A Reprieve From the Blue Period

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1.) Kelela. Good God, I am killing this joint. (Peace be upon the great Jenny Deluxe for the recc.) I was thinking about "Drunk In Love" which—like all humans—I just adore. ("I would kill that horse if I could meet Beyoncé.") But I sort of hate Jay Z's verse because, like most rappers, his idea of talking about sex is basically to describe a track and field event. Very few rappers can go here:

Just promise,
That you'll turn me out
Almost time to go,
Just one more round before you send me out.

That is because the pimp is the archetypical figure in hip-hop today, and the pimp must always be in control. The pimp can not be reduced to pleading and begging that actual humans, very often, find themselves reduced to when confronted by sexual desire.

2.) The God William Shakespeare. The first thing I try to establish in my essay class is that great writers have a high "stuff to words" ratio in their sentences. In other words, in any great sentence, there's always much more going on then you'd think based on the word count. And no one does it better:

Doubtful it stood,
As two spent swimmers that do cling together
And choke their art.

That is from Macbeth, and it's a beautiful, tactile, concrete image that does everything it's supposed to. What initially got me about Shakespeare's tragedies is the extent to which they reminded of MCing: 

I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd 
Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar.

Shout out to our own mod Kathleen for getting me back into the Bard. I'm juggling between Julius Caesar and Macbeth right now. I read both in high school. Have fonder memories of Macbeth, but loving Caesar now, too.

3.) Bob Marley. Don't know what it is right now. But I'm really feeling "So Much Things To Say." I don't think you escape how you are reared and, given my rearing, when Bob says "I'll never forget, no way, they sold Marcus Garvey for rice" or "Don't forget who you are and where you stand in your struggle," it will always have meaning for me. It will always be the voice of God in whom I can never trust.

4.) Smoking Loon: White Wine Blend. Take this for whatever it's worth. My palette is wholly undeveloped. And I generally prefer reds. But this has become an indispensable tool in keeping me sane during these times.

5.) X-Men en Français. Nuff said, mon fils.

6.) Portlandia. Favorite thing on TV.

7.) Avoiding House of Cards. Evil is neither intelligence nor self-justifying. And despite my foray into darkness, I'm not a cynic. If the cynic is right, there's no point to anything. Even storytelling. 

8.) The God James Baldwin who is so essential right now, and—by any justice—should be alive and with us, telling us the meaning of this fair and foul era. Except he already did that:

The people, however, who believe that this democratic anguish has some consoling value are always pointing out that So-and-So, white, and So-and-So, black, rose from the slums into the big time. The existence -- the public existence -- of, say, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. proves to them that America is still the land of opportunity and that inequalities vanish before the determined will. It proves nothing of the sort. The determined will is rare -- at the moment, in this country, it is unspeakably rare -- and the inequalities suffered by the many are in no way justified by the rise of a few.

A few have always risen -- in every country, every era, and in the teeth of regimes which can by no stretch of the imagination be thought of as free. Not all these people, it is worth remembering, left the world better than they found it. The determined will is rare, but it is not invariably benevolent. Furthermore, the American equation of success with the big time reveals an awful disrespect for human life and human achievement. This equation has placed our cities among the most dangerous in the world and has placed our youth among the most empty and most bewildered. The situation of our youth is not mysterious. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. They must, they have no other models. That is exactly what our children are doing. They are imitating our immortality, our disrespect for the pain of others.

No writer is more essential to me right now. Perhaps no writer is more essential to me, period.

Bon weekend à tous.

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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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