To my T.R.O.Y./Philaflava.com nation: I’ve had a ton of fun writing my nine “lyric interpretation” pieces for you. The idea behind this regular feature was to provide this download-heavy, quick paced blog with a weekly “think-piece” that could incite both thoughtful discussion and increased appreciation of this music. Although I will not stop writing such analysis for this website I am in the process of shifting gears away from the analysis of individual songs back to the honeydip I arrived with – the analysis of entire albums, as well as recurring themes across artists and genres.Â
From Knowledge To Born: Lyrics Interpreted
Judging by the feedback and the links, I feel that the interpretation pieces have been mostly well-received among our readership. It is not my belief that my take on any particular song or lyric is an infallible critical gospel, but I do place great emphasis on carefully reading rap lyrics for their many meanings and implications. For this series I chose songs that were either exceptionally creative or especially difficult to comprehend upon a cursory listening, and some of the songs fit both categories.Â
Whether or not these songs are “profound” probably depends on the listener, but I feel like each of the songs had something special going on – special enough to put them under the microscope for a few hundred words, at least.Â Over the course of the series, several themes emerged – racial identity formation, hip-hop’s indebtedness to traditions of spiritualism and mysticism, social and artistic mobility, code switching, and multivalent narrative techniques, to name a few. The songs I chose proved to be great resources for sparking discussions on the ways in which such themes intersect in rap.
Ghostface Killah’s “The Sun” demonstrates how the colorful history of a single slang term can inform a Â song that tackles the theme of redemption from a variety of spiritual traditions. The Legion “New Niggas” analyzes history to inject spiritual urgency to the adoption of new slang and identity. Black Sheep’s “Still In The Ghetto” tackles the formation of a forward-thinking mind-state in a society that values assimilation over collective identity, while Ultramagnetic MCs “Two Brothers With Checks” shows just how far a brother has to go to break such mind-forged manacles.Â Das Efx “Hard Like A Criminal” proves that there’s two sides to each side of a multi-layered story, and GP Wu’s “Black On Black Crime” imagines a new narrative in which freedom of choice does not fatally undermine a peaceful social order.Â
K-Solo’s “Tales From The Crackside” illustrates the fragility of the existing social order despite the nimbleness of the mind’s imaginative power, while Juggaknots “Generally” makes the case that the cultivation of one’s consumer habits often tragically precedes the development of one’s interpretive faculties. And RZA’s “Sunshowers” reminds us that the only truth we might arrive at in our brief lives is a returnÂ the state of ignorance that compelled our curiosity about the greater structure we desperately wish to see in the universe.
The next step? As you may or may not know, Continuum Books publishes a series of paperbacks called Thirty Three And A Third written about seminal albums and calls for submissions of proposals every year. To date, nobody has proposed to write about Brand Nubian’s debut LP One For All. It is one of my favorite albums and one that tackles most of the themes I have mentioned, and I have every intention of submitting my proposal by the deadline of midnight on December 31st. No disrespect to Tom Breihan or Serena Kim, but their published reviews of this album leave quite a bit to be desired. I am more than happy to do my part to fill in the yawing chasm.
So … is anyone out there actually interested in the prospect of a Brand Nubian book authored by yours truly? Let me know so I can start the self-promotion as early as possible.