Thursday, October 4, 2012

Two Muhammad Ali Raps (This Is The Legend Of Cassius Clay & Float Like A Butterfly)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases two raps by former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. These raps are a creative combination of boasting (self bragging), telling insults (disses someone, "making digs"), and telling tall tales ("telling lies”).

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, historical, literary, aesthetic, and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some such stories are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories ('the fish that got away') such as, "that fish was so big, why I tell ya', it nearly sank the boat when I pulled it in!"...

Tall tales are often told so as to make the narrator seem to have been a part of the story. They are usually humorous or good-natured. The line between myth and tall tale is distinguished primarily by age; many myths exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but in tall tales the exaggeration looms large, to the extent of becoming the whole of the story...

The tall tale is a fundamental element of American folk literature. The tall tale's origins are seen in the bragging contests that often occurred when the rough men of the American frontier gathered..."
Telling tall tales (engaging in "lying contests") are also important features of the folk culture of African Americans in the South and in other regions of the United States. Zora Neale Hurston's 1935 book of African American folklore Mules And Men is an important source of information about & examples of the Southern African American tradition of "tellin lies".
From "Mules and Men: An E-Text Edition"
"Her upbringing explains [Zora Neale] Hurston's penchant for lying. In her hometown of Eatonville, Hurston was brought up in a culture in which lying, i.e. folk tale telling, was an artform. Hurston celebrated this culture of lying when she published a collection of "them big ole lies" told "on the store porch" by the working class African Americans of her hometown [which are recounted in her book](Mules and Men). Because of the centrality of lying to any exploration of Hurston's work this site focuses on this collection of lies, Mules and Men and uses this text to demonstrate how Zora Neale Hurston used "lies" in order to redeem and recover the voice of working class African Americans."

Muhammad Ali's raps are stellar examples of this tradition of telling "big ole lies", combined with the African American tradition of self-boasting. Examples of the tradition of self-boasting (which is known nowadays as "biggin up oneself") and insulting ("dissin") another person or persons can be found in Blues music, Hip-Hop, and other Black oral and written compositions. One African American self-boasting tradition which is relatively unknown in mainstream America is "Toasting" (telling usually explicit oral narratives about bad Black men). Click "The African American Toast Tradition by Mona Lisa Saloy" for commentary and an example of the African American toast "Shine".

(Muhammad Ali, 1964)

This is the legend of Cassius Clay,
The most beautiful fighter in the world today.
He talks a great deal, and brags indeed-y,
of a muscular punch that's incredibly speed-y.
The fistic world was dull and weary,
But with a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary.
Then someone with color and someone with dash,
Brought fight fans are runnin' with Cash.
This brash young boxer is something to see
And the heavyweight championship is his des-tin-y.
This kid fights great; he’s got speed and endurance,
But if you sign to fight him, increase your insurance.
This kid's got a left; this kid's got a right,
If he hit you once, you're asleep for the night.
And as you lie on the floor while the ref counts ten,
You’ll pray that you won’t have to fight me again.
For I am the man this poem’s about,
The next champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt.
This I predict and I know the score,
I’ll be champ of the world in ’64.
When I say three, they’ll go in the third,
So don’t bet against me,
I’m a man of my word.
He is the greatest! Yes! I am the man this poem’s about,
I’ll be champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt.
Here I predict Mr. Liston’s dismemberment,
I’ll hit him so hard; he’ll wonder where October and November went.
When I say two, there’s never a third,
Standin against me is completely absurd.
When Cassius says a mouse can outrun a horse,
Don’t ask how; put your money where your mouse is!

Reposted from (Composed before one of Muhammad Ali's fights with Sony Liston)

muhammad ali rap float like a butterfly sting like a bee

Uploaded by smily179 on Apr 13, 2010

the ultimate song from the ultimate boxer

This video combines two Muhammad Ali raps: "Float Like A Butterfly" and "The Legend Of Cassius Clay".

The video begins with some words that I can't decipher and then Muhammad Ali says the now famous words "I am the greatest". The video continues with Muhammad Ali saying his "Float like a butterfly" rap, and then his "The Legend Of Cassius Clay" rap. The video then includes additional clips of the "Float Like A Butterfly rap" before ending with Muhammad Ali saying "I am the greatest".

(Muhammad Ali, 1974)

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
George’s hands can't hit what his eyes can't see.
Now you see me, now you don't.
He thinks he will, but I know he won't.
They tell me George is good.
But I’m twice as nice.
And I’m gonna stick to his butt
like white on rice.

(composed before Muhammad's Ali's George Foreman fight, 1974)
[transcription by Azizi Powell from the video posted below.)

Muhammed ali - Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee.wmv

Uploaded by misterals on Apr 14, 2010

Poem by Muhammed ali

Click this link for more examples of Muhammad Ali raps: 'Float like a butterfly sting like a bee': Ali's most memorable quotes
By Sportsmail Reporter 15 January 2012

My thanks to the creativity of Muhammad Ali. Thanks to all those whose transcriptions I reposted and thanks to those who uploaded these featured videos.

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Viewer comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. I've found a few examples of contemporary English language playground rhymes that include versions of Muhammad Ali's "float like a butterfly" line. Here's one example:

    All: Fly girl
    Fly girl
    Fly girl One
    Fly girl Two
    Pump it up Teresa
    See what you do.
    Soloist #1 (Oh) my name is Teresa
    and I’m a fly girl
    It takes a lot of men
    to rock my world.
    ‘cause I can fly like a butterfly
    sting like a bee
    and that’s way they call me
    -Tazi M. Powell, (African American female, memories of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, mid 1980s); posted by Azizi Powell from my transcription in 1996 of an audio tape that I made in the late 1980s of her performance of that cheer.