“Basic Economics”: The Lyrics

I blogged recently about a Def Poetry Jam piece by Tommy Bottoms called “Basic Economics.” Below, thanks to the transcription diligence of Nicole (remember her? she wrote this very good blog post about predictive-text errors), are the lyrics of “Basic Economics.”

There were a few phrases she couldn’t make out, each of which are marked with a “TK.” That’s journalism shorthand for a fact that is yet “to come.” The lore is that “TK” stands for the intentionally misspelled “tokum.” I’m not sure I buy that explanation. But I do know that “TK” works much better than “TC,” because if you need to search an article for all the “TK”‘s, they jump right out at you since that combination of letters doesn’t otherwise appear very often. (Unless you’re writing an article about the Atkins Diet, e.g.) If you used “TC,” you’d get way too many hits.

But I think that “TK” was around before computer search was. So perhaps it’s serendipitous that it works so well. When I was starting out in journalism, a pretty prominent writer turned in a magazine piece about a famous murder, and even as the article was being copyedited, the first sentence still read “It was a TK night.” Yikes. If he didn’t yet know what kind of night it was, how good would the rest of the article be? I still occasionally come across a TK that makes it all the way into print in a magazine or newspaper article, and even a book once in a while.

So let’s put this wisdom-of-crowds thing to work: if you listen to “Basic Economics” and are able to fill in the TK’s, feel free to do so in the comments.

“Basic Economics,” by Tommy Bottoms

Now, lyrically, my game is nice.
I can steal a rhyme without your mindin’ and sell it back to you for half price.
I might even do it twice.

Cause see, I spit [TK1] paragraphs that’ll penetrate your pituitary gland
And make your mind expand, make you understand
There’s a
[TK2] so hot between slinging rock and trading stock.

See, this is basic economics. Buy low, sell high.
Your price determines whether demand meets supply.
See, most of us don’t want to even admit it or even hear it,
But see, being a drug dealer is the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit.

See, capitalism breeds capitalists, so if there’s demand for a product,
you best believe somebody gonna supply it. See they’ve got the right mind,
the wrong grind. Cause see really even
[TK3] sells drugs of all kinds
we don’t have to worry about packing knives or tapping their phone lines
because they’ve got politics and public opinion on their side.

The only way to survive in this society is to have a hustler mentality.
See as long as you’re working for your money, your money’s not working
for you, you’ll forever be a slave. Bill Gates did not stack all that cake just
sitting around waiting for a promotion to raise it. Now, he got the whole game
on lock and gate worrying about prison time.

So if you can slip a 16th into an ounce, and an ounce into a key,
there seem to be no reason to me you can’t exert that same amount
of energy into learning the hustle of the Dow Jones industrial.
So, you need to be fucking with that NASDAQ
and leave that crack alone.

Or you could just invest in a duplex home and rent it to two
different tenants and you could rent money to pay off the loan
in half the time. Or you could continue to grind and hustle them
drugs in the street, but peep, it ain’t about what you got, it’s about
what you can keep. You see, when that task force sweep, best believe
they’re taking the cars, the rims, the beats, the cash, the crib,
and the platinum
[TK4] piece.

And I’m getting cents to ten piece to get release and try to look for peace,
but you can’t get you a piece cause that felony on your record has got you
marked as a beast. You’ve got to go back to the streets so you can get cop
you a piece so you can take you a piece. That’s why the streets don’t see peace.

See that’s just one of the many vicious cycles that compromise the struggle.
Understand we can’t all do it like Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, so don’t stop
hustling, just change your hustle.

See America is designed for the get rich. There’s a million and one ways
for you to get paid off of this bitch. And most of them’s legit. Just find
a market you want to target, produce a service and/or product and
your revenue minus your expenses is going to equal your profit.

See, it’s just basic economics. As long as you have the haves,
you’ll always have the have nots, so it’s up to you to decide
whether or not you’re happy with what you got.

And if not, you’ve got to concoct a plot that’s gonna raise
the stock you’ll be willing to hustle and grind from sunrise
to sun-drop, cause believe me, ejaculation is the only thing that comes easy.
Too many cats who’ll play the lottery think the stock market is too risky.

