Literary Nas: 'Born to Use Mics'
January 07, 2010When he was 19, Nasir “Nas” Jones began recording what would be one of the most important hip hop albums of all time. The 1994 “Illmatic” is a personal account of life in New York’s Queensbridge housing project.
The new book “Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s ‘Illmatic’,” editors Michael Eric Dyson and Sohail Daulatzai bring together an original collection of voices to confront Nas’ masterpiece in a literary remix. Just as hip hop artists sample others’ work and newly interpreting it, Dyson and Daulatzai employ writers to sample and reinterpret Nas’ work with a new perspective. Each scholar assesses an individual track from the album, using the song as a jump-off point to use their own analysis.
The contributors look at Nas’ work and analyze it, putting it in perspective in the history of hip hop. Contributors include:
Mark Anthony Neal on jazz, hip hop and fathers; Imani Perry on lyrical transcendence; Sohail Daulatzai on the significance of ‘N.Y. State of Mind’ in a post-9/11 America; Marc Lamont Hill on Nas as a Black public intellectual; Kyra Grant on the intersection of Nas, hip hop, gender and patriarchy; James Braxton Peterson on hip hop worldviews.
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