Breakfast at Prodigy's

It's funny how, as I get older, the things that once caused me to wince are becoming utterly repellent. I mentioned a while I think Straight Outta Compton is a great album, I'll probably never listen to it again. That's fine. I suspect the album wasn't made for 34-year old men. More worrying are those songs that actually still speak to me, and whatever machismo I still carry and cherish, but that are slowly falling out of rotation.

God, I love "Drop A Gem On 'Em." There's some irrelevant irony in that statement that I'll revisit at another time. But for now, there's so much about that cut that just moves me--the relentless drums, the sheer monotone anger in the Mobb's lyrical presentation

Kick that thug shit,
Vibe magazine on some love shit
But keep it real kid, cause you don't who you fucking with,

Not the most complicated lyrics, but Havoc pushes that last line and as the listener there's this beautiful moment of vicariousness. Who among us--even today in our jobs--has not looked at the competition and thought, "Keep it real kid, you don't know who you fucking with." Of course the next verse begins with "Yeah likewise, tired of rap guys that's faggots." What follows are some great lyrics, and truthfully a year ago, it was enough to say, "OK, I'll never play this publicly." But the more of it hear in my old music, and the less of it I hear in my new music, my tolerance is wearing down.

It's the same for Breakfast At Tiffany's, probably my favorite film of all time. But Mickey Rooney's yellowface makes it untenable. It is as if someone baked an exquisite chocolate cake, and then having presented it to your party, dumped a shaker worth of salt over the thing.  I think this is why we avoid conversations around societal bias. We have so much to defend, and we fear what we may have to leave behind.

I'm not clear that it's fair for me to hold art that I loved to evolving standards, but one has the right to choose which art they'll continue to engage. Lately I've come to feel that engagement in art that conflicts with my core values, says something about how core those values really are. But this is merely for me, and I'm still working it all out.

Ah well. We'll always have "Ma Dukes," which I'm bumping this morning in Aspen.

Presented by

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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