1.22.2018

The Roots of The Roots' Black Thoughts' Thoughts

https://static.highsnobiety.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/14225016/black-thought-hot-97-freestyle-000.jpgI'm very late to this party, but I finally got around to digesting Black Thought's epic 10-minute freestyle on Hot 97 from last month.  Video here, annotated transcript here, and interview here.  All I can say is "wow."  (And, since The Roots are from Philly, "yeah!")

Well, let me say more than wow, actually.  Besides the fact that it's a great rap over sick beats, what draws me to this is the vast array of allusions and topics he covers in his verses.  I mean, in any 10-minute span have you referenced the Bible and Shakespeare, quoted Yeats, and name-dropped Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West?  Oh, and while you're at it throw in Freakonomics, Henrietta Lacks, and Buzz Bissinger, OK?

There are so many layers of social commentary, word play, and homages to past lyrics here, in such a deep and poetic format.  I am serious when I say that I hope that this 10-minute clip is part of what archeologists find 10,000 years from now so they can properly interpret the America of our day.

Obviously Black Thought is a supremely gifted lyricist who has worked very hard at his craft.  We may never be as good at what we do as he is good at what he does.  But there is a lesson here for all of us, to be as well read as possible and in general to absorb the classics from any and all directions.  Clearly he has done that, and it shows in how he has crafted words and topics, which are built on a wide range of sources and ideas.  And it is that same density and diversity of perspectives that can allow us to express ourselves in similarly epic ways, maybe not in a 10-minute freestyle on Hot 97, but in our blog posts and essays, conversations and speeches, and the work of our hands and minds. 
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