Now, I know I spit this poem with a whole lot of Ebonics, but it don’t matter
who say it or how it’s been said, it’s still just basic economics
.


maggith

I work in book publishing, and the story I was told is that "tc" could too easily be confused with "table of contents," so they replaced it with tk. That seems like a very book-publishing-centric idea, though, so perhaps your explanation better explains it.

BernieLam

This was more fun than a quiz.

TK2 = racial hop
and "slinging rock" should be "slanging rock"

TK3 = Eli Lilly
and "packing knives" should be "packing nines" as in nine millimeter handguns.

"So if you can slip a 16th into an ounce, and an ounce into a key," should be "So if you can FLIP a 16th into an ounce, and an once into a ki" as in kilogram of crack or cocaine.

JakeSutton

"getting cents to ten piece" should be "getting sentenced to a ten piece" (as in jail time)

awhogan

TK1 = preceise parable poem - i think.

tk4 = jesus

rafi

TK1 = spit [precise powerful poem] paragraphs

TK4 = platinum [jesus] piece

"jesus piece" is a slang term for a cross chain pendant (popularized after biggie used the phrase in a hit song)

ssbfz2

TK1 can be improved to "precise TK1 poem paragraphs".
The first poster is wrong - TK2[so hot] should be "a very short hop".
TK3 is "Eli Lilly"
TK4 is "Jesus", referring to a recent trend in hip-hop culture of "Jesus pieces", diamond-encrusted images of Jesus on a platinum chain.

In the last line of paragraph five, "gate" should be ain't.

editorguy

Re your ledecq, it's buried...

pkimelma

Many years ago, when I was doing typesetting (for fun), I was told that TK comes from Taceo Kal (Kal short for Kalendarium of course) or perhaps Tacite Kal. This reads as "Pass over 1st time" (or "Be silent 1st time") if my memory of Latin is any good.
The guy that told me this said that it was used in manuscripts going back 100s of years, and sometimes is still found in very old Religious tracts.

rafi

jeb,

slanging means exactly the same thing as (and is most likely derived from a regional accented twist on) slinging.

just because it's not on urban dictionary doesn't mean it isn't so.

rafi

oh, and it is on urban dictionary...

i should have checked before posting that.

snubgodtoh

I agree, slanging is dirty south for slinging.

I can't chime in on the TKs because don't want to listen at work, but in my opinion, pkimelma makes great posts, day in and out. S/He knows his stuff.

gustoaf

There's a [TK2] so hot between slinging rock... should read

There's a very short hop between slinging/slanging...

Devon Redmond

TK1=Precise powerfully poemed
(nix so hot)TK2=Very Short Hop
TK3= Eli Lilly
TK4= Jesus piece

And no, the term he used is slangin... and that's how it is pronounced. It's said alot of different ways in alot of different places but most of black culture considers "slangin rock" normal vocabulary use. I'm from Detroit and if you said slinging... especially with a g at the end nobody would know what the hell ur talkin about. Most of the other mistakes have been pointed out in other posts

truth

Number 14 Devon Redmond got them all correct!

hermia

favorite word! wha a gowne (potios) patwah- is a dialect from Jamaica

maggith

I work in book publishing, and the story I was told is that "tc" could too easily be confused with "table of contents," so they replaced it with tk. That seems like a very book-publishing-centric idea, though, so perhaps your explanation better explains it.

BernieLam

This was more fun than a quiz.

TK2 = racial hop
and "slinging rock" should be "slanging rock"

TK3 = Eli Lilly
and "packing knives" should be "packing nines" as in nine millimeter handguns.

"So if you can slip a 16th into an ounce, and an ounce into a key," should be "So if you can FLIP a 16th into an ounce, and an once into a ki" as in kilogram of crack or cocaine.

JakeSutton

"getting cents to ten piece" should be "getting sentenced to a ten piece" (as in jail time)

awhogan

TK1 = preceise parable poem - i think.

tk4 = jesus

rafi

TK1 = spit [precise powerful poem] paragraphs

TK4 = platinum [jesus] piece

"jesus piece" is a slang term for a cross chain pendant (popularized after biggie used the phrase in a hit song)