The World That Hip-Hop Made





I've been really killing this DOOM collabo with Jake-One, lately. DOOM is, of course, sick with the wordplay, but I've been thinking a lot about the hook which, with some scratching in between, is basically--"Yo son\Git r done." So you have some straight black slang and a sample from Larry the Cable Guy. And it's done by a dude who is, himself, sampling the mythology of The Fantastic Four. Larry's white working classic aesthetic is not really something you would immediately pair with underground hip-hop. Except if you know hip-hop, you would. 


I've talked about this before but the entire aesthetic of hip-hop is sonic democracy. Basically any sound, any where, by any people, or any thing is fodder for hip-hop. Nothing is too low-culture (Get R Done.)  And nothing is too high culture (Miles Davis). 

This is not original to hip-hop. Ray Bradbury captured the same aesthetic:

A conglomerate heap of trash, that's what I am. But it burns with a high flame.
But hip-hop is how it came to me. I was talking with my homeboy Minkah the other day about RG3 and the notion of blackness as "limiting." He said, "It would never occur to me to think of being black as limiting." It's not even RG3. Obama says he is rooted in the black community but "not limited to it." I think I understand what Obama is saying, and yet I kind of don't. I have generally found racism to be limiting. Black people, not so much.

I feel like Nas--I don't even know how to start this...

Here is the thing: I never wanted to leave home. I played D&D and I read comic books and I was a little weird. I was 16. I wasn't good with girls, but, like, who was? I was weird, and so were a lot of other people. Perhaps most importantly is this--whatever happened in the crack years, whatever socio-economic indicators I was on the wrong side of, I felt loved by my parents, my family, my community, and (to be archaic) by my race. And I didn't really feel "different" than other black people. And so when people talk about "black nerds" I have no idea what they mean.

This is my particular experience. Talk to some other black person and you will get another. What I am trying to convey is that what you see here (and what I hope you like here) going from Hobbes to Voyager to Français to CTE to drones is a byproduct of my community (because this is how we talk) and the music I loved as a child. Hip-hop says "All Your Sonics Are Belonging to Us." And all your knowledge too.


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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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