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It all stays the same like the love doctor, Strange

Poster for Stanley Kubrik's 1964 classic Dr. Strangelove. A cartoon shows the bacsks of two men's heads, on the phone to each other. The full title of the film is written in-between them: 'Dr Strangelove or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb'

Image: Tomi Ungerer (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

  • Track: How Many Mics
  • Artist: Fugees
  • Album: The Score
  • Year: 1996

Aaah, the 1990s. Global Hypercolor, Magic Eye and Saved by the Bell. I’m getting all dewy-eyed just thinking about it.

Along with plenty of other mainstream hip-hop acts, The Fugees always seemed to be there in the 90s. 1996’s The Score was hugely popular, and with good reason – it’s an absolute must have. Think about how often you’ve heard the three singles from the album (Killing Me Softly, Fu-Gee-La, and Ready or Not). They’re part of the soundtrack for the entire decade.

Do you know what else links these tracks? The sheer quality of Lauryn’s Hill’s rapping. That’s not to put Wyclef Jean and Pras down at all. It’s just that Hill is a maestro. So it’s fitting she’s the first female rapper to enter the database. It helps that she’s fond of the odd simile.

But it’s How Many Mics that we’re going to pull apart simile by simile. It’s my favourite song on the album, not least for the chorus. It’s a bit weird (in a good way) and fun to sing along to.

Speaking of the chorus, whoever transcribed this for Genius got lazy, or didn’t notice that it changes subtly throughout. So, random Genius contributor, thanks for making me try to count how many times they say ‘minnie’, ‘money’ or ‘many’. You’ll have to excuse me if the final word count is a bit out.

I have only one criticism of this track – that they never bother answering the flipping question. ‘Many, minnie, money’ is not a satisfactory answer. 

Queue it up, and let’s take a closer look.

The lyrics

View full annotated lyrics on genius.com

Intro [Wyclef Jean]

Pick up your microphones… Ha, ha
Pick up your microphones
Yo!

I’m not entirely sure what’s tickled Mr Jean’s funny bone there. But I’m definitely ready to pick up some microphones. But how many?

How many mics do we rip on the daily?
Say, me say many money, say me say many many many
How many mics do we rip on the daily?
Many money say me say many many many

So to clarify then, how many microphones should I pick up exactly? And while I’m at it, shouldn’t there be a question mark in the song title?

Luckily Lauryn’s about to come in and blast my question mark funk out of the way with some quality similes. It always sounds to me like Lauryn Hill is having a lot of fun when she’s rhyming. I swear in parts of this verse you can almost hear the smile on her face.

[Lauryn Hill]

I get mad frustrated when I rhyme
Thinkin’ of all them kids that try to do this for all the wrong reasons
Seasons change, mad things rearrange
But it all stays the same like the love doctor, Strange

One Genius contributor reckons this is a quote from the eponymous character in Kubrick’s 1964 classic: ‘human nature doesn’t change, it doesn’t matter what weapons we do or don’t use’. But a quick search of the script seems to refute this. Weird. Not sure why someone would make that up, and I’m too lazy to watch the film to check.

But I’m not too lazy to skim read half of this article by some clever philosophy types. (I call this approach to research ’embracing the that’ll do’). I think the point is: humans are fundamentally irresponsible, this will never change and we’ll definitely all die by nuclear holocaust.

I’m tame like the rapper
Get red like a snapper when they do that
Got your whole block saying “True dat”
If only they knew that it was you who was irregular
Sold your soul for some secular muzak that’s wack

Tame One is a hip-hop artist from the same part of New Jersey as Lauryn Hill. And red snapper’s a fish, obviously, that’s eaten a lot in the Caribbean.

I’m starting to think I need a special name for these types of similes, where one part of the thing being compared with forms part of the comparee (umm, yeah, I know). There are already a few examples in the database:

In the absence of anything better or funnier, I’m going to call them ‘switcheroos’ for now.

Plus you use that, loop over and over
Claiming that you got a new style
Your attempts are futile, ooh child
You puerile, brain waves are sterile
You can’t create, you just wait to take, my tapes (bing!)
Laced with malice, hands get calloused
From gripping microphones from here to Dallas

How many microphones exactly have you gripped, Lauryn? Asking for a friend.

Go ask Alice if you don’t believe me
I get Innervisions like Stevie
See me, ascend from the chalice like the weed be
Indeed we like Khalid Muhammad

Excellent similage once again, with three crammed in over four lines.

The reference to Khalid Muhammad is a bit odd. As one person on Genius questions, let’s hope she’s not tacitly agreeing with his notorious 1993 speech condemning Jews, the Pope and white South Africans.

Chalice is a Jamaican term for bong by the way. I hope that’s lightened the mood.

MCs make me vomit; I get controversial
Freak your style with no rehearsal
Au contraire mon frère, don’t you even go there
Me without a mic is like a beat without a snare

Pure poetry. Listening to these lines brings me such pleasure. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the snare drop out of the beat at just the right time.

