SOTD: I can
Introducing a new segment of my blog. SOTD: Song of the Day...where I choose a song and write about it. Quite a evolutionary concept, I know.
May the first edition be dedicated to "I Can" by Nas.
I've been listening to and studying Nas since I've been into hip-hop/rap which started in like 6th grade. If you didn't already know, now you know...he's a legend.
I actually got to see him perform live at North Coast Music Fest years ago. He performed songs with Damian Marley, which was super cool to see in person. Nas is the rap legend and Damian is a Marley, so. It's a really interesting collab that totally worked (they did a full album together!).
Anyways, back to the song.
"I Can," at its core, is a powerful, inspirational song. The kids singing the chorus after Nas show his ability to lead and move a crowd of people, in this case, children, to listen to his words.
I love the video. Watch it below:
The video starts off with the beat from "Get Down," another one of my favorite tracks off his masterpiece of an album, God's Son. The smooth transition is super fluid and totally sets the tone for the narrative to come.
A girl (not woman, a girl) is shown alone playing piano in an abandoned urban area. She begins keying the melody to the song, which is actually a rip off Beethoven's infamous "Für Elise."
Side note: I remember studying "Für Elise" in high school and the minute I heard the Beethoven melody, I thought of "I Can." I absolutely love when hip-hop/rap samples such "different" genres of music. There are so many parallels and overlaps across music history that make it so universal and so cool to find.
My favorite verse has to be the third verse. Nas is giving a history lesson to his listeners.
Be, be-fore we came to this country
We were kings and queens, never porch monkeys
There was empires in Africa called Kush
Timbuktu, where every race came to get books
To learn from black teachers who taught Greeks and Romans
Asian Arabs and gave them gold, when
Gold was converted to money it all changed
Money then became empowerment for Europeans
The Persian military invaded
They heard about the gold, the teachings, and everything sacred
Africa was almost robbed naked
Slavery was money, so they began making slave ships
Egypt was the place that Alexander the Great went
He was so shocked at the mountains with black faces
Shot up they nose to impose what basically
Still goes on today, you see?
If the truth is told, the youth can grow
They learn to survive until they gain control
Nobody says you have to be gangstas, hoes
Read more, learn more, change the globe
Ghetto children, do your thing
Hold your head up, little man, you're a king
Young Princess when you get your wedding ring
Your man is saying "She's my Queen"
This song is powerful because it's a rap legend telling kids they have a choice! Their life is their choice. And if they work hard and prosper, they can achieve their goals. Whatever they are.