Profound Hip Hop Quote: Week #5

5 Feb

“These cats drink champagne and toast to death and pain,
Like slaves on a ship talking about who’s got the flyest chain”

—Talib Kweli and Hi Tek, “Africa Dream”

February is Black History month; it is a time to reflect on the struggles and achievements of our ancestors and how they have impacted the lives of not just Black people but all people.  I’ve always been a fan of Talib Kweli since the days of Black Star.  He is a true lyricist and often tells it like it is while teaching lessons through his music.  The first time I heard “Africa Dream” I was lured in by the beat of the drum  and absolutely captivated by the lyrics.  Then I heard the last lines and kept pressing rewind thinking to myself, this is one deep brother…not just a common day rapper.

Slavery is a part of our history and always will be.  Nevertheless, it has not stopped many Blacks (Notice I say Blacks, not African Americans, because this includes the entire African Diaspora) from being successful and making positive contributions to society. Sadly, there are several of us who are so far removed from the past struggles of our people that we fail to acknowledge how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go.

Why glorify killing and celebrate playing a role in the deterioration of our communities?  Is it just in some peoples’ nature, or is it a learned behavior?  Is it all about survival and no longer about what is morally and ethically acceptable?    Maybe it’s all about the new slave masters: blood and drug money, so-called power and superficial respect.

Presently, we are faced with several racial, gender, culture, class and religious issues that involve all people.  What role are you playing in our future?  We must all be held accountable for our actions, both good and bad.  When you reflect on what you are doing or what you are saying will it be perceived as a detriment to society or something that is going to catapult us into greatness?

How absurd would it be if Kunta Kinte bragged about the chains that bounded him while he lay across from his friend on the slave ship? Are you really bragging about the “figurative” chains that are keeping you enslaved?  Are you chasing after that money at any cost: your family, your friends, your own life?   Maybe you’ve worn the chains for so long that you’ve become accustomed to them and simply consider them to be a way of life.  It’s not always easy for anyone, including me, to do the “right” thing while in chains, but we can all start searching for the keys to unlock ourselves from the mentalities and situations that have kept us enslaved.

Please feel free to share your thoughts

~Anonomz aka Tanya Harris

Bonus English Lesson:

Talib Kweli has a few attributes in these particular lines. The first is slang.  Using the word “cats” to represent “men” is one.  More than likely, Talib chose “cats” because people often make the reference to “cool cats.”  Of course, these “guys” think they are “cool.”  Talib also uses “flyest,” which can be considered the “best or as nice as it gets.  Lastly, it is no coincidence that these are the last lines presenting an excellent example of an analogy.  The guys glorifying death and pain are being compared to slaves in chains.  He could have used a different correlation; however, this connection with slavery makes the impact that much more powerful.


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