Tay Zonday Deserves Better

Okay, I know this sounds like a joke title. Like you probably think I’m gonna go make a whole buncha jokes throughout this whole post. But guess what, y’all, there’s gonna be a dearth of jokes here. We’re entering into joke-free territory.

Well, not joke-free territory. I’m gonna make funnies but the whole conceit of this post is not funny. The whole conceit of this post is that Tay Zonday Deserves Better.

For those of you uninitiated, Tay Zonday is the guy who did the Chocolate Rain song back in 2007


Anyway, he posted this tweet yesterday


Which got me to thinking – holy shit, Tay Zonday, that’s fucking heavy. Tay Zonday’s kind of like a meme guy, I guess, but unlike a lot of his 2007 YouTube contemporaries (using the Weezer “Pork and Beans” video as a sort of yearbook for comparison in this case), he’s still at it, still making relatively popular videos to this day. He broke the one million subscriber mark last year. So to see something like this coming from him will probably prompt some sort of ridicule, like how Frankie Muniz’s nightmare tweets do.

If this is the case, that’s a shame, because Tay Zonday should be expected to think as deeply as this. Unfortunately, the things that people took Chocolate Rain were fairly superficial:

  1. He moved his mouth away from the mic to breathe
  2. He kept repeating the phrase “Chocolate Rain,” thus kind of making his entire song a chorus
  3. Dude has a deeper voice than it’d look like coming from a guy like him

We really missed the forest for the trees here. Chocolate Rain is a song about racism – I don’t think that’s actually a surprise to anyone who’s thought for more than a second about the song’s title – But the breadth of concepts covered lyrically gets glossed over, and unfairly so.

Chocolate Rain is a song that touches, quickly but firmly, on institutionalized racism from skewed education to the carcereal industry to self-segregation. Chocolate Rain is a song about racism and only that, one of the few songs to cover as much ground regarding racism in such a short span of time. Verse-in and verse-out, Chocolate Rain manifests in the large scale – home insurance rates raised, coded propagandized rhetoric, skewed police pressure, all the way to slavery and genocide –  and in smaller, person-to-person contexts – friendships broken up, distancing oneself on the street.

The repetition of the titular phrase, Chocolate Rain, forces the listener to consider it at face over the entire course of the song – much like the inescapability of racism, how that rain blankets, covers, and weighs down everything to an African-American like Zonday.

This was in 2007, during the infancy of sites like Twitter, which would change the way that people talk about race and understand racism. I was in elementary school when Chocolate Rain came out, and over time, though I knew the words and watched the video, i didn’t understand them until far, far later. To know that ideas like this existed right in front of me eleven years ago and I took them like a joke – like everyone else seemed to – is heartbreaking.

This honest and painful song – as he somewhat predicted – was misunderstood by a burgeoning memetic culture, then monetized for Dr. Pepper, and finally lampooned by Weezer.

My 2 dads

Rivers is totally greenscreened in there

Tay’s taken this in stride, and it’s good that his work has brought him some level of notoriety. Honestly, I just want other people to read Chocolate Rain for what it is and to treat Tay Zonday how he should be treated for introducing a lot of concepts to early YouTube fans (Speaking for myself, I’m pretty sure I learned something once I looked up the lyrics to this song when I was fourteen or so, like I hadn’t thought about the racial makeup of gated communities at that point). He deserves better. He deserves better.


About Joe Bush

The guy behind JoeBush.net and a lot of other things
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