Hip Hop will simply amaze you
Praise you, pay you
Do whatever you say do
But black, it can't save you
Hip-hop culture, which Mos Def obviously takes seriously, had (as of 1999) racked up a remarkable string of achievements, becoming America’s most ubiquitous form of pop music and gaining a following on every continent of the world. It was capable of generating massive amounts of revenue for record executives and a few select rappers, and (Mos also implies) had achieved impressive feats of artistry. But at the end of this thoughtful, self-reflective song, Mos adds that it “can’t save you”, with the second-person address seeming to indicate (1) specific rap artists (2) the black community (3) the wider culture. For all of its achievements, there are limits to what the art form can accomplish. Ideals of justice, equality, and social transformation require political organization, not just records and music videos.
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