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Hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa performs at the 37th annual Grammy awards ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, March 1, 1995
AP Photo/Reed Saxon
Push it real good.
PUSH IT

From “Push It” to “Get Low” and “Regulate,” a playlist for market manipulation

By Eshe Nelson & Jason Karaian

Traders have an unfortunate habit of incriminating themselves in chat messages when they try to manipulate markets. This week, BNP Paribas was fined $90 million by US regulators for attempting to rig a benchmark for interest-rate derivatives between 2007 and 2012. The French Bank’s fine was the seventh enforcement action related to that particular derivative benchmark in the US.

What’s notable about the BNP Paribas case is that the traders involved exposed their misdeeds in a rather unexpected way, by quoting lyrics from old-school R&B hits by the likes of Salt-N-Pepa and Montell Jordan. As far as we can tell, this was the first time the R&B artists were mentioned in an enforcement action by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission:

The communications among BNPP traders could be explicit, such as when a swaps trader confirmed in all-capitals to an options trader: “ok you need the fixing to be AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE,” or when an options trader stated to a group of BNPP traders, “at 11am we want to fix as low as possible.” On one occasion, BNPP options and swaps traders likened their illegal efforts to manipulate the USD ISDAFIX to lyrics of popular songs by Montell Jordan and Salt-N-Pepa:

  • BNPP Options Trader: that’s a great fixing
  • BNPP Swaps Trader: this is how we do it here :-P
  • BNPP Options Trader: push it real good

So now that Salt-N-Pepa’s smash hit “Push It” and Montell Jordan’s classic “This is How We Do It” have been formally linked to the scandalous world of market manipulation, it begs the question: what other jams capture the spirit of rigging international benchmark rates? Quartz created a Spotify playlist—Music for Manipulation—to serve as a soundtrack to shady financial dealings.*

There’s Dizzee Rascal’s “Fix Up, Look Sharp” and The Weeknd’s “Shameless” (“You want me to fix you but it’s never enough”). Waka Flocka Flame’s “Round of Applause” features the line, “Cool take it low, take it way lower than that,” while Flo Rida’s “Low“, in a similar vein, notes that “Next thing you know / Shawty got low low low low low low low low.” If higher rates are more your style, there’s Rihanna’s “Higher” (“You take me higher, higher than I’ve ever been, babe”) and Kanye West’s “Dark Fantasy” (“Can we get much higher? So high”). The rest are pretty self-explanatory. Happy trading!

Quartz’s “Music for Manipulation” playlist: 

  • Salt-N-Pepa, “Push It”
  • Montell Jordan, “This is How We Do It”
  • Flo Rida, “Low”
  • Dizzee Rascal, “Fix Up, Look Sharp”
  • Rihanna, “Higher”
  • Lil Jon, “Get Low”
  • The Weeknd, “Shameless”
  • Warren G and Nate Dogg, “Regulate”
  • Kanye West, “Dark Fantasy”
  • Waka Flocka Flame, “Round of Applause”
  • Reel 2 Real, “I Like to Move it”
  • TLC, “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”
  • Michael Jackson, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”

* Quartz does not condone or encourage market manipulation, and takes no responsibility for your actions while under the influence of this playlist.