When it comes to music, understanding goes way beyond just the meaning or interpretation of the lyrics. One’s own personal understanding of a song connects their ability to see how it functions as a meaningful text in society, different communities, and the music industry as a whole. Different texts that expand our own understanding of songs include live performances, music videos, covers by other artists, the vocal delivery of the song, and alternate versions of the song. As a result, it is important to consider these various other texts when examining the overall meaning of Joey Bada$$’s “Temptation.”  

To begin, an artist’s music video can go on to further amplify the overall message or meaning behind the song. This can be directly identified within Joey Bada$$’s “Temptation” music video, as the visual components double-down on the ideas being conveyed within his lyrics. For example, Bada$$ discusses the influential role that religion plays in the Black community. He repeatedly uses the word “Lord” and even goes as far as to claim that there are, “Some people enslaved by they religion.”

Within the music video, Church is one of the primary settings or locations that we are introduced to. In fact, as the video comes to a close, one of the last scenes we are left with is a small group of people, including Bada$$ himself dancing along with a gospel choir in the Church. This drives home the importance of the Church within the African American community, specifically as it serves as one of the main outlets for hope in times of struggle. Bada$$ utilizes the prominence of the Church setting within his video to further echo the prominence of the Church in relation to social injustice and the battle for racial equality. This helps build my own understanding of the song “Temptation,” as it develops the relationship between the Black community and religion, specifically when it comes to confronting racism and discrimination. 

Furthermore, the music video embodies another concept illustrated in Bada$$’s song, relating to how the discrimination and mistreatment of African Americans strongly affects the youth. Throughout the video, the audience follows along as one little girl holds hands with Bada$$ and traces his footsteps alongside him. One pivotal moment that defines this, is when the younger kids depicted in the video witness the police interacting with older Black men. This helped strengthen my own understanding of the song, as Bada$$ asks in his song “who gon’ save the children?” This goes on to signify the way in which African American youth are exposed to the racial injustices of society such as police brutality from strikingly young ages.

This goes hand in hand with the intro and outro of the song, which samples a recording of Zianna Oliphant, the nine-year-old girl from Charlotte, North Carolina, who questions why people with the same skin color as her are treated so differently in this country. This is indicative of how the African American youth is introduced to oppression from extremely young ages, which Bada$$ alludes to in his song “Temptation.” 


Keep an eye out for the presence of religion and the heavy involvement of Black youth within Bada$$’s video: 


To continue, not only is our understanding of Bada$$’s song expanded when we watch his music video, but also when we watch his live performances. At the Hive Music Festival in Salt Lake City, Bada$$ performed his song on August 7th 2021. Hive Music Festival is a Hip-Hop Festival that invites thousands of music fans from all over the country to come see the hottest and most popular performers. Given the fact that Bada$$ decided to perform this song at this event in front of so many young listeners goes to show his true intention behind the song.

The lyrics themselves go on to illustrate the way in which this song is in fact a protest song, but the fact that Bada$$ is willing to perform this song at an event like Hive further demonstrates its relevance and importance. The lyrics carefully state, “The government been tryna take away what’s ours, It’s really all about the money and the power, I just wanna see my people empowered.” In this case, the lyrics of the song serve as the initial spark that is intended to light a fire underneath the crowd of people who are watching and listening intently to Bada$$ as he performs. By gaining the attention of a younger audience, Bada$$ can further enhance the overall message and reach of his song, while also expanding my own understanding of his personal hopes and aspirations for “Temptation,” which is to inspire a younger generation of change. 

 One of the main things that can be interpreted after watching the performance, is Bada$$’s interaction with the crowd. His ability to keep the audience engaged and intrigued speaks volumes to the impact that Bada$$ very well has on the younger generation. His chorus, which is incredibly catchy, receives the greatest response from the audience during this performance, and illustrates the way in which a catchy tune can help an artist capture the attention of their given audience. Furthermore, the ambiguity of the chorus allows for all members of the audience to feel connected to the song, which is highlighted within the video of the live performance. The chorus sings, “And I really can’t take it no more, I’ve been fighting temptations, my Lord I’m making them restless.” These specific lines do not limit their reach to only African American audience members. Instead, the openness of the lyrics can go on to resonate with the entire audience, leading to a greater response and interaction amongst the crowd at the event.

Furthermore, in the middle of the performance Bada$$ asks the audience “if y’all having a good time out there let me get a hell yeah.” This effort from Bada$$ to get as many members from the audience interested and invested in his performance illustrates his overall attempt to reach a larger audience. As a result, this performance demonstrates Bada$$’s ability to connect with his younger audience and utilize that connection to ignite movement and change amongst them.

To see the impact that this one performance of “Temptation” has, listen to the lyrics carefully while watching the sea of young Hive attendees in the crowd: 

Natalie Nevins