I have been somewhat fascinated by this song recently, for various reasons, including the peculiar lyrics. I am especially wondering about the usage of infinitive-like verb forms in several lines, such as:

I be everywhere, everybody know me
Cause we be in the club
Look up in the mirror, the mirror look at me
The mirror be like 'baby [...]'

I recognized some of them as similar to "X be like Y" expressions, which I found to be classified as a combination of "habitual be" and "quotative like". But there are other verbs being used in an apparently similar way, and I'm wondering if they're habitual verb aspects, subjunctive mood (my first guess), artistic license, contractions, other forms of slang/vernacular or just bad grammar.

Edit: In case it wasn't painfully obvious from the above paragraph, I have already researched "X be like Y" and that is not what my question is about. Specifically (and repeating myself again), there are other verbs being used, which are not covered by the "habitual be" and "quotative like" explanations. Also, "AAVE" is not a suitable answer to either question (it's probably true but much too vague - I'm asking about the verb forms).

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    That verb structure is common in African American Vernacular English: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English – Nicole Apr 29 '15 at 15:19
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    Nicole is right on the target. Start reading Faulkner, as many Blacks there are using variations thereof. – Marius Hancu Apr 29 '15 at 15:20
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    @Nicole - this should be expanded into an answer, it is the correct one. – Chris Sunami Apr 29 '15 at 15:28
  • The question was closed while I was in the middle of typing it, but it looks like the link to the previous question has some detailed answers about AAVE. – Nicole Apr 29 '15 at 15:39
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    Uh.. @Andrew how is this a duplicate? If you actually read my question, it should be extremely obvious that I am not asking about "X be like Y". – aditsu Apr 29 '15 at 15:44

I would discourage you from analyzing or learning from a pop song, as grammar is usually bad, and often intentionally so.

For example in your example,

Look up in the mirror, the mirror look at me

This is probably just to keep the flow of the song and not cram too many sylables into one line. In grammatically correct English, it would be "the mirror looks at me."


Cause we be in the club


The mirror be like baby

I would say the the use of "be" here, in place of the correct conjugated forms of the verb (are and is respectively) is to make it a bit less of a mouthful, i.e. make it sound better and be easier to say, especially in an (assumedly) fast-paced song.

N.B. As mentioned in the comments, this could be AAVE (African American Vernacular English)

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    Basically you are saying it's artistic license, then you turn around and say it "could be AAVE". In AAVE, at least some of those verbs are not grammatically incorrect, but are deliberately used that way, with a distinct meaning (e.g. the habitual aspect) – aditsu Jun 13 '15 at 18:03
  • This is an extremely poor answer. The song is clearly in AAVE, and as such, the grammar is correct. You haven't attempted to explain the grammar at all, except to dismiss it as incorrect, so this doesn't answer the question. – MJeffryes Jan 21 '16 at 16:43

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