hip hop music

November 20, 2003

All Praise Is Due

While we're all so busy digging up 15 year old tapes, might as well take a fresh look at "Paid In Full":


In this journey, you're the journal, I'm the journalist / Am I eternal, or an eternalist?
— Rakim Allah, "Follow the Leader"

That's from Rakim's "Follow the Leader", though it could be Roland Barthes convincing us that authors are the creations of texts and that texts are the recreation of closed cultures and close readers . . . the crisis thrown up in Rakim's rhyme-the poet pondering whether he's a modernist or a postmodernist, a creative God or a revised body of texts-is rendered moot in the next line: "I'm about to flow, long as I can possibly go / Keep ya movin' 'cause the crowd said so. Dance!" Here Rakim locates his immortality in African culture's call-and-response continuum.
— Greg Tate, "Diary of a Bug", The Village Voice (1988)

When Greg Tate published his groundbreaking essay "Diary of a Bug" in 1988 it was an event -- 17 fragments, a literary mix-tape from the seminal Afro-Pomo-Boho of his generation -- the birth of Black Popular Post-Structuralism. And when he finished name-dropping the sources of his inspiration -- F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante -- and finally got down to critical business at hand, the first "text" he took up was none other than Rakim Allah, the Poet Laureate of the Hip-Hop Nation. Indeed there's never been a hip-hop artist (with apologies to my man Mike Dyson and his muse Tupac Shakur) who deserved top-shelf scholarly love from the camp of the Blackademe Niggeratti more than Rakim.

Four lines from the b-side of that first 12-inch single -- "I take seven MCs put 'em in a line / And add seven more brothers who think they can rhyme / Well It'll take seven more before I go for mine / And that's 21 MCs ate up at the same time" -- and the lyrical gauntlet was forever thrown down, forever reified, as every up-and-coming ghetto wordsmith (Big Daddy Kane, Nas, Rass Kass, Treach, Canibus) is introduced as "the next . . ." and 17 years later we can only say "still . . ." The recently released Paid in Full: Deluxe Edition captures those initial lyrical moments, in the career of hip-hop's greatest MC...

Posted by jsmooth995 at November 20, 2003 12:41 AM

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