Tay Zonday: Original Gangsta - The Jose Vilson

Tay Zonday: Original Gangsta

August 23, 2007


On April 22nd, 2007, Tay Zonday releases “Chocolate Rain” to the Internet world. 3 months later, the YouTube showing is the most popular viral video in the world, garnering thousands of spoofs, but also tons of mentions from Best Week Ever to Wall Street Journal. He’s even performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Music critics worldwide have actually reviewed his single, something even more “serious” artists can’t do.

Which is not to say he doesn’t take himself seriously. If any of you visit his official website, tayzonday.com, you can see this guy is honest about the songs he’s been making. It’s not enough for him to conquer the world with his erratic baritone and equally addictive choruses. He’s also getting his Ph.D in American Studies (under his real name, Adam Bahner, of course) and he looks ready to assume the crown of R&B.

The rest of us aren’t that ambitious about his future. Some (meaning me) have referred to him as the Black William Hung; he was going to have to pull out some serious covers for me to be even mildly impressed with his artistry.

That is, until I read the lyrics to “Chocolate Rain.” Now I’m a believer, and I’m copping that album. In his (honestly) unintelligible lyrics, we see a boy in need of a little attention. Yet, a closer look at the posted lyrics shows his in-depth understanding of the racial dynamics that exist today. The message is much stronger than the song itself, and he deserves an award for the most inconspicuous revolutionary song of all time, joining the likes of “Love Train” by The O’Jays and “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes. Yes, I said 4 Non Blondes.

The pace at which this song has transformed the musical landscape only goes to show that the people will eventually choose what they want to listen to. We won’t be forced into ditzy pop drug addicts and studio gangstas trying to be rappers. We won’t be swayed by bass driven dance hits and piano melodies by emo kids. We won’t be fed mindless drivel about sexual encounters with the same individual or ruminations from 17 year olds who look high on chocolate. No, we will not settle. Artists like Tay Zonday and Obama Girl are what we want to see: eccentric and realistic pop stars with a tangible message. Tay’s unassuming and boyish looks only serve to show the progress humans have made as far as letting those who aren’t aesthetically inclined to get their time to shine.

Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross are rolling in their graves right now … anticipating Tay Zonday’s next single. Tay, my brother, I salute you.

jose

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ross August 23, 2007 at 12:55 pm

I caught him on a talk program and I like the brother. He knows what time it is, and chocolate rain is a heavy song when you really listen to it.

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Bam August 23, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Dude is funny. I’m for real with my rebel, and if its funny, its funny – regardless of the message. The nigga leanin away from the mic like to damn killed me. Now I listened to the lyrics and I pretty much followed that he has a very good grasp on what is going on in the world and how screwed it is pertaining to race on a worldly level- but the delivery? OMG – I fall out when I see this. I can’t take the rebel in him seriously. Its like believing Kanye West was really about doing something when he said “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” It’s like people not saying Nigga because the NAACP buried the N word. Please. This is comedy. And I can’t degrade my own intellect by comparing him to Marvin Gaye or The O’Jays. Dude coulda maybe got me as a writer – but this. Straight comedic relief. As with any message – the delivery is what secures the success.

Later.

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Cookie-Monster August 23, 2007 at 11:45 pm

Wow. What started off as a meat-drunk conversation turned into a full-blown thesis on black nationalism. * slow claps *

Have you seen “Vanilla Snow” yet?

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lizzie5apple August 24, 2007 at 4:23 am

I was sceptical when I saw the clip at YouTube and rolled my eyes at all the hype, but changed my mind immediately after hearing the first few lines. It was his voice that caught my attention first; then that shot that showed him working the keyboard impressed me. I originally thought the fast-paced accompaniment was accelerated through a program in the keyboard, but the video showed that it was all him. The repetition of the theme reminds me of mantras tht one uses for meditation. Maybe this is why people say it’s hypnotic. :) It like your point that people don’t need all this complicated musical trends that are mostly just musicians just one-upping each other. People will appreciate sincerity and they won’t mind 4 minutes of a repeated theme.

Great post!

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courtney August 24, 2007 at 1:15 pm

I think I saw him on the same program as Ross. Very interesting…

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AngelaMichelle September 1, 2007 at 10:57 am

*giggle* and once i finally get past the irritation i feel at having to hear the song five million times in one day, as well as suffer through my children’s renditions of it, i’ll check out the lyrics.

i did manage to catch an interview he did a couple weeks ago and we impressed by the intention of the song’s message. kinda like the “read a book” song, eh?

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