Mos Def

Is it bad that I really like this lyric? You kind of have to hear it. From Close Edge:

I’m Mos Definite, not think so
Flood ya city with the black ink flow
And my crew ain’t scared to let them things go
So, stop with the nonsense, like he conscious
I’m just alright dawg, I’m doin’ great dawg
I don’t play games so I don’t playa hate y’all
Get it straight or get the fuck up out my face dawg
I’m like the second plane that made the tower’s face off
That shit that let you know it’s really not a game dawg1

Your grind and my grind ain’t the same dawg

I think this is appropriate. While I was in Hawaii I went to the Pearl Harbor memorial, where you stand on a platform above the sunken USS Arizona with its 900+ interred corpses. Before you go out to the platform you watch a video that details the sequence of events. The tone of the video is mournful, but it never goes so far as to condemn the Japanese for the attack, only reminding the viewer that they were an Axis power. Yamamoto is treated as a figure like Robert E. Lee, personally against the war but determined to make the best military showing. Then when the attack happens, you feel a chill: so many ships in so little time, and there’s video of the Arizona exploding. Basically, because this was an attack on a military base, it’s possible to experience this event first objectively as awesome (deinos3), then parochially (and humanely) as dastardly, tragic, sad, etc. Anyways, I figure Mos Def’s figure is precise here. I remember on September 11, someone told me that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers, and I assumed that he was talking about some freakish accident. It was only when I heard about the second plane, and then the collapses, that I knew it really wasn’t a game.

  1. The heavy repetition (e.g., dawg, dawg, dawg, dawg, and -ow for six couplets at the beginning) works IMO. []
  2. The other stuff going on in the song is interesting too. He’s saying that he’s not a gangsta rapper but he’s not going to criticize those who are. I like the poetic conflation in hip-hop. His “grind” is and isn’t the same as drug-dealing. It’s like the different accounts of gangsta on Damn, It Feels Good to be a Gangsta, one of which describes the President of the United States as a gangsta. Then, the main idea of Mos Def’s song is that he’s “close to the edge”, not of flipping out and killing someone, but he’s paying attention to what’s happening on the margin of society. []
  3. It’s a cranky prescriptivist cliche to remind people that something that is awesome, like an “awesome god”, is something that is terrifying to behold. []
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