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Hip Hop & Connection to Roots

Nas – I Can 

I Can” is a very informational and meaningful hip hop song that was created in 2003 by Nas. “I Can” is the second single from Nas’s album, God’s SonNas dedicated this song to the youth, mainly young black kids.

Cover of "God's Son"

He uses his status and creativity in the hip hop culture to send a positive message to our youth with this song. Nas was a very popular hip hop artist during the time he composed this song. He uses kids in his song as well as in the video to help attract more kids to listen to the positively influential song. This song is very meaningful and informational to kids, especially Black kids. As far as the video, there are many things used and shown that link back to African roots. This shows how important and influential Africa is in our present society.

In the beginning of the song’s music video, there is a young black girl probably in her early teens playing the piano. The song that she is playing is a sample of Beethoven‘s – Fur Elise (1867)” to the sampled beat of “The Honeydrippers’ – Impeach the President (1972).” 

Connections to Roots 

Throughout this whole video there are many different things that come from Africa. The fact that it’s a hip hop song is the biggest thing. Hip hop’s roots come from Africa. The songs rhythm is being held by drums which also originate in Africa.

Tuthankamen's famous burial mask, on display i...

Before we came to this country, we were kings and queens never porch monkeys.” In this quote, Nas is talking directly to the Black kids. When he uses the word “we”, he is speaking to the black people, and he including his self because he’s Black. The fact that everything he says in this verse has to do with African history is another reason why this verse is dedicated to the black youth. He educates them about how in the past, some of our African ancestors were royalty. There were many kings and queens in Africa. A few names of some African kings and queens are, “King Mansa Abu Bakari II, Yaa Asantewa – Queen Mother of Ejisu, and King Tutankhamun.” Porch monkey is a racial slur that was used toward blacks, created by white people. The meaning behind this quote is that in the past Blacks weren’t just what whites wanted them to be. African kings and queens were powerful leaders, and were very wealthy. Some black kids in today’s society believe in stereotypes and sometimes live up to them because that’s all they see. Blacks weren’t always treated as minorities, and this is a message for the young black kids to believe in themselves because there is hope, and it is possible to achieve what our early ancestors had back during their time. 

Nas educates about Timbuktu in the lyrics, and also how forms of trade changed: “Timbuktu where every race came to get books, to learn from Black teachers who taught Greeks and Romans, Asians, Arabs.” According to New Encyclopedia of Africa,“A historic city in Mali, Timbuktu is located six miles north of the Niger River, and southern edge of the Sahara. It was founded in the eleventh or twelfth century as a trading center where a trans-Saharan camel caravan route connected with the Niger River commercial network.” It was the first university system in the world. Some of the libraries established still stand today, including Sankore Madrasah. Timbuktu was very popular and influential during this time and the people who created this were Africans. This shows how important they were to the world.

Map of Timbuktu from 1855 taken from http://ww...

Image via Wikipedia

The Persian military invaded. They took the gold, the teachings, and everything sacred. Africa was almost robbed naked.” These are lyrics expressing how important Africa was to the Persians. Why would people take things from Africa if they weren’t important? Again this shows Africa’s importance and influence to other parts of the world. When Nas says “Africa was almost robbed naked,” he doesn’t mean literally. He says it to put a bigger emphasis on the issue, and not intending on being too literal. The whole point of him stating that is to express how almost everything Africa created was taken. From the cash crops, to the books of education, these things were taken from the originated destination.


About Cameron

A 90's baby with an old soul. A full time student, (Psychology) & (Public Relations) from the Bay Area, California. Played basketball and drums all my life, amateur guitarist. Big fan of Old-School Hip-Hop, Jazz, Funk & Soul music. I guess you can say I was born a few decades late.

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