We Got 5 On It, An Anthem: possibilities and cultural techniques of Black audio-visual texts

Curator's Note

“you look at black music and see certain structural things that really are about reclaiming the whole sense of absence, loss, not knowing… reclaiming this whole sense of loss, rupture, and repair that is very common across the experience of black people in the diaspora.”[1]


     The plucking strings accompanied by a foreboding, heavy brass section took “I Got 5 On It” from being a song about splitting the cost of a dime bag to a score for a haunting fight scene between doppelgangers, whose metaphor can be seen as a commentary on the aftermath of Reaganomics and its various socio-political consequences. The original “I Got 5 On it” track, released in 1995, saw much success as a single. However, the track’s featured vocalist, Michael Marshall, was denied the royalties during its initial success. In an interview, Michael stated that using “I Got 5 On it-Tethered Remix” gave him a second chance for financial and cultural recognition. [2]

     This sense of returning to the original track's time and space, taking it from its past and into the film’s contemporary through remixing and scoring, demonstrates the potential of examining the cultural technique[3] of Black audio-visuality and its ability to restore, reclaim and reshape stories. The erasure of Marshall from the influence of the original track turns out to be significant to the legacy of the song and even called back into the plot of the film. The score summons these fragmented stories—from both the song and the film—and collages them into new stories: one where Red and Adelaide confront one another as a result of a different kind of erasure, a socio-cultural one resulting from a period in time of experimentation and consumerism, leaving out an entire population of people to suffer the neglect and in turn seek revenge in the end. This observation shows the potential of looking at black audio-visual texts like Jordan Peele’s Us as having various cultural techniques that make it possible to create the kind of powerful story that we see in this film.


Works Cited

Martin Caidin. 2019. Mike Marshall on Missing out on 10 Years of Royalties for “I Got 5 On It”, the Us Movie & More. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpLT3MHUDr4.

Veal, Michael. “Starship Africa”. In Sound Studies Reader, edited by Jonathan Sterne.

Young, Liam Cole. “Cultural Techniques and Logistical Media: Tuning German and Anglo-American Media Studies.” M/C Journal 18, no. 2 (April 29, 2015). https://doi.org/10.5204/mcj.961.


[1] As quoted in Veal, Micheal “Starship Africa”, ed. Sterne, Jonathan. The Sound Studies Reader New York: Routledge, 2012.

[2] Martin Caidin. Mike Marshall on Missing out on 10 Years of Royalties for “I Got 5 On It”, the Us Movie & More, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpLT3MHUDr4.

[3] A theory stemmed from new German Media studies: “At the level of optics, we observe the means by which humans and tools assemble basic categories of space, time and being.” ( For the sake of this article, I use it to describe the culmination between various black cultural expressions in cooperation with media and their systems of expression. For more, See Liam Young Cole’s essay “Cultural Techniques and Logistical Media: Tuning German and Anglo-American Media Studies” https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/961.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.