During the inaugural week of Top 40 Philosophy, we philosophized about the top 3 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100. Next up was Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High),” and I didn’t want to do two depressing songs in a row. So, we’re starting this week by jumping over to the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, where we find Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot *****” (radio edit title: “Hot Boy”) — which is currently also at #6 on the Hot 100 chart.
The video for the song is tame compared to Maroon 5’s “Animals” (though perhaps not tame compared to the “Animals” lyric video). The lyrics, however, are NSFW.
What you just witnessed was a bunch of friends helping one of their friends make a video for his song about how cool he and his friends are. Mr. Shmurda spends the first stanza listing his friends and their accomplishments. He does plenty of talking about himself, but the song is a celebration of his entire friend group, their common identity, and their common power.
Just like Ms. Swift’s “Shake It Off,” there is nothing original about the lyrics; the song belongs squarely within a rather overdone genre (in this case, the “Me and My Crew Are Awesome” genre). What makes it popular, then, is:
- Its “beat” — the musical track over which Mr. Shmurda is rapping — which was created by Jahlil Beats. (This is standard in contemporary hip-hop. The “songwriter” is the person who wrote the lyrics, and is usually the rapper her- or himself. The “producer” is the person who created the music.)
- The obvious camaraderie and fun seen in the video. (Witness everyone who has copied the “Shmoney Dance.” The song revels in community and has created and/or helped to sustain an even wider community.)
What we have to ask is:
- What is the heart of the friendship/community the song celebrates?
- What other “hearts” are available?
- Which would be best?
The answers, it seems to me, are as follows (respectively):
- Physical power (and violence against outsiders).
- Mental power. Food preferences. Painting. Charity work. Political power. Poetry. Inventing new technologies. Etc.
- The ones that promote the virtues and the Transcendentals.
Judging from the amount of space Aristotle devotes to it, friendship (philia: the kind of love one has for friends) is the most important moral virtue. And even after all this time, it’s still worth thinking about what makes friendship good, and why it’s worth pursuing.