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I never liked that scene in Belly where Nas literally acts out the third verse of One Love. Perhaps I took things too personal, as I've always believed that verse to be one of the two or three greatest ever recorded. There's a beautiful coldness to it, a subtlety, and nuance that finds Nas--all at once--noting the tragedy of the streets, and attempting a 12-year old kid into a more efficient killer. The scene in Belly is much more hamfisted, and text-book case against literal translations of the source material.


Belly's director is Hype Williams, whose also directed some of hip-hop's most beautiful videos. I've always been partial to "One More Chance" and "I Shot Ya." But I kept thinking about that scene while watching the new Kanye video for "All Of The Lights." The intro is striking, but it quickly fades a the kind of "Know What I Mean?" direct interpretation of the song. It was as if Williams were trying to summon Kanye's style of rhyming. Surely some will see that as a good thing. I don't. 

"All Of The Lights" is an incredible song, one of the few times where an epic collage actually fits. It's a testament to West's skills as a producer. I wish I could say the same about the video. Hip-hop has never been all that great at trusting the intelligence of its audience. "I Used To Love H.e.r" is classic. I just wish Common had not felt that he had to explain himself at the end. He's too good of an artist for that.

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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. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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