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I never understood what exactly was meant by:

Brotha, did ya forget ya name?
Did ya lose it on the wall
Playin' tic-tac-toe?

Yo, check the diagonal
Three brothers gone Come on
Doesn't that make it three in a row?

Is he referencing the tic-tac-toe board? And why would he lose his name on a wall playing tic-tac-toe? I loved this disc when it came out, but even back then I had no "street cred" so a lot of these types of references are lost on me.

  • I always assumed that it was the diagonal of the board (as per "Doesn't that make it three in a row?"), and that the idea of losing your identity segued into the idea of losing a game. Tic tac toe does seem an unusual metaphor - I would be interested to see if anyone has any more ideas as to the reason! – user16 Jan 27 '16 at 18:36
  • From the commercial for "Connect Four"? youtube.com/watch?v=KN3nohBw_CE – Fred Flintsone Jun 20 '18 at 18:33
  • Checking the diagonal is (also) something you do in carpentry, especially in framing up a new wall, where you measure both diagonals across some rectangle you've constructed (e.g. the whole wall) and compare measurements; if the measurements match, then the rectangle is "square", i.e. it has right angles at each of its corners instead of being "racked" one way or another to form a non-square parallelogram. I don't know enough about the song in question to even suggest whether this has some relation to the surrounding context of those lyrics, but anyway it's another meaning of that expression. – mlibby Feb 3 '19 at 0:57
1

This is just a guess, but it sounds like the person being addressed is keeping track of deaths on the wall. To the speaker, it looks like a tic-tac-toe game.

My theory is that the first time through, he's talking to a small time gang member who has killed three people. The second time, he's addressing someone or something bigger --something big enough to kill three million.

It's a critical statement. After three in a row, the singer thinks the person being addressed has "lost" the game.

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