Stevie Wonder

"Killaz Theme," writing on Cormega, betrayal and justice in hip-hop and other genres

“[Intro]
Heh heh, yea
Hahahaha, right
Part the crowd like the Red Sea
Don’t even tempt me ”

Genre: Hip-Hop Style: Thug Rap, Conscious


Towards the end of a 2015 interview with Dead End Hip Hop (DEHH) that’s equal parts monologue and free-form talk, New York rapper Cormega says that remaking his début album The Realness was always an option, but that he wanted to do something more, something different to reflect his changed perspective. The man who made the music more than one decade ago was not the same one speaking today. “If we go back to the year of The Testament, (2005) I would have had at least 14 more friends physically still breathing, I would have no kids ...” Not only that, throughout the interview the Queensbridge MC stressed how he was aware of his position as a role model, as someone who could show others ways to move forward in their lives.

One of the DEHH team had suggested that his album Mega Philosophy was “preachy” in parts, then later clarified that he missed the “charismatic Cormega” (before listing all the tracks he liked). “If you speak truths, I don’t consider it preaching, maybe I’m wrong but I don’t,” Cormega replied. “Everything else I said was to uplift us, to say we’re not at the bottom, we’re more than ni**as standing on a corner dealing, jail is a business trying to employ our children, and destroy our mental; every day we’re more conditioned to conform to ignorance …” Starting to rhyme, momentum building as he interspersed lines about how he sees the world around him today with references to African lineage and references to pyramids in Egypt and Sudan to conclude that Black Americans “came from something great.”

Another DEHH host added that Cormega’s serious lyrical intent was “good preaching … (The word) preachy is now given a negative edge so when he says it sounds preachy it sounds like an insult … I say make it preachy as possible because we need that.”

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Time of the season

Without wanting to be too kooky or fried bananas, I watched a film before (okay, I'll admit it, it was the most recent Will Smith star-vehicle - we all need to switch off sometimes, can't be too serious every single minute; let's hope that this performance wins him his Oscar, I understood those scenes when he was riding his bike, it reminded me of a classic song by Fugazi), anyway, this film had a character with my name in it, the 'hippest child' character has my son's name (with some spelling modifications for both) and a link to my late mother ...

The film's message was strong and honest: how can we make sense of life after the event, in the debris of grief that remains with us, those who are still alive. Sometimes it can feel like this trace-memory is too difficult to bear, as we seek out repetition in our desire to make sense of that electrical current that burns inside. And yet this knowledge also offers us the potential to feel, along with others, and this can give us power. Not always, but it can sometimes.

Before the film, sitting outside near Les Halles in today's brilliant sunshine, I was listening to the radio and this came on, surely the most (fill in adjective) 60s pop-song 'of all time' ... How sublimely perfect is this?

On every level: the exhale that becomes part of the beat, echoed in this more recent song ... the backing-vocals and the lyrics that remain mysterious and gently humorous, the drumming itself and that keyboard solo towards the end: it's sweetness on a stick. When I heard this song, I did a little dance in my plastic seat and felt something close to true happiness. 

Coda: When reading about Stevie Wonder over the weekend, I came across this comment in a review about 'I love every little thing about you' (also from Music of my mind) that I couldn't include in the piece, but it fits here perhaps;

The song ‘uses Stevie as an “instrument” as well as a voice: he amplifies his breath being exhaled through the teeth as well as open-mouthed — a beautiful, subtle sound I associate with Brazilian music and marvelously effective here ...

Interesting this idea of using the body as an instrument, I think.