Picture me doing the Italian chef finger kissing thing. Because that’s what I’m doing right now.

I dare to tear into your ego, we go
Way back like some ganja and pelequo
Or Coleco-Vision
, my rhymes make incisions in your anatomy
And I’ll back this with Deuteronomy
Or Leviticus, God made this word, you can’t get with this
Sweet like licorice, dangerous like syphilis, yeah

By this point, Lauren is sprinkling similes around like hundreds and thousands. There are four here alone, bringing her total for this single verse to a humongous 11. That’s a rate of one simile every 22.54 words, stats fans. If the song ended here it’d be right up there with the best of them.

For the uninitiated, palequo is slang for cocaine and Coleco-Vision was a 1982 home video game system.

With references as wide-ranging and intelligent as this, I’m beginning to wonder just how miseducated Lauryn Hill really is.

Now it’s back to the chorus to refuse to answer a perfectly simple question.

[Chorus]

How many mics do we rip on the daily?
Many money, say, me say many many many
How many mics do I rip on the daily?
Many money say me say many many many
How many mics do you rip on the daily?
Many money, say, me say many many many
How many mics do we rip on the daily?
Many money, say, me say many many many

Can Wyclef Jean keep up Lauryn Hill’s impressive simile rate? Don’t get your hopes up.

[Wyclef Jean]

I used to be underrated, now I take iron
Makes my shit constipated, I’m more concentrated
So on my day off, with David Sonnenberg I play golf
Run through Crown Heights screaming out, “Mazel tov!”
Problem with no man; before black, I’m first human
Appetite to write like Frederick Douglass with a slave hand (Bing!)

Frederick Douglass was a former slave who became a leader of the abolitionist movement. I can’t think of anything whimsical to say about that so let’s move on.

Street pressure, word to poppa, I ain’t goin’ under
One day I’ll have a label and make deals with Tommy Mottola
Momma always told me, “You’re one in a million”
Always watch your back, never tangle with Haitian Sicilians
Now I got a record deal, “How does it feel?”
I’m never gonna survive unless I get crazy like Seal

Wyclef’s prediction about bigshot record executive Tommy Mottola did apparently come true. And of course he’s referencing Seal’s 1991 classic in his second, and last, simile in this track.

To be fair, he finishes with some flair (just not enough similes for me).

‘Cause the whole world’s out of order
So at night the fiends dance on Grease with John Travolta
One got slaughtered as he coughed blood from his mouth
The other tried to duck and caught a left with my Guinness Stout
Brother, brother, can’t you get this through your head?
This is set up by the Feds, they’re scoping us with their Infra-reds

[Chorus]

How many mics do you rip on the daily?
Many money, say, me say many many many
How many mics do I rip on the daily?
Many money say me say many many many
How many mics do we rip on the daily?
Many money, say, me say many many many

Honestly. These folk could give Boris Johnson a run for his money in the ‘dodging the question’ stakes.

After Wyclef Jean’s minamalism similism, it’s over to Pras to finish us off, so to speak. Happily, he’s prepared to bring our overall count back up to respectable levels.

[Pras]

Too many MCs, not enough mics
Exit your show like I exit the turnpike
Dicin’ dynamite like Dolemite
Double deuce delight I don’t Dick Van Dyke
Star light to star bright the freaks come out at night
Like my man Wyclef (I wear my sunglasses at night)

I have to say, if you’d answered the question earlier, Pras, we’d have enough mics. You’ve only got yourselves to blame.

This is probably the least coherent set of lines in the song, but we can get there if we try hard enough.

The Genius transcription has it as ‘dolomite’ (as in the mineral/mountain range). But I’m pretty sure it’s a reference to cult 1975 blaxploitation classic Dolemite, which crops up in a few Snoop Dogg tunes as well.

So why does Wyclef wear his sunglasses at night? According to the cheesy 80s hit it’s a pastiche of, there are several reasons, none of which make any sense.

And my panache will mosh your entourage
Squash the squad and hide their bodies under my garage
And when the cops come lookin, I be bookin to Brooklyn
Leave the trails broken flippin’ tokens to Hoboken
A clean getaway like Alec Baldwin
Driving in my fast car playing Tracy Chapman

Pras’s mild incoherence now makes way for some more straightforward rhymes. I really like the opening couplet, and it’s a solid end to the verse. I’ve never seen Getaway, but I assume it’s terrible.

And all that remains is a final extended opportunity to answer the question on everybody’s lips. Don’t get your hopes up.

[Chorus]

How many mics do we rip on the daily?
Say, me say many money say me say many many many
How many mics do you rip on the daily?
Many money say me say many many many
How many mics do we rip on the daily?
Many money say me say many many many
How many mics do I rip on the daily?
Many money say me say many many many
Minnie minnie minnie money
Minnie minnie minnie money

Well, that clears that one up.

The stats

Similes:17
Words:760
Words per simile:44.71
Length:4m 28s
Similes per minute:3.81
Mics ripped on the daily:Unspecified

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