Jewelz – Blackstar “Thieves in the Night”

bluest-eye

What do I need to know?

Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Blackstar. The track, as Kweli alludes to in the opening verse, is based on the ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison. The book, among various themes, focuses on how the black communities standards of beauty, values and morals are set by white American society.

What’s the story?

Mos and Kweli go in questioning the mainstream value system. Kweli lays the foundation questioning whether money is the root of all evil or is it embedded in the human psyche. The hook,

Not strong (Only aggressive)
Not free (We only licensed)
Not compassionate, only polite (Now who the nicest?)
Not good but well behave

is lifted straight from the final page of the book. Mos takes the hook and theme and delivers probably the best verse on the entire album.

This life is temporary but the soul is eternal
Separate the real from the lie, let me learn you
Not strong, only aggressive, cause the power ain’t directed
That’s why, we are subjected to the will of the oppressive
Not free, we only licensed, not live, we just exciting
Cause the captors own the masters to what we writing
Not compassionate, only polite, we well trained
Our sincerity’s rehearsed and staged, it’s just a game
Not good, but well behaved cause the camera survey
Most of the things that we think, do or say
We chasin after death just to call ourselves brave
But everyday, next man meet with the grave
I give a damn if any fan recall my legacy
I’m trying to live life in the sight of God’s memory like that y’all

Is it any good?

This is my favorite Blackstar song. 88 Keys does his thing with a melodic track fitting the mood and Mos, who has always been a dope emcee, seemed to really begin to take it to another level on the whole album and this track in particular before dropping the classic ‘Black on Both Sides’.

Type of knowledge dropped?

Book knowledge since its the audio summary of sorts of The Bluest Eye’ but also cultural by way of the content of the novel.
[message_box title=”Additional Details” color=”white”]Artist: Black Star
Album: Mos Def & Kweli are…
Year Released: 1998
Producer: 88 Keys
Label: Rawkus

[/message_box]

 

Jewelz: Ras Kass “Nature of the Threat”

raskass

What do I need to know?

The “Nature of the Threat” is considered by many to be Ras Kass’ magnum opus off of his debut album Soul On Ice. In it Ras Kass basically spits verses encyclopedia style documenting the evolution of man and the origins of racism. Ras Kass collected data from various sources but has been challenged many times on its accuracy in the fifteen years since its release. Regardless of the accuracy of the content its controversial and sure to offend someone.

What’s the story?

Ras Kass decided to write the song to scratch the itch of his interests in the origins and evolution of different nationalities and races. He starts 20,000 years in the past and makes his way to ’96 when the track was first released mixing in information from a number of resources including college textbooks and black nationalist writings.

As the Caucus mountain man reverted to that of a primate
Savage Neanderthals, until the late Paleolithic age
That’s when the Black Grimaldi man came
With the symbol of the dragon, fire and art
Check cave paintings in France and Spain to the Venus of Willendorf
Around 2000 B.C. Southern Russians migrate in small units
Those who travel West populated Europe
Those who went East settled in Iran, known as Aryans
1500 B.C. some crossed the Khyber Pass into India and
Created Hinduism, the first caste system, the origins of racism
A white dot on the forehead meant elite
The black dot – defeat; untrustable, untouchables
They wrote the holy Vedas in Sanskrit
That’s the language that created Greek, German, Latin and English

Is it any good?

Some people swear by this track while others find it boring. I’m somewhere in between.  To me it’s one of those tracks you have to be in the mood to listen to. With that said its a cool concept and lyrically Ras Kass is up to par but the beat is kind of monotonous for a song that’s almost eight minutes in length. Poor beat selection has always been a criticism of Ras Kass’ work but given his focus on the content its likely he wanted something that would not overpower the message. Still musically it could be better. All in all this is one of those songs you’ll likely play every now and again (or all the time depending on your love for Mr. Austin) or only pull out when you want to prove to your friends that MCs can actually rap about other things besides sex, money and drugs.

Type of knowledge dropped?

Certainly book knowledge but whether you trust the information in the books Ras Kass references is another story. There is enough analysis, debate and conjecture on the internet so I won’t go into all of that. You can listen to the track and decide for yourself. Whether you love it or hate it the main point is he was able to leave a mark and succeeded in creating a dialogue.

[message_box title=”Additional Details” color=”white”]Artist: Ras Kass
Album: Soul on Ice
Year Released: 1996
Producer: Vooodu
Label: Priority

[/message_box]