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Here's something to wake up to. "What U See Is What You Get" is the sort of thing I like to play when the whole fam is away. I like to close the windows and turn the volume all the way up and jump around and act stupid. I'm sure Eric Holder has it on file somewhere. If there's one thing I miss about being young it's hearing something like this in a club full of other young people who "get it." 


But as much as I love the song, this is easily my favorite video ever because it exemplifies something I was alluding to the other day in reference to KRS-ONE. Hip-hop is obsessed with the body. It is authored by a people, who have not had much success in securing the safety of their physical selves. This is not merely the historical presence of slavery but the everyday violence us inflicted by peers, parents, and police. Young mothers cursing out children on the bus. Alcoholics bumrushed for cruel amusement. Fathers murdered. 

There is a maddening lack of control in these spaces. Here in New York it's fashionable to complain about the young black and brown kids who hop on the train, speaking loudly and obscenely. When I see them I laugh, because I remember doing the same on Baltimore's (utterly pitiful) subway and buses. Those kids control nothing--not even their own bodies, really. What they are doing is asserting their presence in the only way they know how. (Credit for this insight goes to my friend Neil Drumming.)

What the city brings to them is a kind of terrorism, a chaos which I suspect shaves off a good year from the average life-span. From that chaos springs a culture in which the ruler shall be the one who can master himself--his body--in the storm. One way to do that is to say rude things on a crowded subway, high on the fact that no adult will dare try to stop you. Another way--wholly fantastic--is to move like Xzibit, Zen-like, in possession of your own mania, impervious to all the other mania around you--Everybody start to rush\Swinging through is your friendly neighborhood lush.



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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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