Last post, I dove into the refrain of Karpe’s «Hvite menn som pusher 50» (“White men pushing 50”), specifically looking at the ways that the “Heisann Montebello” operates within the song and across the album. Today, I want to continue my discussion of «Hvite menn som pusher 50» by looking at the verses and parts of the video and live performance that I mentioned last post. As with all of these posts, this will not be a comprehensive exploration of the song; rather, I see it serving as an entry point into Karpe’s work and notably Heisann Montebello.

Overall, «Hvite menn som pusher 50» dissects, as I said in my previous post, white privilege. As it does this, though, it also struggles with the tensions that Chirag mentions when talking about «Lett å være rebell i kjellerleiligheten din». He tells Øyvind Holen, «Jeg stiller spørsmål om jeg er villig til å oppgi min drøm om bil og båt for en fyr fra Syria jeg ikke kjenner, det er kvalmende ukontroversielt.» (“I ask if I am willing to give up my dream of a car and boat for a Syrian guy I do not know, it is nauseating uncontroversially.”)

Chirag raps the first verse, and as he raps, the appearance of wealth in the video for «Hvite menn som pusher 50» becomes intoxicating. Surrounded by upperclass images of a garden party, home fitness machines, and other luxury items, Chirag exists amongst the upper crust, enjoying the things that wealth brings. However, is this actually good? Does this wealth and acceptance, in this case through assimilation, make him happier?

The verse and images in the video undercut this happy-go-lucky portrayal of wealth and power. Throughout the first verse, Chirag raps about being looked down upon because he is a «vestkantsvartinga» (“west side black”) and because he has made his way into this society, not been a part of it from birth. This aspect becomes clear when he points out, «Vi har hatt vaskejobb for detta, vi har renovert» (“We have had washing jobs for this, we have renovated”). Essentially, this line encapsulates what would be the equivalent to the American Dream, hard work leading to a better, more stable, financial existence.

This upward movement, though, does not equal acceptance. The majority of the verse focuses on Theodor, a friend of the speaker who goes away to boarding school, become more ingrained into the social system that buttresses his existence in the upper crust. This move to boarding school separates Theodor from the speaker, causing them to become distanced from one another. The speaker even states, «Oh, du husker ikke oss, okay/ Du digger ikke meg? Du digger lacrosse, okay» (“Oh, you don’t remember us, okay/ You don’t dig me? You dig lacrosse, okay?”) Theodor loses connection with the speaker and starts to become absorbed more deeply into the upper class due to his proximity to others who buttress the system.

The verse ends with Chirag expressing both disdain for white privilege but also buying in through assimilation. The tensions pull against one another as he raps

Mista religion og morsmål, roper bånnski
Med noen hvite menn som pusher 50
Jeg fucker med noen hvite menn som pusher 50
Verden styres av noen hvite menn som pusher 50
Så du ser meg med noen hvite menn som pusher 50
Og de sa:

Lose religion and mother tongue, shout barking
with some white men pushing 50
I fuck with some white men pushing 50
The world is ruled by some white men pushing 50
So you see me with some white men pushing 50
And they say:

Here, Chirag states that he fucks with white men pushing 50 but that we also see him with white men pushing 50. This push and pull occurs throughout the song, as the first verse highlights. Underlying this tension, of course, are the systems that support and uphold the white men in these positions of power. Even when Chirag moves into the upper crust, as he points out again and again in the verse, he gets looked down upon as a «vestkantsvartinga» not as a Norwegian, something that I have written about before with Pumba’s «Hvor jeg kommer ifra».

The verse ends with Chirag stating, “and they say.” This phrase leads into the refrain where we hear the white men saying, «Heisann Montebello-neger», othering Chirag and others who attempt to break through the social ceiling. Magdi picks up this thread in his verse when he describes two men, Nils and Hassan. Nils, an “ethnic Norwegian” gets promoted above Hassan even though Hassan has better credentials.

Magdi begins his verse in much the same way that Chirag begins his, rapping about making it to the top of the corporate world working at the bank: «Ah, det har vært en lang kamp hit/ Fra asfalt til Pascal til Nasdaq-tid» (“Ah, it’s been a long battle here/ From aspalt to Pascal to Nasdaq time”). This movement is the same as the first verse with the speaker moving from washing jobs to a comfortable existence. However, even with his success, Hassan gets passed over for a better position, even though he has an advanced degree.

