Lyrics and Life

By Caitlin Ward

Hip hop always a good way to begin a shared history

The Magic Number
De La Soul

That’s the Magic Number
Yes it is
It’s the magic number
Somewhere in this hip-hop soul community
Was born 3 Mase, Dove and me
And that’s the magic number

(What does it all mean?)

Difficult preaching is Posdnuos’ pleasure
Pleasure and preaching starts in the heart
Something that stimulates the music in my measure
Measure in my music, raised in three parts
Casually see but don’t do like the Soul
Cause seein’ and doin’ are actions for monkeys
Doin’ hip hop hustle, no rock and roll
Unless your name’s Brewster, cause Brewster’s a Punk (three)
Parents let go cause there’s magic in the air
Criticising rap shows you’re out of order
Stop look and listen to the phrase Fred Astaires
And don’t get offended while Mase do-se-do’s your daughter
A tri-camera rolls since our music’s now set
Fly rhymes are stored on a D.A.I.S.Y. production
It stands for “Da Inner Sound Y’all” and y’all can bet
That the action’s not a trick, but showing the function

Everybody wants to be a deejay
Everybody wants to be an emcee
But being speakers are the best
And you don’t have to guess
De La Soul posse consists of three
And that’s the magic number

This here piece of the pie
Is not dessert but the course that we dine
And three out of every darn time
The effect is “Mmmm” when a daisy grows in your mind
Showing true position, this here piece is
Kissin’ the part of the pie that’s missin’
When that negative number fills up the cavity
Maybe you can subtract it
You can call it your lucky partner
Maybe you can call it your adjective
But odd as it may be
Without my 1 and 2 where would there be
My 3
Mase Pos and Me
And that’s the Magic Number

Focus is formed by flaunts to the soul
Souls who flaunt styles gain praises by pounds
Common are speakers who are never scrolls
Scrolls written daily creates a new sound
Listeners listen cause this here is wisdom
Wisdom of a Speaker, a Dove and a Plug
Set aside illegal substance to feed ‘em
For now get ‘em high off this dialect drug
Time is a factor so it’s time that counts
Count not the negative actions of one
Speakers of soul say it’s time to shout
Three forms the soul to a positive sum
Dance to this fix and flex every muscle
Space can be filled if you rise like my lumber
Advance to the tune but don’t do the hustle
Shake, rattle, roll to my Magic Number

Now you may try to subtract it
But it just won’t go away
Three times one?
(What is it?)
(One, two, three!)
And that’s a Magic Number

Writer(s): Paul E. Huston, Vincent Lamont Mason, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Bob Lrod Dorough
Copyright: American Broadcasting Music Inc.

So, it may have occurred to some of you out there that music is kind of important to me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s pretty important to my family in general. You might have noticed a little bit.

Songs, artists, and albums have been the soundscape for whole chunks of our lives. Early Beatles is my sister and me at four and six years old, respectively. Paul Simon’s Graceland is just about every summer of my life. Donovan is my sister and me as preteens, biking around town. Sweatshop Union and Ivana Santilli are me moving out for the first time with my sister when I was 19 and she 21.

This is not to say that we’re a hive mind. We have separate taste in music, as well. But there’s a shared history, and sometimes one or the other of us is startled that she doesn’t know a particular song. This happened to me recently, when I got wildly excited about Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s You’re All I Need To Get By. My sister had never heard the song. This was wrong. It had to be remedied immediately. I called her at home and sang it to her. She was in the middle of doing something else. I don’t think it was her favourite thing to happen that day. She knows the song now though, so, should it come on again at some point, we will not have the debacle repeated.

I’ve been thinking of this particularly in recent weeks because my sister’s fellow has finally flown across the ocean to live in Canada for the year. It’s not the first time I’ve met him, of course, but it’s the first time we’ve spent any length of time in the same vicinity. It’s become clear, in those weeks, how much of an idiosyncratic shared history my sister and I have. Seemingly non-sequitur phrases like, “we need a futile gesture,” or “let’s go back and get ‘em, eh?” or “that’s sense, Withnail,” or “natural man likes to boogie,” will send the other off in fits of laughter, and this fellow will look from one to the other of us, confused, amused and possibly alarmed. I don’t think it’s unique to us — I think it’s a function of having siblings. A long, shared history leads to inside jokes that turn in on themselves and mutual loves for things that make little sense to others. My sister’s fellow, though, is an only child, so it’s been a brand new experience for him.

I tried to ameliorate this last year when I told him we were bros. Being English, though, he didn’t really get the significance, and thought it was funny. So I told him we couldn’t be bros. I would find another bro who would not mock my offer of bro-hood. My sister was a bit upset about us not being bros, but I’m not sure he cares very much.

It’s not really the end of the world that we’re not bros. The real trouble, as I see it, is that I don’t have much of a shared history with this fellow. My sister met him in England, and much of their relationship has taken place there. He’s been here to visit once before, and I’ve been there to visit a few times, but beyond that, we’ve spent very little time together. It hasn’t been awkward, but it has felt a bit odd.

Or, at least, it did until this past weekend. The toilet in my apartment broke, and so we all piled into my slightly decrepit car to take him to Canadian Tire for the first time. After buying new parts, we bestowed upon him his first 20 cents-worth of Canadian Tire money, saying that he was a real Canadian, now.

But getting back into my slightly decrepit car, this fellow picked up the stack of CDs I leave on the passenger seat. When he looked at them, he said, “ah, De La Soul.”

Well, actually, it came out more like, “ah. D’luh sul.” He’s Northern, you understand.

But it turned out, unbeknownst even to my sister, this fellow is a fan of the band. So we put on their first album, Three Feet High and Rising, and sang The Magic Number for most of the way home. We traded stories about the history of hip hop, and I told him he would have to start listening to a Tribe Called Quest because everyone needs to love Q-Tip as much as I do.

So we’re not bros. And we don’t have much of a shared history. But we’re getting there.

Ward is a freelance writer and aspiring documentary filmmaker based in Saskatoon. You can find her short bursts of insight and frustration at

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