After participating in the star-studded 50th anniversary performance at the GRAMMYs earlier this month, The Roots’ Black Thought has penned and recorded “A Love Letter to Hip-Hop,” in partnership with BET’s 50th anniversary celebration.
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Directed by Benny Boom, the nearly five minute spoken word freestyle details an extensive history of the impact Hip-Hop culture has had on a multitude of creative spaces all around the world; including dance, art, music and fashion.
Paying homage to cultural pillars such as Grandmaster Flash, first female rapper Sha-Rock and Hip-Hop “godmother” Sylvia Robinson, in addition to architects of fashion Dapper Dan and June Ambrose. Black Thought name drops while seamlessly referencing turntable play, “one topic of discussion was whose hands were faster,” as well as effortlessly flowing into dropping bars about graffiti tags and the evolution of Hip-Hop in New York City.
“Cold blooded/ No budget but we became raw to end the gang wars/ What we started this thang for,” he raps of the genre’s beginnings and going on to unpack the eventual explosion of Hip-Hop into a full-fledged global movement. “Extraordinary ethos / Takeoff from the Migos / to become entire ecosystems / It’s wild / to think about how long people have listened/ Now, 50 years down the line / we could spark this / my eternal beloved / Hip-Hop is where our hearts live,” he goes on. Shouting out the early foundational pioneers of groups like Public Enemy and Tribe Called Quest and eventual music moguls like JAY-Z, Pharrell, Drake and Kanye West, as well as countless other artists including Salt-N-Pepa, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and many more.
“This is a Love Letter to Hip-Hop for me because Hip-Hop is the love of my life. No matter what medium that it is that you’re working in. If you’re painting a picture, if you’re writing a book, if you’re writing a song,” Black Thought shared in a statement provided to Rolling Stone. “Those works of art that resonate the most are when you actually pour your true self into it. I remember a time before Hip-Hop and it’s something that we need to cherish and appreciate and not take for granted because it’s not guaranteed. Even though it’s always been there for people for the past few generations, it’s not guaranteed that it’s going to always be there if we don’t, you know what I’m saying, treat it the way we’re supposed to and continue to pour ourselves and to invest into it in an authentic way.”
The freestyle also goes on to touch on identity as well as struggle it was for Black and Brown genre pioneers to be accepted into the mainstream. Now that times have changed and they finally are, Black Thought stresses the importance of not losing sight of their roots.
“From here looking back, I say we did it, we made it, they hate it and said we were over and gone. I feel it’s the move to say we proved all of them wrong,” Black Thought raps. “Fifty years down the line we could spark this, my eternal beloved Hip-Hop is where our hearts live.”
Check out Black Thought’s "Love Letter to Hip-Hop" above.