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Hip-hop’s always made room for contrast — so as the culture continues to veer toward profiteering, let’s celebrate the givers

Lavon, Kidd Creole, Rahiem and Mr. Broadway from Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five performs at the U.I.C. Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois in January 1985. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

In the introduction to Tricia Rose’s seminal book ,she laments that the national paranoia around the art form has robbed the culture of artistic validation — and worse, strengthened the conditions that fueled its urgency. “In this climate,” she writes, “young people have few … honest places to turn to for a meaningful appreciation and critique of the youth culture in which they are so invested. The attacks on black youth through hip hop maintain economic and social injustice.”

Unfortunately, not much…

The hooks on ‘Scary Hours 2’ are the same old hitmaking algorithm, but the verses show that 6 God might just be maturing

Drake attends an event in 2019.
Drake attends an event in 2019.
Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Almost a year ago, I wrote an article about Drake. In it, I talked about how I’d identified so much with his music when I was 22 — but then, as we both grew into our midthirties over the next decade, he basically kept making music for 22-year-olds. The article, predictably, got held up by Drake fans as some sort of scathing takedown of his music and artistry. But that’s how the internet works. I also got a lot of “he just doesn’t make music for you, old man*” from twentysomethings — which was exactly my point.

Fast forward to…

The work and statements of some of our favorite MCs line up quite comfortably alongside philosophy’s greatest — and most notorious — minds

Image: Qadir El-Amin/Medium. Image Sources: Bettmann, Josh Brasted, NBC, Oscar White, Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images and Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Hip-hop is a lot of things, but the least discussed of all its facets is how it operates as a philosophy. I don’t mean as a KRS-One riff or as subject matter; I mean structurally.

Consider Thomas Kuhn. In 1962 Kuhn wrote , in which he describes the field as having stretches of “normal science,” interrupted by moments of “crisis.” Every once in a while, there’s a revolution in the field, challenging and ultimately subsuming the existing paradigm. …

Consequence reveals how he coped with a shocking diagnosis

Photos courtesy of Consequence.

I learned the difference between being a deal-broker and being an artist way back in the 1990s. I always got to the bag. I was getting to the bag at 16.

I rapped like I was in the street slinging — it was the same premise, except I was running up into record label buildings. For me, it was such an accomplishment. I didn’t get the Freshmen cover; it wasn’t around then. I didn’t get ’s Unsigned Hype. You know what I got? I was the “fourth” member of A Tribe Called Quest. …

The problem isn’t the subject matter — it’s the callousness

Still from BRS Kash’s “Throat Baby Remix feat. Da Baby and City Girls” official music video.

As I officially step into my late thirties later this year, I have accepted that the superpowers of aging will only accelerate with time. In other words, it won’t be long now before I’m tempted to post thirst traps of myself in Under Armour shirts like Tyler Perry and other uncles on the move.

The signs are there. On one hand, a dermatologist tells me I look so much younger than my apparent big ass old age; on another, a different doctor tells me my lingering back problems are sciatica. (If there was any lingering doubt that this an…

The masked rapper’s worldbuilding and commitment reminded us that there was always something more to discover

Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

I planned to write about MF DOOM this past November to mark the 16th anniversary of his classic album But as can often be the case for writers, other stories happened, so I put it off, figuring I’d have more opportunities to give Daniel Dumile his flowers while he could smell them through his metal mask. Little did I, or the hip-hop world, know that even mid-November would have been too late. On New Year’s Eve, his wife announced that the 49-year-old cult rap legend had died on October 31.

Around that time, I revisited Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2009

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Spread love, that’s the B’s B-Day way!

Photo: BET Awards 2020/Getty images

5. “I know that girls love Beyoncé” — Drake

This one-liner barely squeaks over the threshold to qualify for this list, but the overall vibe of the James Fauntleroy-featured “Girls Love Beyoncé” — with its Destiny’s Child interpolations — is a fitting homage to the queen. (Also: Everyone loves Beyoncé. Duh.)

4. “I know they fakin’/Okay you a killer, right, and Miss Cleo is Jamaican/And Bob Marley is Haitian/And me and Beyoncé datin’” — J. Cole

Cole got jokes! Gotta wonder if Hov found the sarcasm funny, though.

3. “Beyoncé follow me on Instagram, Jigga, watch it” — Kevin Gates

We respect the IG flex. We’d be telling everyone willing to listen if ’Yoncé were double-tappin’ our posts, too. But clearly, this lyric is cap.

2. “I’ll never be picture-perfect Beyoncé/Be light as Al B or Black as Chauncey” — Kanye West

’Ye has a point: We can’t imagine Mrs. …

A little bit of hip-hop and a whole lot of soul

A still from episode 18 of The Cosby Show, “A Touch of Wonder,” aired on February 20, 1986. Photo: NBC/Getty Images

“Jammin’ on the one.”

On an early episode of , that’s the line Theo Huxtable told Stevie Wonder he’d use at a party. To my young ears, it sounded old and dated — the kind of phrase that would sit in the company of “jive turkey” and “foxy momma.” The episode aired in 1986, before I was born, and more than a decade had passed when the episode first graced my TV screen, but it was an instant favorite. …

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

After Nas got The Firm back together, what other kinda-cool comebacks can we expect?

8. Odd Future

OFWGKTA is like the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2012: A core group with enough talent to build a dynasty that sadly splintered before bringing home a championship. But could a crew that made its name by pushing the limits of NSFW rap reconcile that aesthetic with the soulful turns taken by Frank Ocean, Syd Tha Kid, and Tyler, The Creator? We may never know — and maybe that’s for the best.

7. St. Lunatics

One of the great tragedies in rap is when a crew sends their most charismatic member to kick in the industry door — and then fails to convince…

Too many times, a progressive image has crumbled under misogynistic acts

Talib Kweli. Photo: Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

Back in 1998, André 3000 put his own spin on that old adage about judging a book by its cover. “Is every nigga with dreads for the cause?” he mused rhetorically on the title track of OutKast’s third album, . “Is every nigga with golds for the fall?” The point was clear: Seeing ain’t always believing, especially for his materialistic and conscious rap peers. And more than two decades later, the answers to his questions feel clearer than ever.

Earlier this month, in the wake of the death of The Roots’ Malik B., singer Jaguar Wright hopped on Instagram to…

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