Black Sound Matter(s): The Sonic Soundscape of Black Auditory Liberation

Todd Craig

Black Sound Matter(s): The Sonic Soundscape of Black Auditory Liberation
A SonicText created on the 1s and 2s

In an attempt to embody the practices of DJ rhetoric as it relates to sound studies as well as sonic composing, Todd Craig will not speak with his own voice. Instead, this entire SonicText will serve as documentation of a live composition that engages with the theme of "Black Sound Matter(s)." Deploying the concept of sonic lineage (Craig, forthcoming; Polson, 2019), this piece aims to radically transform this intellectual space through sonic and DJ rhetorical practices. Thus, Todd Craig's voice is inconsequential; instead, what is most critical is his collaborators: historical scholars and organic intellectual-musicologists starring as Black Musician-Griots. The idea of Black Life mattering is nothing new. In fact, it has been an ongoing conversation, sampled, interpolated and remixed countless times. The Atlas-like weight this conversation carries is a weight that Todd Craig will not speak on directly. He finds it more appropriate that his musical collaborators tell this story over the course of a series of decades (from 1972–2020). Craig's contribution to this moment is simply his DJ rhetorical savvy at its finest—part of the curatorial process that every good DJ brings to any situation.

This document was created in order to give a textual sense of what is happening sonically. This SonicText emanates from an act of live composing, with elements created in the moment on the spot. This roadmap, however, is given as the closest approximation to what eardrums present in the moment experienced sonically...

On the first turntable
(placed on the DJ's left-hand side),
a record plays…
It is Big Daddy Kane's song entitled
"Young, Gifted and Black" (1989):

(The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks)
So out of the mercy of Allah
And the law, written in our nature
We call an individual, into existence
And when that individual comes, I make, no apologies
For what I'm about to say

(Big Daddy Kane begins to rhyme to the beat, starting
Right in the break of Minister Farrakhan's speech)

Rough, rugged and real, you're on standstill
To obey, okay so let the man build
Words of rapture that you have to capture
And I just slapped ya
With the hand full of literature
That's dope, def, fresh, hype, choice, smooth and raw
Rappers I replace, rub out, and erase
Competition you must be on freebase
Smokin' or chokin', bound to be broken
Man, get your damn hands off the mic that I'm chokin!
‘Cause I got a stranglehold
You're still cold off the road for the role you stole
Rhymes that you yell out, but you did sell out
Crossed-over, lost over here, now get the hell out
I'm not a pop star, rock and roller
I'm a rebel, blessed, able to hold a
Mic like a hammer, and drop grammar
Treat a rapper like a wrestler, and body slam him
Those who dispute get treated just like a prostitute
They get the boot and played like a flute
So just play mute, don't even whisper
Open your mouth to speak and I'ma diss ya
Ragtag and dog, put you in the morgue
Because you're petty, confetti and not ready to rock steady
In other words, you're half-steppin'
Tiptoe and get goin', because my weapon
Is not a nine, an Uzi or a shotgun
But when it come to hype rhymes I got one
Just like the album is still the same
"Long Live the Kane" ain't a damn thing changed
I still get ill and kill at will and build the skill
To fill your grill so don't tell me you're real
We sample beats, you sue and try to fight us
Man, you still be home with arthritis!
If we didn't revive and bring back alive
Old beats that we appreciated, you wouldn't survive
You'd be another memory to us
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust
So understand, the way that I live
That's positive, and the message I got to give
It's a benefit for you and me
I'm talkin' bout P-E-A-C-E
The chosen one that has turned a new leaf
I got gold teeth, and they don't chew beef
No pork on my fork, strictly fish on my dish
The Kane fallin' victim? Sucker, you wish
I flow like water, slaughter
Put you out of order, floored ya!
Rappers are raggin' and taggin' and snaggin' and braggin'
To be on the bandwagon, but I'm the Last Dragon
With the knack to attract the pack
So just get back, I'm young, gifted and Black!

On the second turntable (on the right-hand side),
a new record plays…
It is Aretha Franklin's song entitled
"Young, Gifted and Black" (1972)

Gifted, and Black
Oh, what
a lovely,
precious thing
Oh, when you're,
yes, yes, when you're
When you're
yeah, thank you, Jesus
Gifted and Black
your heart,
is all I need
In this whole world, you know
There are millions of boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and Black
With their souls intact, and that's a fact
You are young, gifted and Black
We must begin to tell our young
There's a world waiting for you (you)
yours is the quest that's just begun
When you feelin' real low

There is a quick transition to the next record
(back on the left-hand side).
It is an instrumental from the Gangstarr (1992) album
entitled Daily Operation.
The instrumental is a classic DJ Premier beat
snippet entitled "'92 Interlude.""
"'92 Interlude" contains a sample of the piano
in Aretha Franklin's "Young Gifted and Black"

"'92 Interlude" plays for approximately 1:30 minutes

The next song is faded in, and blended with "'92 Interlude"
(back on the right-hand side)
is a song by an artist named Tragedy (1990)
(who is also known as Tragedy Khadafi).
The name of this song
is "Intelligent Hoodlum":

(The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks)
And if we feed, on the wisdom of God
We can come, into a light, and a power that will
absolutely make us, masters over what, the Originator
Originated that is called creation
And that is all that Jesus, was beckoning the world to
To come up, out of where you are
And to stop thinkin', that you got to exist
On the low plane that you exist
As Jesus ascended, you can ascend
Then you, as a human being, can be, like him
And therefore he said...

