We can't talk about "Jumpman" without first addressing imitation. Drake and Future get massive radio play and social media buzz largely because of Drake's superstardom, but their "Jumpman" is an imitation of Young Thug's "Jumpman." Drake and Future borrow both beat and stylistic vocal features from Young Thug (e.g. the introduction of upward inflection at the ends of lines; hear "miss" in Drake's "Lobster and Celine for all my babies that I miss"). Listen for yourself:
I don't wanna dwell on imitation or get bogged down in general questions of innovative borrowing versus simple pilfering, because the most interesting thing about "Jumpman" is the word "Jumpman" itself, a word that agitates with manifold meanings.
"Jumpman" is of course the Nike/Michael Jordan logo, but it works with other contexts here. "Jumpman" echoes the phrases "stick up man" and "stick up kid" and the act of jumping someone, and thus connotes wariness (i.e. "Jump, man!" when the jumpman comes). "I see 'em tweaking, they know something's coming" reinforces the idea of "jumpman" as a warning to be understood as "jump, man." But it's also clear, in both the Young Thug and Drake and Future versions, the commercial context of the Nike/Jordan Jumpman comes through in association with professional productivity and acquisitiveness.
For example, in the Young Thug version the first part of the refrain "Jumpman jumpman jumpman them boys up to somethin'" prefaces "They been way too quiet...them boys up to something' you been up to nothin,'" lines that emphasize the comparative productivity of the speaker (we note that Michael Jordan is notoriously competitive, hard-working, and perfectionistic, so the competitive grind of professional music making makes sense here in alignment with the Jordan icon). Drake and Future pick this up in their version by shifting abruptly and awkwardly from a much graver "Jumpman jumpman jumpman" refrain (more on that in a moment) to lighter and more materialistically informed matters of plying women with food, hosting private dinners at Nobu, and stunting ("Jump when I say jump, girl can you take direction?").
The curious thing about "Jumpman," then, is how it vacillates between the gravity of "jumpman" as a warning and the superficiality of "jumpman" as a commercial logo (not just in its specific function for Nike, but as a broader stand-in for stunting and acquisitiveness in both versions of the track). Here I want to focus specifically on Drake and Future's "Jumpman" because of what they do with the refrain. As I mentioned, the "jumpman" refrain in the Young Thug version is more explicitly about what commercial activity Young Thug is up to next. That context lingers in the Drake and Future version, but they also take things in a radically different direction.
Shout-outs at the beginning of the Drake and Future track reference the Metro Boomin production tag "If Young Metro don't trust you I'm gon' shoot you," as well as the "Taliban, Taliban" reference to Future's "Freeband Taliban." These shout-outs appear random until we get the modified "jumpman" refrain, which begins "jumpman jumpman jumpman, them boys up to something," then veers toward the grave: "they just spent like two or three weeks out the country / Them boys up to somethin' they just not just bluffing." Future's refrain makes more explicit that we're talking about the language of terrorist plot: "Jumpman jumpman jumpman jumpman jumpman jumpman / I just seen the jet take off they up to somethin.'"
It's true that, read without the context of the terrorism headlines of 2014-15, the image of taking off in a jet while "up to something" plausibly references anodyne themes of the rap genre: high life, jet-setting, music business travel. But the terrorism images build upon one another: Taliban, out the country, up to something, not just bluffing, jet take off. It becomes evident by the end of the track that Drake and Future are asking us to conflate representations of terrorism with representations of commercial success (though not, I don't think, as a critique of either). They're being provocative as an end in itself.
Still, the result is worth thinking about. The track doesn't exactly blend commercial and terrorism imagery; it haphazardly throws them together and expects us to continue to think nothing of the former (and its ubiquity in rap music) while puzzling at the latter (if we even notice). On this point, It's OK to feel a little bit trolled by Drake and Future. "Jumpman" has been on the Hot 97 Playlist for a little while now; and because of intentional lyrical distortion on the parts of Drake, Future, and producer Metro Boomin, it's frankly very easy to pay no attention to the lyrics and just let the percussion shake your car.
In these posts I'm aiming to avoid the intentional fallacy, the problem of judging or interpreting a text by means of trying to ascertain the intentions or intended meaning of the author(s). So it's not important here what Drake and Future "meant" or tried to do by mashing together the gravity of terrorism imagery and the zero-gravity feel of throwaway lines about rising to the top with commercial success. What's important is identifying these features, and thinking about how they produce (or elide) meaning.
Addendum: the other part of this track I find interesting is the use of food to police female devotion. In respective verses Drake and Future set up parallel economies of devotion signified by food. Consider Drake's lines: "Lobster and Celine for all my babies that I miss / Chicken fingers, French fries for all them hos that wanna diss."
Now Future's: "She was tryna join the team I told her wait / Chicken fingers fries we don't go on dates / Nobu Nobu Nobu Nobu Nobu Nobu / I just throwed a private dinner in LA."
So remember, stay on their good sides if you want fine dining; otherwise it's chicken fingers and fries for you. In the future I'll be addressing some recurring problems of how gender and masculinity operate in rap music, at which points we can consider further what it means to feed (I use the unpalatable term intentionally) women in such scenarios.
N.B. This is fun. I'm just not just bluffing.