Lately, I’ve been pausing in porticos, haunted by a particular line from a particular song. The ditty in question, “Boom Boom Pow,” was released by the redoubtable Black Eyed Peas more than a year ago, yet certain peculiarities of its lyrical cadences still manage to wash up upon the shores of my mind, as clear and startlingly whole as twisted lengths of beach glass.
There are at least a dozen turns of phrase from “Boom Boom Pow” that reoccur to me at odd times throughout the day. As I stand in my poorly-lit kitchen, washing the perpetually stained white plastic cutting board, I reflect upon how it truly is “next level visual shit,” at least insofar as its lack of visual appeal seems to be indicative of some sort of advance in ugliness. When I walk the broad leafy avenues of my small suburb, dodging inchworms like a ninja, I feel strong and fluid, as if I “got that rock and roll/that future flow.” In moments of deep frustration, I’ve been known to give my boyfriend an eldritch look, attempting to settle the matter at hand by declaring that “this beat be bumping bumping/this beat goes boom boom.”
Perhaps most damningly, I find this injunction by Fergie–“People in the place/If you wanna get down/Put your hands in the air/will.i.am drop the beat now”–to be highly stirring. It’s not the words themselves that move me; rather, it is the absolute conviction with which Fergie wails them. When you hear it, it’s nigh impossible not to respond. After all, whoever you are, you are probably a “people” in a “place.” You might not feel like getting down at the moment, but certainly you must have experienced the desire to get down at one point or another. It seems like little enough to ask that you put your hands in the air, especially if, in return, will.i.am is willing to drop a beat for you.
I should clarify here that I do not go out of my way to experience “Boom Boom Pow.” Oh, I watched the video when it came out, and I heard the strange snippets of it that accompanied various ads for several months after its release (let no one accuse the Black Eyed Peas of meeting a licensing opportunity that they didn’t like.) But I own no Black Eyed Peas albums; I don’t listen to Top 40 radio stations; and I usually refrain from attending dance parties or clubs. In other words, I do not generally lead a Black Eyed Peas-centric lifestyle.
And yet I thrall to the “space ship zoom,” “the boom boom bap.” I am the “chicken” who is “jacking” Fergie’s “swagger,” I am the “into the future cybertron.” The hold that “Boom Boom Pow” has taken over my imagination is so strong that I fear it may only be broken by my demise. Months may go by without my hearing the song, yet my dreams teem with sinister whispers, adjuring me to “get that base overload,” to taste “that digital spit.” It’s gotten to the point that the mere sight of the word “boom” in a comics panel causes me to blush wildly.
But the symptom that’s worried me most deeply in recent times is my obsession with a certain key phrase. By far the single most baffling line in a song full of them, this line resonates with intrigue, like one of Blake’s more mysterious incantations. Observe!
Beats so big I’m stepping on leprechauns
Shitting on you with the Boom Boom.
Leaving aside the degradation implicit in this announcement (for now), we are still faced with an array of questions. For instance, just on a basic linguistic level, what does this statement mean? Who is the “I” in the song, and who is the subject? Is the shitter of “boom booms” the line’s singer, will.i.am, or is it the song itself? Where in time and space is the protagonist located, that it affords him the opportunity to injure leprechauns? Does “Boom Boom Pow” take place in our reality, or is its setting a more mystical realm, like, say, Ireland? More importantly, what is it about the size of these “beats” that allows the speaker to step on leprechauns? I myself have been in the presence of many beats before, and no matter how big they got, they were unable to physically impair the least of God’s life forms. None of this information seems consistent with Western epistemology as we know it.
In order to understand this line then, we must make a few decisions. Firstly, we must assume that the world of “Boom Boom Pow” is not our world; rather, it is a shadow realm, in which fantasy and the forces of faery reign. Secondly, we must discard the theory that will.i.am is speaking in the voice of his own experience; rather, he is speaking as the personification of the song itself. He is constructing for us a meta-narrative, wrought from the mythos of his performance even as it occurs. “Sing to me, O Muse!” indeed.
Nonetheless, we are still left with the problem of how to resolve the Leprechaun Ambiguity. Although we can all agree that leprechauns caper through the world of “Boom Boom Pow,” we still don’t know why it is that beats are so dangerous to them. After some fevered pondering, I do have a somewhat sketchy theory.
It is my belief that the various beats of which “Boom Boom Pow” is composed have certain uncanny powers. Likely, we will never know the full scope of them, but the Peas provide us with a few tantalizing hints. We know, for instance, that the beats can make “them girls go apeshit, uh.” That this piece of data is provided by the group’s scariest member, Taboo, gives it automatic gravitas–but might this fact itself offer a clue? That which is taboo is that which we are forbidden from speaking of–yet the taboo always manages eke out a bubbling, seething existence beneath the thin veneer of our civilization. So–which taboo does Taboo’s assertion bravely speak to? Why, none other than that most taboo of taboos–raw, unbridled female sexuality!
Given the above, we can safely say that these beats the Peas speak of are incredibly powerful. According to apl.de.ap, the beats have even allowed him to be “sexing ladies extra longer.” Most likely, he is not referring to the practice of determining ladies’ genders (so beloved by agriculturalists!), but rather to servicing the beats-enhanced sexualities of various women. Therefore, it is not too ridiculous to suppose that the beats possess some sort of chthonic Goddess energy, which brings me to my point: I contend that the beats are so potent that they are capable of embiggening will.i.am to giant scale, allowing him to crush leprechauns as if they were ants!
Please take a moment to recover.
Are you feeling better? Good. Gather your strength, ye readers, as there is still one more vagary which we needs must nail down: namely, the insult embedded within the immortal lyric “Shitting on you with the boom boom.”
At face value, this is not a very nice lyric. Detailed analysis reveals it to still not be a very nice lyric. I regret to inform you that this line is repeated subsequent to its placement above–not once, but twice. Because will.i.am thrice tells us that he will be “shitting on [us] with the boom boom,” we know that this is no mere slip of the tongue–he truly means it, and wants us to think about it.
Interestingly enough, the radio version of “Boom Boom Pow” censors this statement, changing it to “Y’all getting hit with the boom boom.” While this is still a somewhat unkind and threatening phrase to say, it’s leagues less offensive than getting “boom boom” shat all over you. Why would will.i.am go to such lengths to alienate his audience?
We must remember that will.i.am is speaking for the song, not to his own inclinations. I firmly aver that in real life, will.i.am would not make the choice to shit on me. If we seek to unravel the phrase, we must harken back to the taboo nature of the beats. If the nature of the beats is Godlike, it is also id-like–it drinks deep from primal waters. In their urge to shit all over us, the beats reveal their defiance of traditional social codes and mores–they remain at the anal phase of development, when the ego is not yet fully formed, when man still retains his animal nature. Not for nothing does Taboo say “I’m a beast when you turn me on.” His is not an idle admonition–instead, it rings with the primordial truth of the beats.
will.i.am and the other Peas want us to know that the beats are to be treated with caution. Thus, we finally see that “Boom Boom Pow” is not a celebration of the beats, but rather a condemnation of them. Although they sing lovingly of the beats, the Peas also embed their extolling of the beats’ virtues with a subtext of forewarning.
If only we could hear it.
 Of the video, little should be said. Suffice it to say that it describes exactly your nightmares about what the Black Eyed Peas are up to when you’re not around.