@Escofrass just released “Up Like Trump” last night (January 20, 2017) and I need to be very clear when I say that I do not rate this song.
While the rest of the forward-thinking world was mourning the inauguration of Donald Trump, Jamaican dancehall artist Esco Frass Don Dada was timing the release of his 2017 ride on Rae Sremmurd’s 2014 trap tune “Up Like Trump.” Please forgive me for posting as this song needs a parental advisory and a warning to all feminist and progressive members of humanity.
Esco Frass’ song was teased on Twitter on Thursday and posted last night. It begs our attention not because of its lyrical genius or societal upliftment (it lacks both). What it does is highlight the dangerous ripple effects that Trump’s presidency has put into action outside of the United States. As a woman living in the Caribbean, more specifically, a woman living in Kingston, Jamaica, I am a part of a culture that can, on the one hand, elect a woman to the highest government position; but, on the other hand, still suffer from such a crippling fear of emasculation that violent sexual aggression remains a common, arguably, acceptable course for subjugating women.
Hearing Donald Trump’s hot mic recording loop over and over again throughout this “Don Dada’s” (read: ladies’ man) tune is a sign of just how tragically pervasive the disregard for women’s bodies is globally. I watched the video and was immediately transported back to early October when the “Access Hollywood” story first broke the internet but, notably, did not break Trump’s campaign. In Esco Frass’ defense, (insert me shuddering as I write that phrase) the release of that 2005 recording did not stop Trump from getting elected, so why should it stop a dancehall artist from capitalizing on a now “popular” Trump phrase? The tragedy is that Jamaica seemed poised to adopt the phrase. This is Jamaica, land I love, land that birthed me, and land of daggering. Jamaican popular culture, particularly Jamaica’s musical heritage, has anchored my existence yet I find this song to be particularly dangerous. As I blogged last year with regard to Chaka Demus and Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote,” while our bodies may respond to the vibes, we must stop and consider what the lyrics are saying.
It was only twelve years ago that the very newly minted president of the United States of America was caught boastfully saying: “And when you’re a star [women] let you do it. You can do anything…Grab them by the p*ssy… Some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her… I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait…” Trump’s now infamous but not un-electable message of “Grab them by the p*ssy” are carefully translated by Esco Frass into Jamaican language when he says: “Up like Trump/ Dem gyal a get f*ck/ […] Me no talk, just reach, and feel fi di clump.” The song even references the seedy details of the hot mic transcript when Frass says that he “buy yuh furniture/ buy yuh house/ mi pop off yuh skirt/ den pop off yuh blouse.” Wearing a red tie like the one that Trump donned during the pomp and circumstance of yesterday, Esco Frass also put on white-face, a pout, and a terrible blonde wig to perform Trump-ed up levels of misogyny as he layered the now POTUS’s hot mic words with his own all while riding on a trap track that was versed by a rap clique that values “money, hos, and clothes,” to quote the late Brooklyn philosopher, Notorious B.I.G.
What does it signal when on Inauguration Day a practitioner of dancehall (which is already a misogynistic musical genre) releases a video tune that directly samples Trump’s brand of sexual assault? In my estimation, Esco Frass Don Dada’s choices signal the importance of how Trump’s language of inflammatory rhetoric is going to problematize and endanger all manners of communication and relationships from both the personal to the international level. Specifically, this exposes just how Trump’s very public sexualization of women is being read outside of the U.S. This emphasizes the importance of the end-of-2016 hashtag and movement that gave hundreds of violated Caribbean women the courage to publicly voice their truths about sexual assault. Thank you #lifeinleggings. To some degree, “Up Like Trump” demystifies why there were 10,000 cases of child abuse reported to authorities in Jamaica in 2013 (the majority of those cases were about girls and their trafficking). This video-song may also shed light on why in my island nation of Jamaica there were more than 20 women killed by their domestic partners last year.
Just yesterday I was re-reading Jamaican writer Michelle Cliff’s 1982 essay “If I Could Write This In Fire, I Would Write This in Fire.” The recently and dearly departed Cliff wrote about the destructive rage of having to remain silent about one’s life’s truths. (Thank you again #lifeinleggings.) In one of the sections of the essay she discussed Jamaica of the 1970s, the Michael Manley years. Cliff noted that by 1980 such a significant segment of Jamaica’s educated population had migrated to the US and Canada that the nation had to rally a new campaign to bring in any tourist dollars that it could. “Make it Jamaica again” was the campaign and YouTube makes viewing it possible.
How eerie it is to see that commercial today. Just what “Jamaica” is the commercial asking for as it sings out “Come back to Jamaica/ … What’s old is what’s new.” As the one minute message concludes, a scarved woman dances with vested black men in what looks to be a great house. She wears not the festive bandana plaid that is our national fabric, but rather a type of colonial costume as she looks directly into the camera and says: “come back to the way things used to be.” To when exactly is she referring and what is meant by “the way things used to be”? During this 1982 campaign did Jamaica seek to make itself the “Jamaica” of its colonial past? The questions that this commercial raises are very similar to the questions that Trump’s slogans have raised in the States.
Esco Frass should not be categorized as parodying Trump. He seems to be performing, yes; but, the misogynist intersections are too problematic to be regarded as carrying a humorous intent. Honestly, we lovers of dancehall artistry should find it disconcerting just how at-home Trump’s “p*ssy” grabbing words are on this grimy song.
Rappers and dancehall deejays have too much creative talent to be sampling Trump in these ways. Sampling Trump’s rhetoric of misogyny is not what Jamaican men and women need. With this new and unruly leader at the helm, perhaps now is the time for Jamaica to abandon looking to the United States as a model of how to be in this world. _____ist words are never worth sampling. For the sake of our girls and women in Jamaica and all over the world, better must come.