“We used to beefing over turf, f*ck beefing over a verse / N*ggas dying, motherf*ck a double entendre.” Kendrick Lamar, The Heart Part 2
Within the current atmosphere of hip-hop, there are only a handful of artists that consistently utilize and properly execute the usage of a well-executed double entendre. Primarily, double entendres are word combinations or phrases that often elicit particular meanings and interpretations. The phrases themselves are clever in the sense that they carry multiple connotations and play on the word usage. The magnificence of these ambiguous expressions reflects the dual nature of an artist’s entire being. Every artist exists within multiple realms of influence and certain artists ensure their duality by creating perplex expressions and anomalies that intrigue and stimulate the listener’s auditory receptors.
A particular literary musical device that compliments the double entendre very well tonal perception. The concept of tonal perception gives the listener different ways to hear a word, thus generating interpretative possibilities. Therefore, one person may hear one word and another person may hear something different, which is the brilliance of the entire ploy.
There are key elements involved in building a foolproof double entendre. From the jump, it is important for the artist to establish a strong ethos. Obviously, without credibility and reputation, it is difficult to land a valuable entendre that will hold weight for years. Certainly, background knowledge and social awareness factor into the scenario as well.
The initial step to forming a double entendre stems from the conscious rapport an artist builds with his or her audience. Once the groundwork has been laid and there has been an exchange of mutual insight, the artist can begin to inflict damage via well-calculated entendre delivery. The usage of words and phrases is only the prerequisite to building a timless entendre. In order to truly craft an ideal entendre, these semblances must be blended together and delivered at the most opportune moment in the song. Where or when the entendre receives its highest impact to deliver an auditory climax is entirely up to the discretion of the author in this case, the wordsmith.
A simple search for the art of the entendre research will lead you directly into the archival material of Jay-Z. Undoubtedly, every one of his fourteen albums have utilized literary references and common expressions in a carefully calculated and deliberate manner. His most recent collection, “4:44” destroys any doubters and contains brutal honesty and shares bare bones vulnerability regarding finances and personal situations he has dealt with. Jay managed to incorporate a few double entendres on the album as well.
“Caught Their Eye”’ is a smooth number that features Frank Ocean and deals with overall awareness of one’s surroundings. During a time where our country is experiencing turmoil and our leaders’ vision is unclear, Jay-Z has never sounded more clear cut and significant.
“I’m surprised y’all think you can disguise y’all truths. I seen eyes wide as they’re about to shoot. You can be a hairpin off and you can trigger your Roots.”
The initial line demonstrates extensive knowledge of body language and a reluctance to accept our current reality. The double entendre formulates effortlessly within the second line as it pertains to the relevance of the line that came before it. The leader of The Roots, Questlove often held his afro in place with a hairpin. Jay-Z fiddles with the word “hairpin” in its literal and contextual sense. By assigning multiple literal and contextual connotations to the words “hairpin” and “trigger,” Jay-Z effectively imparts a double entendre.
The basis of a double entendre thrives upon the subliminal and the subconscious.
The double entendre itself carries more than one purpose and objective. Some artists prefer the use of the double entendre to create mystique and to baffle their audience. For a handful of listeners, double entendres tend to soar past levels of comprehension. The double entendre provides an entirely different outcome for those that can grasp the complete meaning and avoid resulting confusion. For a hip-hop connoisseur, the double entendre casts a surrounding aura of swirling mastery upon the artist which leads the audience to appreciate the prophetic and cunning nature of the art. For the artist, the double entendre personifies proficient brilliance and demonstrates exquisite expertise.
Here are some notable double entendres:
“Firstly it’s the double entendre monster, taking haunted Constant, twisting your conscious, so be cautious.” Joey Bada$$, Ring the Alarm
“You think he wanted the masters with his masters?” Jay-Z, Caught Their Eyes
“I only make classics now what that take? Timing Cole under pressure now what that make? Diamonds” J Cole, Return of simba
“i jack. i rob. i sin. Aw, man—I’m Jackie Robinson.
‘Cept when I run base, I dodge the pen” Jay-Z, Brooklyn (Go hard)
Double entendre thrives upon the subliminal and the subconscious. A double entendre contains underlying meanings beneath the surface that often evoke a desire to repeat the song. A double entendre occurs below the threshold of perception, which means the listener may not be acutely aware of the line’s dual motives upon first listen. This, of course, depends on the technique and delivery method involved during the listening experience. It is unfair to make assumptions based on listening preferences, as it is certain that each individual adheres to their own set of listening protocols and standards. The double entendre also depends upon listener IQ, wisdom, lyrical comprehension and the overall intention imparted by the artist.