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As a child of late 80s and 90s hip-hop this is the ultimate day starter. Circa 97, I basically played this every morning before I headed for work. "Royalty" is one of the more positive example of rap's medicinal qualities. At its core its a music of (male) striving and overcoming:


Major effect to your sector, I'm the corrector
Live and direct, holding my mic like a scepter.
Supreme exalted, universal leader.
Descendant of the kings and queens, the overseer..
Again--Gang Starr has done it.
Remember too much jewels back in the days, you had to run it.

That's quite an egotistical collection, unless you consider the last line which really is the key. I've said before that you accustom yourself to violence in the streets, but that accustoming isn't without cost--specifically, I'd argue, in your broader confidence and sense of self-worth. You learn to live a certain way, and you can survive that way, but the stress of having to constantly watch out still grinds you down.

A great deal of hip-hop can be interpreted as an effort resist that grind, It's about pumping yourself up in the morning to walk the streets. And long after you've left the streets it's about pumping yourself up for the greater world. That part about being in school or the library meant a lot to me when I was in college.

Basically it was strong coffee.


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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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