Some Thoughts on Roddy Ricch’s “The Box”

Yesterday I heard the number one pop song on international billboards which is currently American Rapper Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.” Upon first listen I thought that it was catchy and had cool trap beat. One of its unusual features that stood out to me was the repeated vocalized “eee” “err.” When listening a few more times I kept repeating the song without really listening to the final postlude. When I finally heard the entire postlude of the song I was surprised and intrigued by it. Here is a link to the beginning of the song and to the final postlude.

Link to the postlude…

The vast majority of the song occupies B-flat minor while predictively cycling through a Bb min —> Eb minor 7 —> Ab major progression with tight stepwise and parallel voice leading. When not cycling through this progression the opening scalar septuplet is repeated with a B-flat minor drone below the vocals. When listening to the song the repeated vocalized “eee” “err” comes into and out of of attention but remains constant until it is dropped in the postlude. The repetition of this figure on D-flat and C in key of B-flat minor with the exception of the tonic often fulfilled by the bass also contributes to the predictable cycles that the song and choruses go through. I found that when the song enters the postlude I immediately became aware of the figure’s absence and found that my attention was then refocused on the postlude. When listening to the postlude, my initial impression was that it was very similar to the postlude of Post Malone’s “Rockstar” which also occupied the number one spot on many international billboards in 2017. Here is a the postlude to Malone’s “Rock Star”

While the soundscape in the postlude of “The Box” may reference Malone’s “Rockstar” I was more interested in the harmonic progression in the final few bars. Here are the chords and a scarce roman numeral analysis the chords to the postlude to Roddy Ricch’s “The Box”

What is surprising is that the postlude opens with a i –> iv –> V –> progression rather than the cycle Bb min —> Eb minor 7 —> Ab major cycle. I think that this represents and foreshadows the movement away from the repetitive and cyclical nature of choruses in first part of the song. The voicing of the i chord of B-flat minor is ambiguous and serves a dual function as it can also be interpreted as D-flat major which makes sense given the proceeding Gb major seventh chord. What is really baffling is the the shift from the Gb major 7 to a F major 7 which I think is best described as a reference to the all parallel voice leading of the Eb minor 7 in the opening. This is followed by an F# minor 7 flat 5 which can be interpreted as a variation of the G-flat major 7 jazzed up and minimized which prepares for the v –> I move to a B major 7th chord and the realm of B major which in my opinion is the most surprising moment of the entire song. I suspect that the sudden upward move (also in the rising melodic line in the final measure) from the constant underlying B-flat minor to B major is perhaps reflective of the lyrics which discuss Roddy Ricch’s sudden move from homeless background which occupied much of his youth to an upper-class lifestyle.

Here is a brief explanation of lyrics I found in an online magazine….

One thing that I think supports this idea is the final sound effect and the abrupt inconclusive nature of the song in B major. There is a feeling as if there is more to come. This is perhaps hinted at in the lyrics discussion of Ricch’s struggle “to change the mindset that he had when he was homeless” and his belief that “he’s got a higher purpose to serve in his life and he shouldn’t stay inside the box of small dreams.” Perhaps the unconventional harmonic motion is also representative of Ricch’s belief of thinking outside of the box. Perhaps this foreshadows Ricch’s future plans for his career. While the final shift to B major may reflect Ricch’s sudden move and rise to fame from a homeless background to an upper-class lifestyle it is hard to know but none the less worth thinking about it.

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