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Meaning of ‘Played Like A Piano’ by ‘King Tee’ feat. Ice Cube, Breeze

Released: 1990 • Features: Ice Cube, Breeze

“Played Like A Piano” is a bold, bombastic and gritty anthem, a no-holds-barred exploration into the lives, minds, and culture of three young men from Compton, California. Blending sharp lyricism with a captivating narrative, King Tee, Ice Cube, and Breeze provide us with a vivid perspective of urban life in the American metropolis as seen through the lens of hip-hop.

King Tee kicks off the narrative with a raw spill of his life on the streets of Compton, painting a picture of a restless individual who flunked school and has no regard for respect. The phrase “get played like a fuckin’ piano” serves as a metaphor for dominating or one-upping someone, effectively drawing a parallel to how a pianist manipulates the keys to make music.

Next, Ice Cube delivers a loaded verse where he represents himself as a rugged, street-smart figure who isn’t afraid to confront adversity head-on. His phrase “Do-Ray-Me. But I don’t sing, mothafucker” is a masterstroke; using the first three notes of a musical scale to assert that he doesn’t conform to traditional forms of music, rather, he is capable of rocking the masses with his lyrics alone. When he says, “Fuck Yul Brynner, it’s still The King and I”, it’s a clever reference to the 1956 film “The King and I” starring Yul Brynner, asserting his standing in the rap game side by side with King Tee.

MC Breeze, identifies himself as a deft lyricist, metaphorically stealing the microphone like a criminal action and running with the beat. “Serve you, your crew, him, and them and a Couple of rap-saps who think they can get butt”, is a daring statement, indicating his readiness to confront anyone who challenges his lyrical prowess. By stating that if he “bust a nut for every rhyme I had, I’d get blue balls”, he’s being humorously graphic about the prolific extent of his lyrical capabilities.

The concluding verse by King Tee provides a revealing window into the turbulent lives of the ghetto. Phrases like, “Some steal for a livin’, some stand on the street, Just slang. Some gang-bang, but big deal.”, give us an indication of the unconventional and often dangerous survival strategies employed by individuals growing up in these circumstances. Even when subjected to police brutality,”pull ya over, slam ya down, Then tell ya that your hood is their town”, King Tee adopts a defiant stance, going so far as to argue that a few weeks in jail are inconsequential.

In essence, “Played Like A Piano” is a hard-hitting, ferocious, and vivid portrayal of life in Compton, as told by three notable members of the hip-hop community. Their stories, their truths, their assertions of dominance, all coalesce into a song that, like a piano, plays the keys to their lives in perfect harmony, albeit a gritty and hard-knocked one.

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