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Overdue like a library book

A book floating in midair inside a library

Image: Jaredd Craig via Unsplash

  • Track: Red Light Green Light
  • Artist: Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf
  • Album: Big Shots
  • Year: 2003

It took NASA about three months to decide to send Apollo 8 to orbit the moon and get it done. I’ve not written a half-arsed analysis of a hip-hop track in an entire year. Who’s the winner here? Well, NASA, obviously, but there were loads of people doing that. This is just me, my hip-hop and my similes. 

If you’re feeling guilty about procrastination, my advice is not to Google ‘incredible feats achieved in under a year’. It won’t help. However finding out it took two years to build the Eiffel Tower cheered me up. Amateurs. 

Anyway I’m back, is what I’m saying. Like Jesus rising from the grave, sort of just in time for Easter. Time to get on with cataloguing every hip-hop simile ever. When I’m done, people will look at the Eiffel Tower and laugh at its insignificance. Also, I recently renewed my website hosting for another year, meaning ihhsdb.com lives on. I might as well use it.

This time out it’s the turn of Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf, an unlikely name for a hip-hop duo as you’re ever likely to meet. Charizma is on rapping duties, with his lupine friend (from hereon in called PBW for my fingers’ sake) producing. PBW supposedly took his name from the greatest fear of a girlfriend’s little brother. It’s certainly…memorable.

Sadly, the duo only lasted for three years before the tragic murder of Charizma in 1993. The album this track is from didn’t see the light of day for 20 years, when PBW put it out on his label, Stones Throw. That’s right, the Stones Throw. So if it sounds retro for 2003, that’s because it is.

The track takes its name from a children’s game (think Squid Game’s terrifying giant doll face thing). When I was a lad, the rural Northamptonshire version of this was What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? What’s the time, Mr. Peanut Butter Wolf? It’s simile time.

The lyrics

View full annotated lyrics on genius.com

[Intro]

Green light
Tic-tac-toe, yo, ah here we go
Red means stop and green light means go
Common sense dropped cause I truly love the hip-hop
I even like to beatbox
In the mornin I’m usually yawnin’
Then I’m kickin’ crazy rhymes until the break of dawn and
‘Cause I know and you know a gun goes bo
But you didn’t know I’m funky like a project ho
Ah yeah to the honeys, slide the number
‘Cause when it comes to skins I lay my pipe like a plumber
So watch out ‘cause I’m the type of crazy man
First I slam bringin’ the –
Red light

You probably don’t need me to point out that Charizma and PBW are playing a little game of red light green light within the track. It’s good of Charizma to explain the rules. 

The track’s first couple of similes are a little unsavoury. Sorry about that, but I guess it’s all part of hip-hop’s rich lexicon. I’m not sure what ‘skins’ means in this context, but that pipe reference certainly isn’t a nod to Mario.

The opening verse sets the scene, simile (and therefore lyrics) wise. This isn’t sophisticated stuff, in other words. 

Green light
Came to catch wreck like a hit and run, run, son
Stay off my diznick, I pack rhymes like guns

Thanks to my database which definitely isn’t just a spreadsheet, I can tell you that ‘catch wreck’ features in another hip-hop simile. Dizzy Dustin’ (of Ugly Duckling) likened it to a train crash rather than a car accident. As I’ve known since August 2020 (when I wrote that other post), ‘catch wreck’ means to get respect.

This second simile is only our seventh one about guns out of almost 600. Rap has a reputation for violence which isn’t fair, thanks to the explosion of (mostly tedious) gangsta rap in the ’90s. This one feels kind of thrown in, a bit half-hearted, like Charizma just thinks he should at least try. As we shall see, this is fitting for the track in general.

Music with rhymes, you know I get the scoop
So calm down troop, I kick rhymes like Timberland boots

It’s taken 580 similes, but I now have one about Timberlands, a hip-hop staple, logged in the database. Woo. We last (briefly) met Timberlands almost five years ago, but not in a simile. So I’m naturally delighted about this one.

With no person who stole a crazy verse and
Bo! Bo! Bo! flash a rhyme with no rehearsin’
With the East Coast stylee, live in the West buckwhiley
Drinkin’ apple juice with the
Red light

It’s all a bit…word salad, isn’t it? But it’s pleasant enough stuff I suppose. I spent a while trying to work out the ‘west buckwhiley’ thing. Charizma is from Milpitas in California, which doesn’t help. It might be a transcription error, or something too obscure for Google. I give up.

