Joyner Lucas’s “I’m Not Racist” — a perfect musical example of the 45/45/10 Formula

The 45/45/10 Formula for narrative/argument is one of the perpetual bees bumbling around my bonnet.  This video for this song is such a stone cold perfect example (and, subsequently, so rhetorically devastating) that I just had to share.  PRO-TIP: The first two-and-a-half minutes will likely be almost unbearable to watch for most white Americans.  If it helps, know that Joyner Lucas (the musician and the voice you hear throughout the song) is black (although not the black guy in the video).

At any rate, to review my 45/45/10 Formula:

  • The first 45% of a piece is the Setup: Characters/concepts/situations/dynamics are presented and relationships among these made clear
  • The next 45% is the Tangle: Complication(s) disrupt (or at least complicate) the situation laid out in the Setup
  • The last 10% is the Resolution: The knot is Untangled, for better or worse

In the case of this track, the Setup runs from the open to ~2:50. The Tangle then runs to ~5:50, and from that point to the cut to black is the Resolution. What especially thrills me here—beyond the hard body impact of the rhetoric itself and the lean power of the videography—is how shifts in the music mark out the transitions between stages in the argument: Each section break is marked out be an abrupt shift in the tone and mood of the backing track.

This is a wonderful primer on how to structure an narrative argument to hold an audience and not persuade them, per se—because that’s not the goal—but rather to enduringly stick in their craw, so they keep troubling over your argument long after they’re done with the piece of entertainment.  This is how you write moral fiction.  This is how you plant the seeds that grow the trees that, indefatigably and seemingly effortlessly, bend the arc of that moral universe back toward justice.

And that, kids, is our business.  Go, watch … and learn.

Beats per Week 10: Merry Xanukristallmas!

I’ve been woefully lax on the beats this month. All apologies; my event schedule, plus holiday prep and holidays, has had me running like the proverbial chicken.  To make it up, I’m posting three deep-cuts today, all from back when I used to record annual Xmanukah Songs and had not yet developed crippling shame at my core musical incompetencies.  Enjoy!

Beats per Week #09: “The Excitation of Sympathetic Song” (Russian monks? Aliens? Cthulhu cultists?)

Found this in a stack of unlabeled 78 rpm records I bought off eBay, like, a billion years ago.  No time to lay down a new track this week, so I just digitized this instead.  Mysteries within mysteries, etc.

In Case You Missed It: Beats per Week

Since September I’ve been posting a new track each week.  Nothing new this week (I’m in a cabin in the woods right now, and thus can’t upload new music; this post was pre-scheduled).  In the meantime, here’s a little widget so you can listen to all of the tracks in one go.

Have a great holiday weekend!  #gobblegobble!

Beats per Week #08: “Desire” ( @johnchurchville )

Another remix of deep cuts from my crates of old Simpsons episode LPs and highly recognizable bits and bites from the original motion picture soundtrack for the 1986 cult-classic horror-thriller Churchville’s Purgatorio. (As with the last two installments, be advised that big bass demands big headphones.)

Beats per Week #07: “Radiation” (heads-up @johnchurchville )

Another club-banger remixed from the soundtrack to the 1986 low-budget horror-thriller Churchville’s Purgatorio. (As with last week’s installment—also remixed from the original score to Churchville’s Purgatorio—be advised that big bass demands big headphones.)

Beats per Week #05: “In the Celestial Monastery (ii)”

Beats per Week installment number five, with another deep cut from the limited U.S. release of the 1994 film In the Celestial Monastery. Folks will recall this motif—worked much more gradually in the film score as it appeared in theaters—from the long montage in which Sieto and P’u finally begin to find a way to communicate with the Wanderers and their technology.

Feedback?   Email or tweet at me. Enjoy!