I’m getting ready to write my review of Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ The Beautiful Struggle. In the same way that Kwame Dawes describes his style of writing as having a “reggae aesthetic“, it’s clear that Coates is trying to craft a hip-hop aesthetic in his style of writing. Some of the most common words in his lexicon are “jennys” and “Mecca”, words that have at least 15 years of literary history in the lyrics of De La Soul, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Tribe Called Quest, and others. And so, while reading The Beautiful Struggle I began to remember all those tracks that I had stopped listening to years ago, and also discovered others that I had never heard before.
Most of the songs in this podcast are from the east coast during the early 90’s, which I think is the area and era that influenced Coates’ writing the most. (There are a couple notable exceptions: 2pac who provides a nice intro and J Live whose lyrics I’ve been eating up like an old box of letters.)
Ta-Nehisi writes infrequently about hip-hop. To those who say it’s ruining black America, he responds, “I would play Illmatic, De La Soul Is Dead, The Infamous, Word…Life five hundred times over before I would offer him a single word written by John McWhorter.” Similarly, he feels that “people who make judgments about the moral worth of hip-hop, often aren’t especially schooled in the music.” And does Obama represent an end to hip-hop culture? Not for Ta-Nehisi.
Thank you for the podcast – other than listening to my old-school station on Pandora, this is the best way I could spend a Monday morning. After watching the videos of Ice-T and whatever his name is that you bookmarked yesterday, I had a dream that I was asked to put together a mixtape of what I think “good hip-hop” is. In our dreams, I believe that we have perfect recall – I can remember every lyric to every song, but only in my dreams. Along the same lines, I knew the names and albums of every song on my dreamy mixtape. Among them were songs off of
Mecca and the Soul Brother – Pete Rock and C.L Smooth
Midnight Marauders – A Tribe Called Quest
Stakes is High – De La Soul
Illmatic – Nas
Common – Like Water For Chocolate
Blackstar – Blackstar
It appears that sharing links, sharing what we read, can lead to shared thought, shared experience.
I’m tempted to comment – and so I will – that even the title of the book could be construed as a hip hop reference (hello, 2005 Talib Kweli album!).
Anyhow, love the podcast and it represents a lot of my favorites too 🙂
(although, as you know, looking at my last.fm profile, you’d never know that)
Also hilarious? Your captcha just gave me “Nas”
Um, I’m not running Firefox, I’m running Flock. Tell your blog to get with the program!
Nice man. It’s interesting because I’ve been putting something similar together in my head. I’ll drop it soon. I was especially impressed by your 2Pac selection. I think the “Me Against the World” album is a pretty underrated record in his discography, but it’s the most potent and emotional.
I’ve had the same bizarre experience – perfect recall in a dream of details that I’d never be able to remember in that portion of life we call wakefulness. I still don’t know how I feel about Blackstar. I think I mix them up with Gangstarr.
Yeah, he throws out a good amount of subtle love to both Nas and Talib. But the overall tone and style seem (to me) to be founded in early 90’s hip-hop.
That’s just because it’s the only track on the podcast that is outside the realm of what you would consider “hip-hop that white people like”, innit?
Glad I finally took a listen – you made my evening.