There’s not a great deal in Charizma’s lyrics which deserves much analysis (I use this term loosely). But I suppose apple juice does invoke the school playground, appropriate for a song named after a children’s game.

Green light
Hold this moment – yes
All this stuff is really fresh
Attention to
Centre stage I flip on the page
Props grow like the afros on the Bar-Kays

More gibberish, but at least we land on a nice simile here. It’s by far the most inventive on the track. The Bar-Kays are a funk band that hit it big in the ‘60s (you’ll know Soul Finger). They’re still going, and Wikipedia lists more former members than there are stars in the known universe. What it doesn’t tell us is how they got their name, which is the only reason I looked them up.

Start my own words, make it original
Satiable, yeah, always willin’ to get lyrical
So end your stalkin’ that’s just Charizma’s talkin’
I don’t play football, so yo stop chalkin’
Unless you’re a skin with good, good looks
That’s overdue like a library book

Ah. I think I know what ‘skin’ means now. I dread to imagine what Charizma thinks this person is overdue. Probably best we move on. Batten down the hatches people, because Charizma’s about to take gobbledygook to the next level.

Mariah may sing dag-a-diggy-dope, dope
Cause I can’t hit the high note
For that matter I get into my pen
Have a bubble bath and then let the dopeness begin
So bump, bump the loop in your mob car, no we don’t roll Jeeps
We roll the mob cause on the west side of the street
And let your cat feel heat –
Red light

If I were PBW I’d have called red light a little earlier in that verse, frankly.

Every now and again, I’ll find a track with a decent number of similes and decide to put them in the database. Then, halfway through writing it up, I’ll realise I’ve made a mistake. This is one such track. The lyrics aren’t particularly good, and the similes aren’t particularly interesting. But if I’m to succeed in cataloguing every hip-hop simile ever, there will be the odd dud. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still like the track. It’s funky and fun, but it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

Green light
Back on the track, yo, I’m hungry for the groove
Troy singing smooth I’m in the house like a boob tube

As I say, not all hip-hop tracks can be simile masterclasses. But there I do have a soft spot for simple but effective similes, and this is one. I like it. It also led me to look up the origin of referring to a TV as ‘boob tube’. Spoiler alert: it’s not ‘slang for watching women with big boobs on tv [sic]’, no matter what TROY5719 (he would be called Troy) reckons.

Turn it on, dance y’all, not quite five thousand
First I gotta give my brothers pounds and
Blows, don’t you know you see I grow like Jack the beanstalk
Take my honey to the park and swing after dark

Even an entire track about nursery rhymes didn’t touch on this particular Jack. But we have already seen similes involving Jack Be Nimble, and Jack of falling down a hill fame. If anyone knows a hip-hop track with a simile that references Jack Horner or Sprat do let me know. I realise this is a big ask.

I do have to address the elephant in the room though: Jack isn’t the beanstalk is he? It’s as if Charizma’s never read it. I can tolerate a lot in my beloved similes. But like a bridge-dwelling hungry troll, factual inaccuracies really get my goat.

So follow me now because I didn’t come to talk sh-
Neither full of sh-, I came to rip sh- and wreck sh-
I’m a crazy man that rocks the dope jams
I start to slam like Captain Caveman

It’s odd that after all that talk of skins, Charizma is suddenly too prudish to say ‘shit’. I thought I remembered Captain Caveman from ’80s after-school cartoons, but I don’t recognise these Teen Angels people. Maybe I’m confusing him with the Slag Brothers (yes, really) from Wacky Races.

12 months of the year I’m just flashin’
On the pedal mashin’ ready to bash in
This microphone, so welcome home
Tell, show, show and tell, this is what I’ve shown –
Red light

Red light

Charizma spends 12 months of the year flashing. And as I spend the same amount of time procrastinating, who knows when I’ll next get around to cataloguing some hip-hop similes? Hopefully it won’t be another year-long wait. If this post were a library book I’d have a hefty fine to pay. 

Anyway, this track has a nice round ten similes. This won’t break any records, but it does have a similes per minute score that’s firmly mid-table. In other words, it’s a pretty average performance, which given the track’s lyrics, feels quite fitting.

The stats

Similes:10
Words:459
Words per simile:45.90
Length:2m40s
Similes per minute:3.75
Expected years before next post:Less than one, with a bit of luck

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