WORD to the Wise

Behind the fame-driven money mutation of modern hip hop– buried beneath the current “super high–super fly” trendiness– music is LITERATURE.  Power lives between the borders of books penned by passionate visionaries like Malcolm X, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin, among more mainstream embraced social scholars such as Lani Guinier, Cornel West and Michael Erik Dyson. That same strength and grit has always  been deep-rooted in the essence of Hip Hop artistically mixed with the magic of melody and rhythm to ignite the spirit of its listeners.

 Lyrics are testaments. Songs tell stories. Realities are revealed. Lessons are learned. Hope is found. Authority is challenged. Happiness is felt. Truth is told. As many have become numb to lyrical content, it’s always good to refresh the masses and take a literary trip between the lines. Here are a few lines from two NY legends, known for shaping the culture.

NAS–NY State of Mind Illmatic, 1994 

 “It’s like the game aint the same/Got younger niggas pullin the triggas/bringin fame to they name/and claim some corners/crews without guns are goners/In broad daylight/stickup kids/they run up on us/4-5s and Gauges/Macks in fact/Same niggas’ll catch a back to back/snatchin ya crack yo black/you got a snitch on ya block/gettin niggas knocked/so hide ya stash until the coke price drop”

“But yo/you gotta slide on the vacation/inside/information makes large niggas a raisin in they wive’s basin/it drops deep/as it does in my breath/I never sleep/Cause sleep is the cousin of death/Behind the walls of intelligence/life is defined/I think of Crime/When im in a New York State of Mind”

A sure sign that Nas’ lyrics from his classic album– released nearly two decades ago–is more than music lies in its relevance today. Nas shows an to use music as a means to tell the story of a generation. NY breeds resilience, raw talent, a survivalist mentality, and more importantly, a bravery to fight for your own.

R.I.P GANGSTARR–Just To Get a Rep, Step in the Arena, 1991

“And some might say that he’s a dummy/but he’s sticking you/ and taking all of your money/It’s a daily operation/He might be loose at the park/or lurkin at the train station/Mad brothas know his name/so he thinks he got a little fame/from the stickup game/And while we’re blamin society/he’s at a party with his mans/who get his eye on the gold chain/that the next man’s wearin/It looks thick/but they aint starin/just think of a way/and when to get the brotha/they’ll be long gone/before the kid recovers/and back around the way he’ll have the chain on his neck/Claimin Respect/Just to get a Rep”

The late Genius Guru has so many classics, from Mass Appeal to Take it Personal, all worthy of being full-length quotes alone. Hear, the message speaks for itself.  Manipulated thoughts shared by young people searching for respect and validation is also sadly still relevant today. A legend gone too soon.

— @allthingsmitch


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