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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.

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