How the Luniz’ I Got 5 on It went from stoner anthem to Jordan Peele’s Us
The internet right now is running wild with theories over the true meaning of Get Out director Jordan Peele’s complex new horror Us, a film about a family that is terrorised by evil versions of themselves while on holiday.
Personally, I think the film is a satire of the divisive horrors of Trump’s America and how things have gone so west that the idea of blaming social ills on wild conspiracies such as cloning or performance art (which is explicitly referenced several times in the film), particularly when we try to understand the downfall of black icons such as Kanye West, somehow seems plausible. Other theories include Us really being about the genocide of the American Indians, a haunting reflection on the prison industrial complex, and one big reference to the apocalyptic bible verse Jeremiah 11:11.
One thing is for certain: the film’s use of West Coast rap group the Luniz’ hit single I Got 5 on It is absolutely inspired. But how did this 90s banger end up as the epicentre of the year’s most important horror movie? And does its use also have a double meaning?
An ode to smoking the stickiest of the icky, I Got 5 on It recalls an era where going halves with a friend on a $10 dime bag of weed could grant you access to a memorable smoking session on the West Coast. It’s fun lyrics, courtesy of the Bay Area’s Yuckmouth and Numskull, joke about greedy friends who hog the joint, before finally giving it back greatly diminished, and rolling a blunt bigger than your girlfriend’s hair extensions.
In the film, actor Winston Duke’s father plays the track in the car as his family drive off on vacation, calling it a “classic” and scoffing at his kid’s suggestions that the song is just about doing drugs and nothing else. It appears again later towards the climax of Us, where a string arrangement transforms it into something far more grandiose.
I Got 5 on It was a massive hit for the Luniz, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard 100 and receiving almost 150 million streams in the US to date. “We toured the planet off of that! That’s a classic it still gets played 25 years later to this day,” said Yuckmouth in an interview in 2017, during which he credited Numskull for the song’s concept. Meanwhile, the beat’s powerful bass also makes it perfect for showing off a new sound system.
Produced by Bay Area producer Tone Capone, the beat is a remake of Club Nouveau’s ominous 1987 R&B single Why You Treat Me So Bad, a song that arguably ripped off Timex Social Club’s Thinkin’ Bout Ya. Capone was friends with the Timex Social Club’s lead singer Michael Marshall, so brought him to sing the hook of I Got 5 on It as an act of goodwill. As witty as The Luniz’ verses are, the song wouldn’t be nearly as catchy without Marshall’s hook, where he passionately howls “messing with that indo weed” over and over. In a recent interview with The Ringer, Marshall claimed he got screwed out of royalties for the song and that Peele only selected it because of his “melody and voice”. But what were Peele’s true intentions?
“I’m making a movie in Northern California and I Got 5 on It is a bay area hip-hop classic and I wanted to explore this very relatable journey of being a parent [and] maybe some of the songs you listened to back in the day aren’t appropriate for your kids,” the director told Entertainment Weekly. The song, which opens with Marshall’s dread-inducing lyrics: “Creep on in” and is built around warped synths, also reminded the director of 1980s horror: “I love songs that have a great feeling but also have a haunting element to them and I feel like the beat in that song has this inherent cryptic energy, almost reminiscent of the Nightmare on Elm Street soundtrack.”
By selecting I Got 5 on It to punctuate Us, Peele has introduced a stoner rap anthem to a new generation, many of whom will be analysing the song’s lyrics for clues that could explain the film’s many mysteries. Let’s just hope this mad pursuit doesn’t make them go delirious, like Eddie Murphy.