Here's an excerpt from 6 Foot 7 Foot, a hit song released while I was in high school:

You know I'ma ball 'til they turn off the field lights,
the fruits of my labor, I enjoy 'em while they still ripe
bitch, stop playing, I do it like a king do
if these niggas animals, then I'ma have a mink soon
tell 'em bitches I say put my name on the wall
I speak the truth, but I guess that's a foreign language to y'all
and I call it like I see it, and my glasses on
but most of y'all don't get the picture 'less the flash is on
satisfied with nothing, you don't know the half of it
Young Money, Cash Money
paper chasing, tell that paper, "Look, I'm right behind ya"

You can watch the video here.

I am willing to argue that, in these lyrics, Lil Wayne shows an expert understanding of John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government.

Don't see the allusions yet? Let me break it down.

The Lockean Proviso

The Lockean Proviso

John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government lays the foundation for a number of principles indispensable to modern government. In it, he covers everything from how humans behave without government to an entire conception of what's known as separation of power today.

The "Of Property" chapter of Locke's treatise covers the important question of how private property works. If initially all property is shared among us, then how anyone we claim property to be their own, while maintaining some semblance of justice?

Locke takes a stab at the problem by proposing that since everyone "owns" themselves, they must also own their labor. When labor is exerted onto foreign resources, those resources become their own. For example, an apple on an apple tree might be initially a common good; once I pick it, however, it becomes my property.

However, Locke is firm about an upper bound to the attainment of property under his framework. The so-called "spoilage proviso" begins as such:

"It will perhaps be objected to this...then any one may ingross as much as he will. To which I answer: not so. The same law of nature, that does by this means give us property, does also bound that property too. God has given us all things richly, ...[b]ut how far has he given it us? To enjoy....Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy."

And so, here we are. You can't simply go around touching all the apples in the world, the fruits of your labor have an upper bound: as much as one can reasonable use without waste. Let us now return to Lil Wayne's initial couplet:

You know I'ma ball 'til they turn off the field lights,
the fruits of my labor, I enjoy 'em while they still ripe

Lil Wayne understands that even though he "balls", i.e. exerts labor, he should not overextend his natural rights of acquisition, per Locke.

The Homestead Principle

The Homestead Principle

Rather uncharacteristic of Locke's other works, his second treatise makes a disproportionately high number of theological references. One reference lies in Genesis 1:26, where God gives mankind dominion over animals:

"Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

The Lockean proviso is based on the aforementioned idea that mixing one's labor with a natural resource allows one to claim it. In the section above, picking an apple was used as an example. This idea is called the Homestead principle.

Lil Wayne shows an understanding of both Locke's biblical allusion and the Homestead principle with the next three lines of the excerpt:

bitch, stop playing, I do it like a king do
if these niggas animals, then I'ma have a mink soon
tell 'em bitches I say put my name on the wall

He is expressing his dominance over other human beings by using an extended metaphor: others as animals, and himself as the lone human being capable of exercising the Homestead principle. Remember, he is still "balling", and thus his labor entitles him to property, which now includes his "animals".

Is it purely incidental? Or does Lil Wayne really know a thing or two about political science?

Intermission

Okay wait, wait, wait. Hold up. Weezy? Really?

Of course, I'm only speculating. There is a chance that the lyrics are purely incidental and have nothing to do with Locke. To date, Lil Wayne has performed over 1600 songs, and so surely the chances of coincidental knowledge of political theory is high, right?

Not quite.

Lil Wayne now takes a break from his Lockean references to make a point about himself. More specifically, his intelligence:

I speak the truth, but I guess that's a foreign language to y'all
and I call it like I see it, and my glasses on

Many times in the rap literature, glasses in this context refers to sunglasses. However, Lil Wayne is very clear in this distinction. In his other works, including Blunt Blowin and Wasted, the rapper uses the term shades to describe his sunglasses. The music video makes clear that glasses in 6 Foot 7 Foot refers to prescription glasses:

Prescription glasses, that is, as a symbol for Lil Wayne's academic studies.

After persuing his GED, Lil Wayne studied briefly at the University of Houston, intending to major in political science. We even have evidence that Lil Wayne attended a political science course concerning Locke.

This year, Lil Wayne returned to the University of Houston to complete his degree. But he doesn't want to put it that way.

“I’m not going back to school,” clarifies the rapper. “I’m really going to school for the first time.”

Lil Wayne alludes to the imperishable valuation of worth through his discussion of money.

An Imperishable Valuation of Worth

Lil Wayne wastes no time and goes straight back to Locke:

satisfied with nothing, you don't know the half of it
Young Money, Cash Money
paper chasing, tell that paper, "Look, I'm right behind ya"

Lil Wayne ends his exposition on the labor theory of property in the same way that Locke does. Locke ends his discussion of the spoilage proviso by discussing a potential limitation: can commerce really work on a grand economic scale when we only have things that are of short duration?

He answers his own question within the same chapter by positing the genesis of fiat currency. Money, unlike apples, cannot spoil, and so we can sell our apples before they rot. The spoilage limitation, too, has a limitation; the limits on acquisition are actually unbounded.

This helps Locke's conclusion greatly. The treatise was written to justify resistance against an oppressive government and counter serveral previous arguments (say, that since rulers are divine they can't be wrong or that we must enter some sort of social contract where rulers are absolute). The existence of money is then huge, because property and a full economic system could, at least in principle, exist without the existence of government.

He then further argues that a huge part of a government's role is to protect property, but that's beyond the scope of this article.

Lil Wayne's insatiable desire for resources, exemplified by the fact that he is "satisfied with nothing", leads him to crave money and defeat the Lockean proviso, thereby ending our literary excursion over the entire excerpt.

The big picture of 6 Foot 7 Foot

The picture

Embedded in the excerpt of 6 Foot 7 Foot is a line of the rap that I missed:

but most of y'all don't get the picture 'less the flash is on

Did you guys get the picture?

Well now, the flash is on.