We first hear the catchy tune “I Got 5 on It” on the radio as the Wilsons drive to their vacation home. From the backseat Jason asks, “What does ‘I got five on it’ mean?” and his sister Zora replies, “It’s about drugs.” Their father chimes in, “It’s not about drugs. It’s a dope song. Don’t do drugs.”
At first, the song seems to serve as an excuse for a humorous exchange. But variations of “I Got 5 on It” play several times throughout Us, often taking on a haunting sound. While the song is indeed about weed, more importantly, it’s about not sharing it for free.
The lyrics by Luniz say,
No, he ain’t my homie to begin with,
It’s too many heads to be proper to let my friend hit it
Unless you pull out the fat, crispy
5 dollar bill on the real before it’s history
‘Cause fools be having them vacuum lungs
An if you let em hit it for free you hella dum-da-dum-dumb
In other words, the song is about getting paid. It suggests you shouldn’t let your friends hit a joint for free. If you do, you’re being taken advantage of because you’re all in the same “low budget” lifestyle trying to get by, so you can’t afford to be charitable. It’s a micro-exchange that creates “haves” and “have-nots.”
Us illustrates the horror we participate in: the shallow notion that greed can be good and the self-centered idea that you can buy happiness. This message is the true horror of Us: that we’re all so busy trying to take care of ourselves, to show our status of wealth, and to keep up with the Joneses that we neglect others. We’re so caught up in the shiny promise of the American Dream and trying to get ahead, that we forget to be grateful for what we have.