The chorus to the song “Trill” by Clipse goes thusly: “Bitch, I’m trill. Bitch, I’m so trill. Nigga, I’m trill. Nigga, I’m so trill.”
According to the Urban Dictionary, “trill” is either true + real or some contraction of “truly ill”. Either way, the word has positive connotations. So, ostenibly in this context, do the words “bitch” and “nigga”, whose meanings and etymologies I think we’re all familiar with at this point.
I’m a white American woman. While I could probably cry reclamation with regard to the word “bitch”, I certainly can’t for “nigga”. As it stands, I use neither word. The word “bitch” specifically seems like a real linguistic trap. Either I use it as an insult and thereby insult 51% of the population including myself, or I use it as a term of endearment and end up suggesting that the negative stereotypes of women being bossy or nagging or manipulative are worthy of celebration.
All of that said, I really love the song “Trill”. I love a lot of songs whose lyrics are reprehensible — reprehensibly cheesy, reprehensibly misogynist, etc. — but this song really gets to me by weaving these culturally complicated words so casually into its irresistable refrain. And it makes me feel conflicted.
On the one hand, I’m flatly alienated by the cultural signifiers at work in “Trill”. Not only are its lyrically stated values almost exactly not my values, but this music isn’t even intented for me. My demography is like the spandrel formed through the negative space of everything that Clipse positively embodies. I’m pointedly, deservedly excluded from their party.
On the other hand, this song is tops. The musicality of the language is undeniable. Clipse masterfully wields a diverse palette of syllables against a dark, squirming canvas of beats and synths. While not at all “funky” in the sense of what funk has come represent stylistically, you can see where a word like “funk” came to be a positive signifier in the context of music. This song is musically disgusting in the best possible way.
A few years ago I would have dismissed the song out of hand for the “on the one hand” elements above, but I’m at this point now where I sort of relish the discomfort. I relish the complexity of my relationship to this song. It’s like a very complicatedly flavored wine or chocolate or salad. It’s not an easy, but is absolutely an enjoyable, listen.