Too Many Man (Frisco’s verse)
A critical analysis of Frisco’s verse from the song ‘Too Many Man’ (featured in Skepta’s album, ‘Microphone Champion’). Click below to hear the verse:
I come through like what is it on
Skeps who’s my man what is he on
I ain´t come here to try merk anybody
But forget the hype if it’s on then it’s on
I´ll dunna man’s dance then I’m gone then I’m gone
Skeng daddy bars when I´m on when I’m on
I just wanna build a lickle vibe for the galdem
Hotel pop off the thong then it’s on with a lickle bit of high grade Dom Perignon
Champagne Hennessy not very long
we need some more girls in here
Couple chantelles and chanelles in here
So pass me the beat and let me get heavy on
buff ting gally rude boy send it on
There’s too many man too many many man
I´ll slew any man slew any any man.
Jay Z asserts that the 16 bar rap is akin to the sonnet in form, insofar as it is a definite, almost restrictive, format that forces an artist to be creative. The rules are rigid -a set number of lines, a set beat- so the artist has to wring out as much room for individuality as possible. A 16 bar verse is usually designed to showcase an MC’s skill in raw form. Imagine a line of MCs waiting to perform, each with only 16 bars to demonstrate what they are capable of. It’s a showcase of skill and linguistic dexterity, almost necessarily aggressive and confrontational. Despite the light-hearted theme of the song, the listener is presented with a verbal assault – maximum impact, minimum flexibility. Frisco makes this explicit with the line ‘So pass me the beat let me get heavy on’.
We are hit with very direct, almost percussive words, complementing the drum beat to accentuate rhythm. The author makes no attempt to disguise his entrance into the song, using bold, monosyllabic words in the opening two lines that help create a tone of confidence (and perhaps confrontation). Each word is dramatic, linked by rhythm, but distinct.
Repetition is used to maintain a flowing, advancing rhythm, in keeping with the energetic tone of the song overall. The first quatrain ends with a repetition of ‘it’s on’, a phrase used as the key rhyme in the first couplet. This bold repetition creates a clear emphasis, echoed later in ‘then I’m gone, then I’m gone’. Cleverly, the author manages to maintain grammatical sense whilst repeating for emphasis in ‘But forget the hype if it’s on then it’s on’. This is a direct statement, but in itself repeats a key phrase for emphasis.
After the bold opening couplet, the author allows a clear idiolect to creep into the verse, using specific slang such as ‘merk’, ‘hype’, ‘skeng’ and ‘buff’. This relaxation of language serves a dual purpose. It eases the listener into the speaker’s world and introduces a slightly darker edge to the verse. We move from ‘standard’ English into street-level colloquialism. Similarly, homage is paid to West Indian culture with the use of the words ‘lickle’, ‘galdem’ and ‘ting’. We are being reminded that these are the words of someone who knows the roots of the culture – a subtle mark of authenticity.
The author makes specific reference to brand names, asserting his affluence and familiarity with high living. The contrast between ‘lickle bit’ (quite rough, colloquial language) and ‘high grade’ Dom Perignon/ champagne/ Hennessy (specific beverages of unquestionable quality) is notable.
A loose narrative is created from the off, with the speaker describing his entrance into a party then detailing his thoughts and words. Written in the present tense, we are invited into the moment, almost privy to a private conversation between the speaker and ‘Skeps’, the song’s author.
Limited to 16 bars, the speaker is forced to depict a vivid scenario with economy. Careful verb choice helps achieve this, such as in ‘Skeng daddy bars when I´m on when I’m on’. A ‘skeng’ is actually a knife or blade. Frisco cleverly turns the noun into a verb that describes the violence with which he will deliver his lyrics (‘bars’). The word also alludes to the underlying aggression in the song.
This conciseness with language is seen in the line ‘Hotel pop off the thong’. Here, an extremely specific, somewhat graphic image is described in five words, exploiting ellipsis to get to the point as quickly as possible. ‘Hotel’ connotes a slightly glamorous (or perhaps seedy?) location, elsewhere from the club scene we are currently immersed in. ‘Pop off the thong’ is a casual reference to sex, playful in its sonic quality, subtle in its description, but explicit in its content. In fact, the overall delivery of this phrase is casual and off-hand, but a vivid scene is depicted.
Similar subtlety is evident in his call for more women in the party. The author calls for ‘Couple chantelles and chanelles in here’, in an almost off-hand manner. The connotations of these names, rather than any clear details, tell us exactly what kind of scene we are in. Ordinary, urban girls almost definitely of afro-Caribbean parentage. (Side note: I know it’s incidental but I quite like the lack of capitalisation on these names, turning the proper nouns into something more anonymous. Maybe it’s derogatory, but these type of girls are made out to be so prolific that they don’t even have assertive personalities. Apologies if you are called Chantelle or Chanelle.)
One of the overriding conflicts in this verse is that between having a good time and having to contend with other MCs and potential threats. Subsequently the verse is peppered with images of conflict, be it ‘merking’, the aggressive ‘coming through’, ‘skeng’, ‘get heavy on’ and finally, ‘slew any man’. To ‘slew’ means to overcome, in this context a rival MC, but the language used throughout could suggest a more literal level of violence. By the end of the verse, we have a clear image of a crowded party scene –reinforced by the crowded repetition of ‘too many man’ and the rolling alliteration this comes with.
The verse is characterised by a rolling rhythm that creates powerful momentum, almost relentlessly throughout. After the first two lines, which stand as statements alone, the author allows himself to reel off a string of syllables, nearly without pause. The stacking of syllables drives the verse forward with only occasional pauses. We are barely given time to recover from each line, creating a lively and dynamic tone. This all echoes the refrain/ chorus.
Tone and Subject Matter:
As discussed above, there is an overriding playfulness and energy in this verse. Frisco is lively and active in his description and delivery, achieved by repetition and ellipsis. The line ‘I just wanna make a lickle vibe for the galdem’ (which, coincidentally, sits in the middle of the verse) attests to this – Frisco is seeking to deliver lyrics that bolster the party and get the girls dancing.
However, the poem has a darker element – an underlying level of tension that is close to erupting in violence. As said above, the language reflects this in words such as ‘skeng’ and ‘merk’. Yes it’s a party scene, but ‘forget the hype if it’s on then it’s on’. The final couplet summarises this neatly: there are too many men, too many many men, and the author, if need be, will despatch of any one of them.
A subtle irony in all of this is that this is ultimately a crew song, designed to showcase the skills of a selection of MCs (Skepta, JME, Wiley and Frisco). There are too many men in the song itself, forcing each MC to push their way to the forefront through a clear showcase of skill and bravado. To this end, Frisco’s opening line ‘I come through like what is it on’ acts as a metaphor for his involvement in the song itself. He’s ready to party, but simultaneously ready for the challenge of standing out in a crowded crew track. Enthusiasm and competition combining to electrifying effect.