March 23rd, 2008 | Published in Uncategorized | 12 Comments
In the post, I encouraged him to write a book.
Imagine my surprise a month ago, when I received an e-mail from him
asking me to write a review, a request I gladly accepted.
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the first book that
I have ever read and felt that it was incomplete because
it wasn’t accompanied by a mixtape. Some Mos, Kweli,
and Lupe would be perfect.
While he doesn’t have a mixtape, yet, the book contains some other
treats, jewels and all ambitious moments.
Ever since I read The Dying Ground by Nichelle Tramble,
I have been eager to see someone tackle
what it means to be a young Black man, who who daily
navigates the streets home, and school with the full blown
awareness that his life could change at any time from the
moment he steps out his door.
Ta-Nehisi’s book does precisely this and more.
It opens, focusing on his brother and his father.
When reading about his father, I remembered a statement
Filthy made, which was “If you are honest as a writer, the reader
will let you take them to another place“.
Ta-Nehisi lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly for all to see,
with an almost uncomfortable honesty.
For instance, we learn about his dad, a Panther, a conscious dude,
a man who loves his family and does not take ANY sh-t from anyone.
We also learn that Pop’s kept it moving. Ta-Nehisi writes,
Here is the cast of my last name. My father had seven kids by four women.
Some of us were born best friends. Some of us were born the
same year. My elders come first in ….
Our parents are human and imperfect. Ta-Nehisi captures this with
eloquence when he writes,You could find my father at the kitchen table shaking his head at the Sunday paper, in the living room stewing over the evening news. His charges were five boys and two girls and when he died, they would be his only words. He balled his fist and hardened his face. he was called to fatherhood like a tainted preacher. The root was his own alcoholic father who seeded so many children that Dad simply lost count. He impregnated three sisters, and so Dad had stepmothers doubling as aunts.
All of us knew he was flawed, but still he retained the aura of a prophet. On our life map , he drew a bright circle around twelve through eighteen. This was the abyss where, unguided, black boys were swallowed whole, only to emerge on corners and prison tiers.
He displays the same deft hand when discussing his brother
Big Bill. He writes,
By mere months he was my fathers first son, but he turned this minor advantage into heraldry. he began sentences with “As the oldest son…” and to turn all his younger siblings into warriors. Big Bill was never scared. He had a bop that moves the crowed and preempted beef. When bored , he’d entertain himself, cracking on your busted fade, acne or your off-brand kicks.
His description of The Knowledge- that amorphous information that bubbles up
from the concrete in the hood, that can be found thick in a barber shop on
a Saturday afternoon- is so insightful its ridiculous. He describes it, writing,
The Knowledge was taught from our lives’ beginings, whether we realized it or not. Street professors presided over invisible corner podiums, and the Knowledge was dispensed. Their faces were smoke and obscured by the tilt of their Kangol’s. they lectured from sacred texts like Basic Game, Applied Cool, Barbershop 101…There was the geometry of cocking the baseball cap, working theories on what jokes to laugh at and exactly how loud; and entire volumes devoted to the cross over dribble. Bill inhaled the Knowledge and departed in a sheepskin cap and gown. I cut class, slept through lectures, and emerged awkward and wrong.
In a society where we are bombarded The Black man as a Thug/Black
Man as the President Dichotomy, it is affirming to see
the evolution of a boy into a man from a standpoint that reflects
honesty and reflection.
While reading this I realized how we have very about the first
time ANY OF US heard, Criminal Minded/Kool G Rap/ Public
Enemy/NWA… Beautiful Struggle is an eloquent, gut punching
moment in this conversation, our conversation about our
hoods, our families and our music.
Read anything good lately?
Why haven’t more people written about experiencing hip hop?
Is it because we are spending all of our time
Partying and Paying the rent?
Black folks need to party less and write more?