vs “Dumb It Down”, Lupe Fiasco featuring GemStones & Graham Burris (Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, 2007)
‘Dr. Heinrich von Stein once complained very honestly that he didn’t understand a word of my Zarathustra…’ (Ecce Homo, ‘Why I Write Such Good Books’, I)
Or, as Gemini (aka GemStones) tells Lupe Fiasco in the first hook of ‘Dumb It Down’: ‘You goin' over niggas' heads Lu (Dumb it down) / They tellin' me that they don't feel you (Dumb it down) / We ain't graduate from school nigga (Dumb it down) / Them big words ain't cool nigga (Dumb it down) / Yeah I heard "Mean And Vicious" nigga (Dumb it down) / Make a song for the bitches nigga (Dumb it down) / We don't care about the weather nigga (Dumb it down) / You'll sell more records if you (Dumb it down)’.
‘Dumb It Down’ – severe electronica delivering a catchy tune, intricate wordplay and laced with laughs – both exemplifies and explicitly reflects upon Fiasco’s method. The verses are composed in a complex aphoristic style: ‘I'm fearless / Now hear this / I'm earless / And I'm peerless / That means I'm eyeless / Which means I'm tearless / Which means my iris resides where my ears is / Which means I'm blinded’. And the hooks – given by Gemini playing a fellow rapper and Graham Burris playing a record company exec – critique Fiasco’s method. As Burris, in cheesy cracker-corporate voice puts it (without, of course, the ‘nigga’ refrain): ‘You've been shedding too much light Lu (Dumb it down) / … / I'll tell you what you should do (Dumb it down)’.
What these characters do not get is that ‘Aphorisms are summits’. In Chapter 7 Nietzsche allows Zarathustra to reflect upon the method of his philosophizing and the style of his teaching. The aphoristic style – condensed sorties on a particular subject; each like a diamond cut with multiple facia, surfaces arranged to echo and resonate with each other on each of their aspects – is elusive, illusive and allusive. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, subtitled A Book for Everyone and Nobody, ensures it is ‘not easy to understand’, Nietzsche declaring ‘I hate those readers who are idlers’. If you think you can simply dwell on a moment of the text as giving you the answer to some philosophical question – then beware and be aware – this could just be a moment of a trajectory, a moment in a long game, one side of a paradox. And either way, Zarathustra is no prophet with answers, but a poet with questions. ‘Whoever writes in aphorisms… does not want to be read’. Rather, the text requires some time living in its atmosphere, thought, reflection, it must ‘be learned by heart’.
Yet while writing in blood is difficult, it is not without laughter; Zarathustra’s war is Fiasco’s war: ‘Not with wrath but with laughter does one kill’. Gemini tells Fiasco in the final hook: ‘You putting me to sleep nigga (Dumb it down) / That's why you ain't popping in the streets nigga (Dumb it down) / You ain't winning no awards nigga (Dumb it down) / Shit ain't rocking over here B (Dumb it down) / Won't you talk about your cars nigga? (Dumb it down) /… / Pour champagne on a bitch (Dumb it down) / What the fuck is wrong with you? (Dumb it down)’.
Lupe: ‘I flatly refuse, I ain't dumb down nothing’. Or, as Nietzsche replies to von Stein, ‘I told him that was perfectly in order’ (Ecce Homo, ‘Why I Write Such Good Books’, I).
First Part: Chapter 7 - The Cure