Saturday, 6 August 2011


And Brother Nas' new track from his new album!

INTRO by Jay-Z

Michael Eric Dyson came up in the tough streets of Detroit.
He didn’t grow up with silver spoons at the family table.
His table didn’t have fine china and his path from then to
now wasn’t clear of trouble and strife. He came up through
the church and the world of academia in spite of his
experience. Dyson confronted the same disadvantages that
afflicted the folks in his neighborhood and that held so
many brothers and sisters back. But these circumstances
opened his mind to learning, and to a sense of justice that
has driven him to succeed. Dyson could have been someone’s
older brother on my block when I was coming up in the Marcy
projects in Bed-Stuy. He could have been the teacher at a
Baltimore high school who showed Tupac that there was power
in knowledge and your people’s history.

Although he wasn’t there for either of us then, his
preaching and his intellectual actions are there today for
countless brothers and sisters, regardless of skin color,
and regardless of who they pray to at night. He is there
telling everyone who was born into a life that seems
destitute and destined for failure that there is a way out.
He is there reminding us all not to let our situation be an
excuse when it can be a resource. Just as important, he is
telling all of those countless people whose minds are
closed by bigotry or contempt that hip hop is American.
Blackness is American. I am American.

At this point it might seem hollow to repeat what has been
widely said about Michael Eric Dyson: this gifted man is
the “hip hop intellectual,” a world-class scholar, and the
most brilliant interpreter of hip hop culture we have. But
plain and simple that is what he is. He has shown those
doubters and critics that hip hop is a vital arts movement
created by young working-class men and women of color. Yes,
our rhymes can contain violence and hatred. Yes, our songs
can detail the drug business and our choruses can bounce
with lustful intent. However, those things did not spring
from inferior imaginations or deficient morals; these
things came from our lives. They came from America.

The folks from the suburbs and the private schools so
concerned with putting warning labels on my records missed
the point. They never stopped to worry about the realities
in this country that spread poverty and racism and gun
violence and hatred of women and drug use and unemployment.
People can act like rappers spread these things, but that
is not true. Our lives are not rotten or worthless just
because that’s what people say about the real estate that
we were raised on. In fact, our lives may be even more
worthy of study because we succeeded despite the promises
of failure seeping out from behind the peeling paint on the
walls of every apartment in every project.

Dyson came up from the bottom and told those on top what
was up. He turned a light on our situation in this country
and then he threw down a rope to lift us out. He started
out translating between “us” and “them” and now he’s
helping put together a world where there is only “us.” How
many folk out there can talk about pimping in terms laid
out by Hegel? Or use Kant to explain the way that prison
fashion moved from the cellblock to the city block? Dyson
drops the names of philosophers and scholars as easily as
he does the names of artists on the latest mixtape moving
dance floors in the clubs. Michael Eric Dyson has taken
modern urban life seriously and brought the tools of
so-called legitimate society to bear on a place that too
many dismissed as unworthy of attention. Just by mentioning
these cats in the same breath he levels a playing field
that has always been tilted. He tore down the last “whites
only” sign in the university and let all of us rush in to
hear what the ancient teachers and scientists had to say.

Dyson stands up for poor folks and for street culture when
other African Americans treat us with the same disdain that
white society used to have for all of us. He continues to
show us what the past can teach us about our present. It’s
one thing for young people to see rappers making
appearances on TRL or to see their records fly up the
charts. But it is another thing for a young boy from the
hood to go into the library at his school and check out a
book on why his culture matters. Quite literally, Dyson has
written that book. Money comes and goes, but respect can
last for generations. Neither the IRS nor the changing
taste of the public can take away what Michael Eric Dyson
has given to hip hop: respect and a better way to
understand ourselves.


Know What I Mean? by Michael Eric Dyson Intro by Jay Z,
Outro by Nas Reflections on Hip Hop

Whether along race, class, or generational lines, hip-hop
music has been a source of controversy since the beats got
too big and the voices too loud for the block parties that
spawned them. America has condemned and commended this
music and the culture that inspires it.

Dubbed “the Hip-Hop Intellectual” by critics and fans for
his pioneering explorations of rap music in the academy and
beyond, Michael Eric Dyson is uniquely situated to probe
the most compelling and controversial dimensions of hip-hop
culture. Know What I Mean? addresses salient issues within
hip hop: the creative expression of degraded youth that has
garnered them global exposure; the vexed gender relations
that have made rap music a lightning rod for pundits; the
commercial explosion that has made an art form a victim of
its success; the political elements that have been
submerged in the most popular form of hip hop; and the
intellectual engagement with some of hip hop’s most
influential figures.

In spite of changing trends, both in the music industry and
among the intelligentsia, Dyson has always supported and
interpreted this art that bloomed unwatered, and in many
cases, unwanted from our inner cities. For those who
wondered what all the fuss is about in hip hop, Dyson’s
bracing and brilliant book breaks it all down.

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