Nudge, Nudge

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.

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.

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In