Tay Zonday: Original Gangsta

Jose Vilson

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.