First time I heard this, it was the trailer background music for Ice-T’s Art of Rap documentary, it blew my mind. Soul samples, especially those gorgeous, triumphant, horn loops (like Jay-Z’s “Encore”) are my musical crack.
But the two things elevate this from a decent hum along song into something I can’t get out of my head. First I never really saw Chuck D as a lyricist. Not that he was wack, but he was never a guy who had me hitting rewind and dissecting his verses. But there are some incredible lines in this song.
Rolling Stones of the rap game not braggin/Lips bigger than Jagger not saggin’/ spell it backwards I’mma leave it at that/ that ain’t got nothin’ to do with rap
Plus his flow is kind of complex. There are bars where he’ll spit multisyllabic, and then move back to a simpler rhyme structure for the following bar. It happens a few times, and the interesting effect is that it makes him sound like he’s rapping faster in some parts than he is in others even though he isn’t. Auditory illusion. Chuck D is dope like that.
The other thing is the tone of the record. This is an older, calmer version of Chuck D than the young angry revolutionary. Not that it blunts his edge, he’s still angry, still revolutionary, just sharper and more focused. There’s a mix of gratitude for having made it as far as he has, frustration because the problems he was dealing with in the beginning are still prevalent, and anger because some new ones have popped up. But it’s just so damn catchy.