Deep In The Mind Of A Slave

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"Slave" is probably one of my top ten favorite hip-hop songs ever. The song, especially the first verse, is just so beautifully dense. My connection is personal. Some songs just express how you feel, and how you hope to go through life. Not to be a arrogant prick, but that first verse really sums up my approach to writing, especially this part: 

 
Straight from my bloodstream, I pump finesse 
Nevertheless, hold it in your chest like stress 
Rhythm and blues style is not in my environment 
And when I "slow down" it's time to take a hit 
But until I fall off, call off your set 
and if you never knew me, then you never knew wreck 
Look inside of the mind and see 
Cause you might be trapped with a nigger like me

One thing people miss when they hear hip-hop is that the lyrics are often aspirational, and not literal. When Buck says, "straight from the bloodstream, I pump finesse," I feel it, not because I think that's what I always do, but because it's what I aspire to do. When he says, "and if you never knew me, then you never knew wreck," it's not so much that I think that's true, as I hope that some day, after a body of work has been produced, it might be.


In my heart, I think I'll always be that kid who played EMPD to get hype on the morning. It's interesting, back then we were the ice-grill, the survival mask and the music helped you create that mask, so that you could go out there on that old "putting heads to bed, straight out the box\emcess is jumping out shoes and sox" shit. But now, even as an adult doing adult things, there's still an element of war, still that need for that mask. Only now it's much more internal. There are no Walbrook Junction niggers to have negotiate, at least not like when I was kid. But Walbrook Junction is always in your head. There's always something be afraid of. 


Coincidentally, this is why I was such a fan of the first Christopher Nolan Batman flick. It's all about the mask. It's always about the mask.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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