Speech is my hammer, bang the world into shape
Now let it fall... (Hungh!!)

from Yasiin Bey – Hip Hop Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

A reference to the progressive anthem “If I Had a Hammer,” a song that boldly asserts the power of music to challenge existing power structures and to change the world. By beginning with this line, Mos implies a belief in music’s ability to effectuate social change, a supposition that he calls into question throughout the song, and especially in its final lines.

Mos may be tapping even more ancient roots here than he realizes. When God says in Genesis 1:6 “Let there be an expanse…” the word normally translated “firmament” “expanse” or “vault” was understood by the ancients to be a dome of solid (metal-like) material. In 1:7 the text reads from the original Hebrew “And God fashioned the solid dome…” The idea present in the verb “to make/fashion” is of banging something into shape with a hammer. The ancient person hearing this text would have imagined Elohim forming and shaping the solid dome like a blacksmith bringing shape to red-hot metal material by means of his hammering skill. So as he goes to fashion his own lines and verses here, Mos is thinking about the original divine act of creation as his model.

The repeated “hungh!” throughout the song is also a reference to Sterling Brown’s poem “Southern Road”. In his poem, Brown uses the refrain to remind readers that, although it was against their own will, the chain gang members were part of a community working towards a goal. The first line is “Swing dat hammer—hunh—”

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