We went from picking cotton
To chain gang line chopping
To Be-Bopping
To Hip-Hopping

from Yasiin Bey – Hip Hop Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

A succinct history of blacks in America, from slavery to Jim Crow to jazz to hip-hop. Note that Mos implicitly compares cultural work (jazz, hip-hop) to forms of onerous servitude, a statement perhaps on the exploitation of artists. As he says on Thieves in the Night, “[They’ll] put you on a yacht but they won’t call it a slave ship.”

Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden help us see the full sweep of black history that Mos wants to convey in these lines

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