Black-Eyed Peas Dealt First Black Eye To the Future Tense Verb
It had been going and going for quite some time, and now it's gone. Thanks to the millennial generation, going is no longer a future tense auxiliary verb.
Linguists have cringed since, when back in the 1930s, “gonna” began replacing “going to” in American pop culture. “I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter” became the title for a popular song by Fats Waller ninety years ago, starting a trend that would become accepted speech a few decades later.
“I'm gonna love you like nobody loves you,” sang Johnny Mercer in a smash hit from the Fifties. By the Seventies the slang verb moved from the Billboard charts to Hollywood, when Sylvester Stallone's Rocky used as its theme “Gonna Fly Now.”
That film obviously dealt a knock down blow to purists who preferred “Going To,” but now that future verb has been completely knocked out. At least “Gonna” starts with the same two letters as “Going to,” making it relatively easy to live with over time.
Unfortunately, Gonna has gone away, just as Going went all those years “a-go.” Listen to popular music today, if you dare, and you will hear the new version of “Going To.”
“I'mma be on the next level, I'mma be rocking that bass treble,” sang Will.I.Am and Fergie on the big hit from the 2009 Black-Eyed Peas album The E.N.D. “I'mma be chilling with my crew, I'mma be making all them deals you wanna do, I'mma be in them A list flicks.”
Any of us hoping that omission of “going to” was to be just a one-time occurrence had to endure it once again a few years later, when Roddy Ricch made the charts. He resorts to using I'mma instead of going to in “The Box,” a single from his album called Please Excuse Me For Being Anti-Social.
“I'mma get lazy,” Ricch threatens in the chorus. “We been trappin' like the Eighties.”
Next came Fitz and the Tantrums, an American indie band. Somewhere in a cellar sat “going to,” for it was nowhere to be heard on the hit “Basement.”
“Imma put it all aside, probably gonna stay up late,” sing Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Skaggs from the 2019 album All the Feels.
Silk Sonic, the group headed by Grammy-winning star Bruno Mars, were the next to tell “Going” to go. They use the new future form in “Leave the Door Open” from 2021's An Evening with Silk Sonic.
“I'mma leave the door open, girl,” Mars croons. “Hopin' you feel the way I feel.”
Finally, as if to make the grammatical travesty acceptable in mainstream rock, come The Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Let 'em Cry,” a track from the exceptionable 2022 album Unlimited Love, uses the vulgar substitution in place of “Going to.”
“Imma touch you up with every loving rough emotion,” sings front man Chad Smith, while Flea pounds on the bass and John Frusciante works his characteristic wonders on the six string. Behind them, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, Anthony Kiedis pounds on the drum set.
He is doing to the skins what modern music has done to English grammar, and it's gonna continue to stick it to linguists for generations to come.