioning a “green pill” because I’ve never heard that and barely anything on the Internet about it exists.
But, back to what matters. Here, Jay-Z is saying that he thinks this chick might actually like him for himself, and not for his cash and the things he can provide her in “The Matrix” aka life in the spotlight. He then goes on to say there’s really no way to know until he tries, and says if he’s wrong, he’ll just learn from it and keep being the GOAT.
*editor’s note: there are a lot more, but for my sanity and yours, this next one will be the last on this blog. It’s a doozy though, and it warrants the pasting of an entire verse*
Kendrick Lamar – His entire verse on “Holy Key” (2:20 video mark)
Everything I touch may disintegrate into dust (uh huh)
Everything I trust may dishonor me in disgust (come on)
Everything is everything, affidavits and wedding rings
Out for blood on my higher horse, I report what it was
I don’t wear crosses no more, Yeshua’s coming back
I ain’t scared of losses no more, I see life in that
I don’t resonate with the concept of love and hate
Cause your perspective is less effective and rather fake
The universe and the heavens work in my DNA
Kendrick said “Fuck Mother Earth,” that’s PSA
The land of the wicked, the foundation of Lucifer’s spirit
Walking zombies and spellcatchers, I pray for forgiveness
Uncle Bobby and Paul June is lost again
The underworld and the fourth dimension, my family’s in
The big money, the fast cars, my life produced
The blocks I connected while re-building this Rubix cube
So what you look up to?
Fame and fortune, bitches, Porsches, sources with designer thing
Brand endorsement joining forces with sorcerers signing me
Law enforcement their forces, tortures us with violent speed
Fuck your boss’s employment my joy is to see all you bleed
Who knew Royce’s with choices of color my desire need
Crab and Oyster with gorgeous abortions, I require thee
Flesh and poison the point is the reason, you won’t die in peace
Open door for my boy, now they eating, we say, finally
I destroy and divorce what you eating, don’t you hire me
Tape recording my voices and tweak it, let’s play hide and seek
War distortion and forfeit this evening, you should try at least
I’m restoring the portrait of feasting, nigga, I am beast
I don’t like to sleep, I’m up like coyote, I might OD
Hair like ODB, I’m off a higher need
Khaled is valid, I been looking for inspiration
But when you the only king, you the only one in The Matrix
But seriously, damn dude. I can’t explain this any better than the folks over at RapGenius did. Here’s what they said:
One of Kendrick’s nicknames is “King Kendrick.” Kendrick sees himself as not only the only king of Compton, but also the king of rap.
Kendrick links this with the famous 1999 movie, The Matrix. In The Matrix, the protagonist, Neo, is seen as the “holy” or “chosen” one. Kendrick, however, depicts himself as “the only one” instead of “the chosen one.”
Kendrick chooses to depict himself as “the only one” because with great knowledge and intelligence comes loneliness and lack of connection with others. He puts himself in the matrix (a fabricated world created by robots in the movie) and takes his differences to an extreme — his differences are so profound that it feels like he is in his own made-up world. This could be applied to both his rap skills and his personal life, as a intellectual and a survivor of Compton.
Boom. Kendrick is on such a higher level that he transcends the traditional idea of “The Matrix” and has created his own reality without necessarily choosing to do so. His verses lately have been absolutely, 100% raw savagery. Those are the words of a man who is no longer scared of death, or anything to be honest. He’s the hardest “mainstream” rapper out right now and he garners the most respect from me.
In summation, “Matrix” references are perfect for rap because the rap industry basically is “The Matrix,” and good rappers realize it as soon as they start dealing with labels. Somehow Drake has been able to hop in and out of it, but something tells me that won’t last much longer.