So, you know how people who are casual fans of rap music might occasionally admit they don't actually listen to the lyrics, just the hooks? That they have no clue about — or interest in — what's actually being rapped about as long as the chorus and beat are hot? It's basically what Jay Z bitched about on "Renegade" ("do you listen to music or just skim through it?") and what every middle-aged NYC-centric rapper has bitched about at least once while talking to Sway.
Well, that's me when it comes to R&B. If I happen to know the lyrics to a R&B song, it's by accident; a result of the song's popularity and ubiquity, not me actually giving a damn about what's being said. I generally enjoy the sound of voices singing and shit, but I don't need to know what those voices are saying.
And by "R&B" I mean "R&B…and rap featuring Wale."
For whatever reason, when I listen to Wale, the part of me that usually says "Lemme see what he's talking about" says "Lemme not see what he's talking about." And it's not that he's a bad rapper. It's just that his Def Poetry Jam-ey way of spitting reminds me of, well, Def Poetry Jam. Specifically the poets who were clearly just reciting rap verses they wrote after watching Dancing in September. And that's usually when I'd zone out. Or go get a Pop Tart.
But "Matrimony" — his new, Usher-featuring, single — gets played roughly 17 times per hour on the radio here, which has forced me to actually listen to and learn the lyrics. At first glance, it feels like every other perfunctory rap/R&B collabo specifically created for radio play and an opportunity for a rapper to say "See…it's not all about bitches and bottle service. I have a soft side too." But after listening to it for the 27th time this week, something dawned on me: This song articulates every reason why Millennials generally suck at relationships. And since Wale is a Millennial, and talking about why you suck at relationships while making no real effort to change is some Millennial-ass shit, this might be the most Millennial-ass love song ever created.
The first sign that "Matrimony" is taking us on a fantastic Millennial voyage is with his third line.
"I'm in my late 20s, still never been to a wedding"
To most Black Millennials — the architects and engineers of "I'm not really ready for a relationship right now…but we can kick it, tho" culture — marriage is like yawning. No one does it unless they're tired. Or bored. Until they see someone else do it. And then they want to do it too.
As the verse continues, Wale manages to get even more Millennial, with some post-racial gobbledygook…
It’s not your fault they try get me cause I'mma need the sales
Cause I'm selfish, and I need you to myself
Tryna see you afloat, but don't wanna see you excel
Cause I failed and see you 'bout to cry
Cause when I enter they city they leave without they pride
…that roughly translates to "I know I'm the shit. And I know you know I'm the shit. And it hurts me that I'm too much of the shit to seriously commit to you right now. Like, it really, really hurts me. Because you're the shit too!" Which is the exact same text message every 21 to 35 year old reading this has either sent or received (or both) at least once in the last five years.
And, just in case you're not completely aware of exactly how much he's the shit, he doubles down.
I'm sorry, and you starin' at my comments
Fearin' it's gone always be you sharin' me with all them
Wrong, how dare I say ignore them?
Preparing for that day I leave you here and switch you for them
It's hard, you know temptation and all
Bitches out here tryna see if my relationship's strong
Get a place in the charts or runaway from your heart
Gave this music my all, nothing is sacred no more - I'm wrong
Let's count all the markers of Millennialassness found in this stretch.
Instagram reference? Check.
Instagram fans reference? Check.
The implication that every woman who likes a picture wants a dick in her mouth? Check.
Insecurity created by social media, and then fueled by the recognition of the insecurity created by social media? Check.
Another reminder of the countless options, even if said options aren't as attractive as the idea of having options? Check.
Passive-aggressively accusing someone of social media stalking? Check.
But then, he "comes back" — presenting a Millennial-ass olive branch of reconciliation…
But I'm promisin' you better though
And your friends sayin', "let him go"
And we ain't gettin' any younger
I can give up now, but I can promise you forever though
…which basically says "Trust me. Even though I've given you absolutely no reason to. Still, trust me."
The entire second verse is basically an expert exercise in Millennial passive-aggressive relationship bitchassness. It's only right he's from D.C., because this entire verse is some D.C.-ass shit.
First he starts off with an acknowledgement of how scared love makes him, which…
I’ll admit it, let me be hypothetic
The day I find a woman I prolly be scared to share it
The idea of me finding love, would run somebody off
…ok. There could be some truth to that. Love is scary and shit, and it takes a lot to admit that. But, when talking about how scary love and commitment is, you kinda lose some footing when you go right back to "But still. I know you love me and shit, but I was scared so I fucked a lot of bitches."
Now I'm up in the club with a couple of Move Ons
And dark, good nigga, troubled heart
Went from fallin' in love to drunk and fallin' apart
Which, again, is some Millennial-ass shit. Because even at his most "vulnerable" he can't resist the urge to remind her of his options.
And then, he pulls out the Big Joker.
Cause when we lost our baby, I got shady, shit got too dark
Soft, and I thank you baby, you strong
Losing a child is some real shit. Some serious-ass shit. Bringing up some serious-ass shit in a semi-serious but really silly conversation about bottle service bitches, Instagram, and endless options is some manipulative-ass shit. Some Millennial-ass shit. Some Diva Dude-ass shit.
And then, the song ends with more Millennialassness.
My ex before you married too, you solo, I say so long
Nah, good terms how that ended
But it surely put a dent on how I worry about this business
Off white picket fences, on flights with the children
On site stealin' kisses on off nights my intentions but
I plan to do it better though
But you still sayin' let it go
We ain't gettin' any younger
Women love me now
but in your eyes we forever though
Still cool with the ex…even though the current probably isn't the biggest fan of you being cool with the ex? Check.
Feeling a certain way that no trust is there, even though you haven't done anything to actually earn it? Check.
A subtle reference to gentrification? Check.
Another reminder of the Ole Country Buffet of bitches ready and waiting? Check.
The song fades out with Usher doing some Usher shit — at this point in his career, he's practically the Smirnoff Ice of singing hooks — and we're all left to wonder if this Millennial will ever find true love. Maybe he will; maybe he won't. Who knows?
Actually, you will. Because if he is a true Millennial, he'll eventually let everyone know about his relationship status through passive-aggressive Instagram captions consisting of emojis and awkward punctuation marks.