Rare is the person who can conceptualize the hood,
in all its pain, beauty and promise.
Two pieces that do this are Nas’s Illmatic and
Michele Wallaces, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman.
Whats strikes me about both pieces is that they illicit an
emotional response. In addition, Black Macho is particularly
moving because Michele focuses on how gender influences
the lives of Black women in urban environments. She writes,
Now I want you to picture a little black girl in a jungle
that has no tigers and lions, but poverty, ignorance,
welfare centers, tenements, rats, roaches, inadequate
schools, malevolent teachers, pimps, Forty Second Streets,
heroin, hypodermic needles and methadone, opportunistic
preachers and community leaders, a narrow range of career
possibilities , always impending pregnancies, sterilization
and illogical court system, and two races of men who prey
upon her as sexual chattel and a beast of burden. And
suppose that behind this black girl, there was a whole
string of little black girls who had faced this same jungle
with their imaginary advantages and been defeated. Would
it not be an act of unkindness, of extreme justice really, to
tell her that she was a woman of strengths, of exceptional
Any one of the above mentioned phenomena, my seem
innocent on its face. But when the “ignorance, welfare centers,
tenements, rats, roaches, inadequate schools, malevolent
teachers, pimps, Forty Second Streets, heroin, hypodermic
needles and methadone, opportunistic preachers and
community leaders, a narrow range of career possibilities”
are taken together, it becomes very clear exactly what some
young black women are facing in their day to day lives.
Looking at the The World is Yours video isn’t a reminder of what
young men and women in Harlem, Detroit, Oakland and Philly
are facing, yet I do feel a sense of urgency when watching it.
It’s not that the jack moves portrayed feel intense, its the foreshadowing,
the moment right before that has me on needles while I watch it.
This video 4 minutes of 49 seconds of sheer grimeyness.
On the song Memory Lane Nas opens, giving a description
of the hood that came to mind while reading the above
Michelle Wallace passage. He raps,
I rap for listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners
Hennessey holders and old school niggas,
then I be dissin a unofficial that smoke woolie thai
I dropped out of Kooley High, gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie
Jungle survivor, fuck who’s the liver
My man put the battery in my back, a difference from Energizer
Sentence begins indented with formality
duration’s infinite, moneywise or physiology
Poetry, that’s a part of me, retardedly bop
I drop the ancient manifested hip-hop, straight off the block
I reminisce on park jams, my man was shot for his sheep coat
Chocolate blunts make me see him drop in my weed smoke
It’s real, grew up in trife life, did times or white lines
Both Nas’s and Michelle are saying I present
to you the stories of some folks who are trying
to survive in a world, stories of folks who have been told
at every turn that their survival is irrelevant.
This is why both of these two pieces move me.
Wow. I think this was an actual thugs, feminist and boom
bap post. Nice.