Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, is an American MC and actor whose lyrics often focus on political and social issues. In 1998, he formed the duo Black Star with Talib Kweli, and they were a major force in the 1990s underground hip-hop scene. In “Mathematics” Yasiin Bey cleverly discusses social problems using numbers and statistics. This track has a lot of useful vocabulary and idioms relating to math and social problems.
It’s a number game, but shit don’t add up somehow
Like I got, 16 to 32 bars to rock it
But only 15% of profits ever see my pockets like
69 billion in the last 20 years
Spent on national defense but folks still live in fear like
Nearly half of America’s largest cities is one-quarter black
Idioms & Phrasal Verbs
- cash cow – the part of a business that always makes a profit and provides money for the rest of the business. Social media companies, such as Facebook, are cash cows! If I were you, I would invest my money in a technology company.
- a numbers game – a way of considering an activity that is only interested in numbers and statistics. Politicians do not care about the people they represent. For them, their careers are just a numbers game, and they only want your vote!
- add up – to be reasonable; to make sense. He told me the story about his stolen car, but it doesn’t add up. I think he’s dishonest, and he’s not telling us the truth.
- check out – to look at or examine something because it is interesting, attractive or new. Did you check out the new Lupe Fiasco track? “Animal Pharm” is amazing, and you best check it out!
- The straw that breaks the camel’s back – the last in a series of bad events that makes it impossible for you to accept a situation anymore. My girlfriend spent all my money. She came home late every night and “lost” my iPad. Then she told me that she hated hip-hop music. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I broke up with her.
- also, the final straw
- the grind – something difficult that you continue to do. The grind at work and school is killing me! I need a vacation soon.
- also, to grind on
- end up – to find yourself in a situation that you did not intend or expect to be in. She was such a lazy student, and I did not expect her to end up creating a successful company. Her business is doing very well, and she’s making a lot of money.
- to push – to persuade or convince somebody to do or think something. The status quo keeps pushing us to believe the crime statistics of African Americans. They are people and not numbers. I wish they would stop dehumanizing them.
Every country has social problems. America has to deal with gun violence, drugs, obesity, poverty and many other issues. What are current issues or social problems in your country? What group of people are affected the most by these issues and problems? Does your government release crime and poverty statistics? Do you think the government or status quo dishonestly manipulates statistics? Please write your comments below!