When Black Thought performed his epic freestyle on Hot 97, the video hit 1M+ views within a day. I myself watched it at least four times the first day. It wasn’t just the MC’s endurance and creativity that captivated me. It was the pure literariness of what he was doing. On one level, Black Thought alludes to multiple works of literature like Yeat’s “Second Coming,” the Bible, and Things Fall Apart. But on another level, I was reminded of what’s called the Homer Question in literary studies, which is the debate about who Homer was. You see, it’s pretty well accepted now that Homer was probably multiple poets who performed orally in cafes during antiquity. Their oral poems were referred to as songs and they were composed in the moment based on prefabricated motifs, lines, and a an occasional dose of original additions. When I watch Black Thought in action, I see not only a talented MC commenting on the politics and culture of his age, I imagine that Homer too must have filled his audience with comparable energy. Sing, Muse.
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