Morning Coffee


"Show You How To Do This Song" is the greatest hip-hop song ever. I know that last week proclaimed "Daytona 500" the greatest hip-hop song in all of known hip-hop history. But my status here as a public intellectual allows me to change my mind, and never bother to explain why. (It was in my contract.)

Moreover, key to my role as a prominent black intellectual is the conveyance of intellectual hipness. The accepted means of doing so usually involves crafting a jive hermeneutic melding Kierkegaard and Jay-Z. But I have never read Kierkegaard, and I just learned what word hermeneutic meant last week. I guess I'll just have to be fickle then.

Snark-aside, "Show You How To Do This Son" is--indeed--a great song. Probably my second favorite Jigga joint ("Dead Presidents Pt. 2" holds the top slot.) What you have here is Jay's classic dark sense of humor, channeling the ethos of drug-dealers and stick-up kids. I'm often shocked that as I've moved into the realm of respectability that this sort of hip-hop maintains a hold on me. But at least once a week I wake up and think:

Get a gun, a mask, an escape route
Some duct-tape'll make em take you to the house.

What "gangsta" rap always channeled was that outsider in all of us. And not the noble outsider, the barbarian, the viking, the savage. For me it was that sense that, "I am not a good person, and I like it." Of course I work hard at being moral, but I'm fairly sure that much of what I have is rooted in lizard-brain desire.

"Gangsta" rap expressed that part. You don't literally want to "get a gun, a mask an escape route," but you do want to go through life with that kind of desperation, with that sort of abandon. I don't think I'll ever age out of that. I don't even want to.

Finally, "Show You How To Do This Son" is notable for its second half ("I Show You How To Do This Hon.") It's one of the rare examples of a rapper like Jay-Z addressing a woman, neither as an object, nor as a mother figure, but with the same fraternal spirit he addresses the dudes in the first half.

There's a kind of incomplete proto-feminism at work there. I can't think of another male rapper bragging about a woman being pleasured so indirectly. First of all rappers rarely brag about giving oral sex, only receiving it. And Jay isn't bragging about giving either, but he's bragging about his knowledge of the street which, in his rendition, is not the exclusive property of men. And the fruits--sexual pleasure, stolen drugs, riches--are not just for men, are not bestowed by men, but are to be taken by women.

It's a great song. Jigga at his dark and humorous finest--"And if your man got you baggin up it could be worse\Just put a little in the baggie, put a little in the purse.
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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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