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Meaning of the song ‘Breakadawn’ by ‘De La Soul’

Released: 1993

“Breakadawn” by De La Soul is a testament to the trio’s upbringing, their experiences, and the broader context of hip-hop culture at the time of its release. A piece of introspective art echoing resilience, the striving spirit of the underdog, and containing coded messages for the ‘true heads’ in the game. The song paints a vivid picture of their life experiences and socio-political circumstances, while exhibiting the esoteric use of language that De La Soul pioneered within hip-hop.

The repeated phrase “Ah one two, ah one two” in the verses and choruses is a nod to traditional emcee-ing and DJ-ing in hip-hop, often used as a countdown before the beat drops or the lyrical flow commences. The recurring “Breakadawn” seems to symbolize a fresh start or a new day, promising hope and change.

When Posdnous drops the line “I was born in the Boogie Down cat scan”, he’s repping Bronx, New York, historically known as “Boogie Down Bronx”. The rapper cleverly uses “cat scan” to imply the thorough analysis he has done of his birthplace and its influence on his life.

In the verse “My file is clean, I mean my mind is clear when I transmit”, De La Soul underscores the importance of mental clarity as an emcee. Their lyrics aren’t clouded with ego or bravado, rather, they’re transmitting pure, unadulterated thoughts and experiences from their lives.

In the second verse “Ayo, groove with the mayor, hazard on the sayer”, the ‘mayor’ likely stands for a DJ or an influential figure in the hip-hop community. “Sack a bag of troubles, make a single double” insinuates turning hardships into opportunities, a constant theme in hip-hop, reflecting the genre’s roots in marginalized communities.

The verse “Reasons for the Cheer All Temperature here” perhaps leverages Cheer laundry detergent’s “All Temperature” slogan, but means to say that De La Soul bring positivity (cheer) to all situations (temperatures), showcasing their penchant for wordplay.

In the third verse, “My pops got the belt, so best believe we sail the wave”, the ‘belt’ could be a symbol of discipline and control. Metaphorically, they’re saying their father’s discipline helped them navigate the turbulent waves of life.

The lyric “A simple, “How ya do?” Ah check it from my friends and my crew” celebrates the solidarity and camaraderie within the hip-hop community. And “Now there’s no Shiny Happy People in the crew, we play the rough” is possibly a retort to the hit R.E.M. song “Shiny Happy People”, emphasizing that De La Soul’s crew is real and raw, unafraid to show the grittier side of life.

“Breakadawn” is a quintessential De La Soul creation, exhibiting their expert storytelling skills and oblique lyricism layered with social commentary. The song serves as a blueprint for their contribution to hip-hop, demonstrating their unyielding commitment to staying genuine, passionate, and thoughtful in their expression.

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