What Lies Beneath Hip-Hop’s Swagger

Over the weekend, The New York Times Magazine published a twist on its annual “Songs That Matter” package: “Songs That Got Us Through It.” The newest is overall a remarkable project, stuffed with keen criticism. But Smith’s piece, which feels for the pulse of aggression in today’s and yesterday’s hip-hop, stands out — as bracing as the young artists she examines.

This broadcasting of invincibility? It revs my heart. When I am, in my soul, with the band, I exist in all caps. I am fighting and flying high. But how can people not be tired of introducing and reintroducing themselves to those who willfully, even cynically, resist their humanity? Spoiler alert: The bombast is a response, a defense, a pose, a stance. It’s magic, and it seduces. But it’s labor. Under threat of a variety of harms, you have to camouflage your soul. So if I’m tired — of always staying ready, so I never have to get ready — imagine the music-makers themselves.

Published: Mar 11, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,391 words)
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