Magdi continues: «Hassan burde ha ansatt Nils/ Eller bedt han ta litt avstand fra alt arisk» (“Hassan should have hired Nils/ or asked him to take some distance from all Aryan”). Here, Magdi again points out that Hassan’s qualifications were superior to Nils’; however, that didn’t matter. What would it have meant for Hassan to ask Nils to challenge the system by distancing himself from “all Aryan” (his white privilege)? Would it have mattered? What would Nils have said? Would it have painted Nils black, as the next line says? We don’t know. This line, though, highlights the ways that success comes not entirely from merit but from other connections, namely race and class.

Again, though, Magdi concludes the second verse in much the same way that Chriag ends the first verse. He raps,

Helt ansvarsfritt, som alle hvite menn som pusher 50
Jeg fucker med noen hvite menn som pusher 50
Jeg hater alle hvite menn som pusher 50
Jeg elsker alle hvite menn som pusher 50
Og de sa

totally irresponsible, like all white men pushing 50
I fuck with some white men pushing 50
I hate all white men pushing 50
I love all white men pushing 50
and they say,

Hassan’s treatment is “totally irresponsible,” and Magid points this out. He even, like Chirag, fucks with white men pushing 50 and hates them. However, he ends by stating, “I love all white men pushing 50.” This is the tension. The stability and success that the white men have is what people want. Why? Why do we want the opulence? Why do we want the boat and the car? Why do we want the big house? Is it that important? Do we want to be in a society or class that excludes others because they do not match the definitions of what it means to be a citizen of a certain nation? Were not born into a certain social class?

Chirag’s final verse plays on the chorus of Trang Fødsel’s «Kursiv» (1997), a song that points out the ways that excess affects individuals. Chirag raps.

Digger, digger at de står i kursiv
Hos de aller største bankene i landet, mann, jeg, mann, jeg (3X)
Digger digger at de står i kursiv, (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Og de sa:

I dig, dig that they are in italics
with the largest banks in the country man, I, man, I (3X)
I dig, dig that they are in italics (yeah, yeah, yeah)
And they say:

Fødsel’s song satirically portrays the life of the upper class, presenting the man as working non-stop to get a cabin by the water and a jet-set life while the wife has affairs and sniffs cocaine. Chirag’s lines play upon this, twenty years later, showing that things haven’t changed much.

The video for «Hvite menn som pusher 50» has a lot of interesting aspects, and I do not have nearly enough space to look at them in detail. Instead, I want to point out a few things. For one, as I mention earlier, Chirag appears amongst the social elite during his verse, and within that setting there are children, specifically a little girl, who spits things up throughout the video. In Magdi’s verse, she throws up what appear to be pearls, a symbolic image of how she has ingested this lifestyle. She grasps them in her hand then throws them against the wall, and they become liquid, looking like blood.

Another image during Magdi’s verse shows a pig devouring a plate full of spaghetti. As I’ve mentioned before, pig imagery plays prominently throughout the Heisann Montebello videos, and here it highlights excess and surplus. The pig is small, and the plate is piled high with food. The pig could devour the food, but does it need all of the food on the plate? Could some of that food go to others?

During the third verse, Chirag spray paints the white men brown before they enjoy a night of partying. The image of Chirag painting the men reverses, in some ways, the positioning in the song. They become like him; however, this does not last because as the video progresses the paint starts to rub off as they wrestle with another and drink. Thus, they become white again.

The video ends with a poignant image of Chirag, at the end of the party. He has been enjoying himself, drinking, and dancing. He has been laughing as he swings on a rope. However, as the song concludes, the camera cuts to Chirag, still holding the rope, with his head to the side. His right hand holds the rope above his head as he appears to be resting. The position, though, leaves us with another thought. Here, it looks as if he has hung himself. His attempts to assimilate into the upper crust have led him to suicide, killing his own identity: «religion og morsmål» (“religion and mother tongue”).

Again, this is not everything that I could say about the song or the album. I’ll probably write about some more of the songs later, but until then, what are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @silaslapham.  

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1 Comment on “Tensions in Karpe’s «Hvite menn som pusher 50»

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