It is a back water remedy
Bitter and tender memory

from Yasiin Bey – Hip Hop Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

Mos has already drawn a connection to hip-hop having roots in slavery. The “back water remedy” of hip-hop is rooted in its heritage in the songs of slaves who, as Mos later says, “sung songs to take their minds off of that fucked up situation” (in his Rock and Roll track). Slavery, and the resulting hardships of black people in America up until this present day, are the bitter and tender memories that hip-hop embodies and preserves according to Mos.

This explains “bitter” but hip-hop is also “tender” because it is the communicative artform that allows Mos to express himself. It is part of his heritage and it captivated him at a young age. It is his chosen medium to express his deepest felt emotions, desires, and loves and to continue the story of the experience of his people — African Americans in Brooklyn, New York, and America. Hip-hop is a paradox for Mos, because if it weren’t for its bitter roots, he would never have known the beauty of hip-hop.

Bitter, tender

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