“Who Said We’re Wack?” by The Lonely Island: The Rumor Will Probably Get Smacked
June 5, 2011 at 4:37 pm, by Jonah Rank
One cool guy tells some other cool guys that he heard someone call them “wack.” The DJs respond with utter outrage: “Who said we’re wack? / You said we’re wack? / You take it back!”
The opening track on Incredibad, the debut CD of The Lonely Island, is an attack on two ways false info gets around: leshon hara and mar’it ayin (literally “the evil tongue” and “the sighting of an eye”).
Leshon hara, when people say maliciously bad things about other people, is the whole basis of the joke-plot of “Who Said We’re Wack?” Someone spread something nasty (but ultimately innocuous) about the DJs of The Lonely Island. These hurtful words get on the Dudes’ nerves, and they become obsessed with discovering the culprit behind the slander. The most hilarious thing about the song is how they expend their energy discovering the rumor-spreader when the rumor is so inane and so unlikely to have an effect on the lives of the DJs.
Along with many other Lonely Island songs, “Who Said We’re Wack?” satires the hip-hop image. When someone is in a club, screaming into a mic, and busting out rhymes over a beat, we might assume that this person is a hard-core rapper. But, the Dudes reveal their sensitive souls: “Someone said we’re wack! / Why would they say that? / I don’t think we’re wack! / Who said we’re wack?”
“Who Said We’re Wack?” is just one of The Lonely Island’s reminders that things aren’t always the way they seem: just looking at something can never give us the full story. Mar’it ayin, judging things by the way things appear, is my least favorite, but commonly spoken-of part of Jewish judgmental culture.
Since the Jerusalem Talmud, “mar’it ayin” has been that catchphrase that justified rabbinic bans on things that might be okay but not look okay. Though you might struggle to find anything legally wrong with drinking a pre-packaged bottle of water from McDonald’s, there’s usually someone who will say that a serious Jew should not enter McDonald’s because of mar’it ayin (it might look like you’re going to Mickey D’s for a not-so-kosher cheeseburger)!
To mar’it ayin, I like to reply with another Jewish principle. Pirkey Avot teaches us that, about 2000 years ago, the sage Hillel said: “Al tadin et chaverakh ad shettaggi’a limkomo” (“Do not judge your peer until you have arrived in your peer’s position”) (Mishnah Avot 2:5); in short, don’t judge another person unless you are that person.
Better yet: don’t judge. You can look out for your friends, but you should not be giving them any negative judgments when you can’t understand their situation.
The Lonely Island asks us to listen to rap music differently: rap music is not inherently angry poetry that whippersnappers listen to. These guys—as comedians—take on the guise of hardcore rappers only to reveal that they are truly softies. Take that, mar’it ayin! And, no matter what rumors spread, the truth will always stand. Nearing the end of the song, the Dudes declare “I am not wack / No matter what you say,” and then—realizing that they only heard that there’s a rumor—they ask to clarify: “What did you say?”