BY ELI KABERON
The most common response I got from friends and readers when they saw the first installment of Word is Bond last week was, “Awesome!” Turns out I’m not the only one who likes to really study verses in rap songs, and that a lot of people love the genre for more than the beats and punch lines. In fact, the second most-common response I received was that word, “love,” as in, “I really love hip-hop, man. Here’s a verse you should write about…” They then proceeded to tell me about a specific song or artist that they wanted to be profiled.
Rest assured, there’s already a long list of candidates, but I’m always open to suggestions. Tweet or e-mail me and I’ll be sure to keep adding to my list.
But the topic of love got me thinking, especially with Valentine’s Day this week. What is the best rap love song? So many choices. Then I remembered a track that is a love song about hip-hop, and immediately I had my pick for the next Word is Bond.
Song: “Act Too (Love of my life)”
Album: Things Fall Apart
Artist: The Roots featuring Common
Verse: First (Black Thought)
The anticipation arose as time froze
I stared off the stage with my eyes closed and dove
into the deep cosmos
The impact pushed back, the first five rows
But before the raw live shows
I remember I’se a little snot-nosed
Rockin Gazelle, goggles and Izod clothes
Learning the ropes of ghetto survival
Peepin out the situation I had to slide through
Had to watch my back, my front, plus my sides too
When it came to gettin mine, I ain’t tryin to argue
Sometimes I wouldn’ta made it if it wasn’t for you
Hip-Hop, you the love of my life and that’s true
When I was handlin the shit I had to do
It was all for you, from the door for you
Speak through you, gettin paper on tour for you
From the start, Thought was down by law for you
Used to hit up every corner store wall for you
We ripped shit, and kept it hardcore for you
I remember late nights, steady rockin the mic
Hip-Hop, you the love of my life
Everything about this verse – and song as a whole – is gorgeous. The mellow snaps at the start, the harmonious strings at the end, the echoing chorus. Common’s verse is terrific, and he really started the ‘Using hip-hop as the subject of a love song’ genre with “I Used to Love H.E.R.”
But I think Black Thought really steals the show. First off, because he plays with such an amazing band in The Roots, Black Thought is kind of like the James Harden of hip-hop. Take him away from his stellar supporting cast, and Thought would still be one of the top MC’s in the game. No question about.
On “Act Too”, he really paints a picture of what rap means to him, from the nervous energy he gets when he’s about to hit the stage to what other rap songs taught him as a child about staying true to himself and learning about life. Given the success The Roots have had, Thought talks from experience about making it to the big time and how the music has been so important in all of that.
If you ever get a chance, buy a ticket to a Roots concert. As he mentions in the verse, the “raw live shows” are where the band and Black Thought really shine. But that doesn’t mean their albums are worth picking up as well. On “Act Too” and countless other songs, The Roots show a genuine appreciation for music and perfecting the craft. Hip-hop is the love of their life, and as fans, we should all be thankful.