While the word “tautophrase” didn’t take off, the phenomenon it described blossomed, abetted by hip-hop. Sure, philosophical resignation has been a part of the music as far back as 1984, when Run-D.M.C. reeled off a litany of misfortune — “Unemployment at a record high/People coming, people going, people born to die” — and underscored it with a weary, “It’s like that/and that’s the way it is.” But grandiosity, narcissism and artful braggadocio have also been integral to hip-hop from the start, whether they were the fruit of a supercharged sense of self or a coping mechanism for a deleterious urban environment. As with everything interesting in black culture, hip-hop’s swaggering tautophrases have been digested and regurgitated by the mainstream. Last year, Taylor Swift somewhat boringly testified that not only are “Haters gonna hate,” they’re gonna “hate hate hate” exponentially, presumably in direct proportion to her lack of culpability. Instead of serving the establishment (monotheism, patriarchal energies), the modern tautophrase empowers the individual. Regardless of how shallow that individual is.
Colson Whitehead, “Note to Self”, The New York Times Magazine (5 April 2015), 14.