Eminem’s Jack and the Bean

In Eminem’s song “The King and I” – which plays over the credits in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, with Cee Lo Green doing the raucous chorus (an exact echo of Jailhouse Rock), early on comes this verse:

Modus operandi, bottle-a blonde dye.
Top five since I discovered peroxide.
Yeah, since I got signed, I went from pot pies
To Jack and the bean, I’m watchin’ my stock rise.

The puns and homynyms are everywhere. It sounds like one thing, but then you hear the other thing present, buried in the sounds.

“Jack and the bean”: Okay, got it. I understand the context of the story, and how he’s connecting it to his own life. Eminem is watching his “stock rise”, his success, right? But also he’s watching his “stalk” rise, because he’s Jack and it’s a BEAN stalk. But “Jack and the bean”, the way he says it, also sounds like “jackin’ the bean”. A dirty reference. I had to look it up and now I’m sorry I did.

To re-cap: he went from pot pies to “jackin’ the bean”. And I just must point out his correct use of the words “modus operandi” and then how he rhymes it with “bottle-a blonde dye.” Dude.

This kind of thing drives people crazy with Eminem. It’s so nerdy. and you have to actually listen closely, because what he is saying doesn’t matter as much as how he’s twisting words around to make them sound like other things. Take, again, the little 4 lines above: nothing he says there is new. In fact, it’s old news: I dyed my hair and became famous. I went from rags to riches. Yeah, we know, Marshall. But he doesn’t say it like it’s breaking news. He twists it up merely to have fun with language.

Sometimes these little schemes are eye-rollingly bad. Dad-joke-dumb. You can’t win ’em all. But then sometimes he’s truly clever and it takes about 5 minutes to work out what he’s doing.

My sister Jean said, “How long has he been waiting to use that Jack and the Bean scheme?”

The man has filled notebooks with scribbled puns and word play. Not everyone wants to parse out every pun and every joke in every song they listen to … like James Joyce forced his loyal readers to do in Finnegans Wake and some sections of Ulysses … but I think it’s fun.

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