“Swagga Like Us” by T.I. and Jay-Z (ft. Lil Wayne and Kanye West and M.I.A.)
Swagger – or “swagga” as it is colloquialized in this song – is an attribute ascribed to those who display, shall we say individualized mannerisms founded in a palpable level of self-confidence. Possessing such a disposition is usually based on wealth, i.e. one’s high income being at the heart of said confidence.
Or put differently, a person’s swagga is his personal style which comes from being rich. He’s able to ‘swag’ because he has the money to do so. So as illustrated in the chorus, “no one” can swag like the artists at hand. Thus, we already have a good idea of where this is going.
For instance, on top of other self-exalting statements, Yeezy is able to boast that he rocks Hermès, a brand that produces outrageously-priced clothes. He’s also bold enough to directly compare himself to historical greats like Mick Jagger and even Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). But conclusively, he’s celebrating having made it big after ‘slaving his whole life’.
Now as for Jay-Z, his swag is more practically influenced by his income. That is to say that in his case wearing baggy jeans is a necessity, because he’s carrying big wads of money that can’t fit into the skinny variety. And as a side note, in the case of Jigga’s career in particular, being “on the corner” would directly point to the concept of drug dealing.
Relatedly, the rapper also recognizes himself as a role model in terms of embodying swag. And to some degree yes, you can learn to emulate Jigga by studying his style. But at the same time there are some aspects that can’t be taught in “class”. Rather they come from the “school of hard knocks”, i.e. his experiences on the street. In other words, Jay-Z’s swagga is one he developed in the ‘hood.
Meanwhile, Lil Wayne’s verse features similar thematic underpinnings, i.e. him being rich and ‘hood-grounded.
And the thesis of T.I.’s passage, which takes a largely different approach, is that if a rapper preaches a certain lifestyle, then he should live it also. And in that regard, he’s real to the words that come out of his mouth.
What “Swagga Like Us” is all about
So this song is a rap cypher in the truest sense of the word. You have an underlying premise, which is the featured artists possessing extraordinary swag, but each is afforded the freedom to go his own direction with that idea.
But of course the premise is braggadocious in and of itself. So it is used, in large part, as an opportunity for the emcees to boast their admirable economic standing, amongst other things.
“Swagga Like Us” Facts
Primary Artist(s): Jay-Z and T.I.
Featured Artist(s): Kanye West, Lil Wayne and M.I.A.
Production: Kanye West
Album/EP: “Paper Trail”
Was “Swagga Like Us” a single release?
Yes. “Swagga Like Us” was the fifth single released from T.I.’s album, “Paper Trail”. It’s release took place on September 6 of 2008.
It was written by the following:
- Wesley Pentz
- Topper Headon
- Joe Strummer
- Paul Simonon
- Mick Jones
- Kanye West
- Lil Wayne
- Clifford Harris
At the 51st Grammy Awards, the song was nominated for “Best Rap Song”. It also received a nomination in the “Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group” category. It won the award for the latter and lost the “Best Rap Song” award to “Lollipop” by Lil Wayne and Static Major. Songs in the “Best Rap Song” category included:
- “Superstar” (Lupe Fiasco featuring Soundtrak)
- “Sexual Eruption” (Snoop Dogg)
- “Low” (Flo Rida featuring T-Pain)
The “Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group” category consisted of:
- “Royal Flush” (Big Boi, André 3000 & Raekwon)
- “Mr. Carter” (Lil Wayne & Jay-Z)
- “Wish You Would” (Ludacris & T.I.)
- “Put On” (Young Jeezy & Kanye West)
Chart Performance of “Swagga Like Us”
- UK – 33
- US – 5
The song got leaked on the internet before its official release date. Music critics criticized the vocals of Kanye West and Lil Wayne for having too much Auto-Tune.
- Meek Mill – “Shine’n” (2009)
- Lil B – “Swagger Like B” (2011)
- Kathy Griffin – “Justin Out-Blacks T.I.” (2009)
- Juelz Santana – “Mixin’ Up the Medicine” (2009)
- Drake – “Swagga Like Us” (2008)
- Apathy – “Swagger Like Ap” (2012)