(Tragedy begins to rhyme to the beat, starting
right in the break of Minister Farrakhan's speech)

I have the mind that was designed for crime
Now I'm two seconds away from the big time
In the fast lane your life goes fast
It's time to take a journey into Tragedy's past
When I was one adopted by Michael Chapman
This was years before I started rappin'
My father held a scholarship for a year
But then he died and so did his career
He left his son and soon to be wife
He died, and that was the end of his life
It's just not fair that he couldn't live through
But as I grew, I fell into the same trap, too
But I lived the life that he couldn't see
He died at 18 and that's the age of me
I escaped the cage where your brother is your enemy
And cops turn misdemeanors into felonies
Playin' the game the stakes are a lot
Either you're strung out on drugs,
in jail or get shot
So I take the pain and put it in a song
‘Cause some of my brothers didn't last this long
Life to them just didn't seem important
As I watched their bodies get stiffer in the coffin
A young Black target
for someone to shoot ya
Hoodlum's the past, Intelligent is the future
I seek a life more promising than a waiter
The mass educator puttin' pain on paper
Life is a battle and strength is survival
Some search for better but most won't even try to
‘Cause every day a young dream is shatterin'
Pressure is painful, the burden is batterin'
I'm a reborn rebel and my intellect leaks
The Intelligent Hoodlum relates to the streets
‘Cause the past stays on my back to remind me
Intelligence is what you gain when you find me
Heed the message I inject in your eardrum
I'm the Intelligent Hoodlum
I'm the Intelligent Hoodlum
I'm the Intelligent Hood-

There is a quick transition to the next record
(back on the left-hand side).
The next record that begins to play is
Rapsody's (2019) song entitled "Nina":

Emit light rap, or Emmett Till
I drew a line without showing my body, that's a skill
Bad to the bone and the grill
You'd be dead wrong if looks kill
I'm still on my spiel, in the spirit of L. Hill
Eye on the sparrow
Nose like a pharaoh's
Our blood line trill
For the young and all the Lil's
We all gon' get mills
Talk a lotta game
But we get paid too, like Jemele
Was raised upon a hill, the valley's a sunken place
I'm just tryna build like I came with some ghetto weight
Know I'm a God MC, ‘cause n!@@^, I made the devil wait
Boy I brought hell, you ain't gotta tell me I'm hella great
I don't speak on it nowadays, I just meditate
Y'all can have the bars n!@@^, I spit hard metal gates
Henry Louis Gates when I cop me some new estate (cop)
Make room for myself, I'm in a way different mental place
I keep it real, all y'all look anime
I'm fine like Anna Mae
Black don't crack like Angela
Black and brave like in the A
It don't come with apologies
‘Less it's Tip and some Andre
When you greet me it's "Namaste"
Spread love the Brooklyn way or like Marmalade
No matter if you street-street, or more like the promenade
We gotta come together like the corn and the dookie braids
For the present and future days, I say what I gotta say
I am Nina and Roberta, the one you love but ain't heard of
Got my middle finger up like 'Pac after attempted murder
Failed to kill me, it's still me
Woke up singing Shirley Murdock
As we lay these edges down, Brown women, we so perfect
Went from field n!@@^ to still n!@@^
Being cropped out the picture
But we all know who got the juice, my sisters
Imitating us in all the Hollywood pictures
And still, they'll never be us, n!@@^, n!@@^
I'm from the back woods where n!@@^s would
Sing about the life we should
Lead, a new dawn, another deed, I try to do some good
I felt more damned than Mississippi was
They denied Nina in Philadelphia, and still we persevered,
Like all the 400 years of our own blood, Africa,
Old panthers lookin' back like who gon' come up after us?
Outside the movies, I make sure before it move you
It moved me, now bow down to a queen, please

The mix brings us to the next record
that begins to play: Blu and Exile's (2020)
song entitled "Roots of Blue":

(The song starts with a man reciting a spoken word piece)

This leads into Blu beginning to rhyme:

Yo, check it
Yo, I'm the first man standing upright, holding a stone in my hand
After beating an ape, claiming the land
Taking the stand and feeding my fam
Back when man ate they children
I'm killing other animals just to nurture them
I journey further from mine, my people, into another culture
Not knowin' my brothers 'bout to come and take over
We made it all the way to Asia
and to Australia
Then made the passage to the Americas after all behavior
Came home and they started makin' homes outta stone
Showin' tribes around ‘em how much they've grown
Yo, I'm Norma at the end of the of start of civilization
I'm shuttin' it down, I'm settin' out
to build a nation
I'm the son of Ra, the son of Ka
Father of Africa
King Khafre and King Khufu, blood of the Zulu
Osiris, Isis, Horus, Anbuis, the Royal family
Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and all the Ramesses
Amam and Hotep, Mentuhotep, Thutmosis
Ahmosis, Kamose—etymology of Moses
I'm the kings of Egypt, kings of Nubia, Mesopotamia
Mediterranean, Babylon, Saudi Arabia
I'm Muhammad comin' outta the Middle East after the Romans
Reclaiming their gold, homin' their throne ‘cause they own it
I'm on the first boats to reach America
We all African, we sold you to America, we not coming back

(the chorus is a continuation of the spoken word poem at the start of the song)

(second verse)
Ayo, I'm Adam, the original man banned from the garden
I'm Noah, pardon the flood, after the revolution started
I'm Japheth, I'm Shem, and I'm Ham
I'm Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Motherland
I'm Moses posin' against the king, freein' his people
I'm Babylon, tryna reach God by buildin' a steeple
I'm the strongest man, Samson
I'm the first king, Samuel
The prestigious king, Saul
Son of King David, I'm Solomon
I'm preachin' to the choir like Elijah
Isaiah, Jeremiah and
Not a king higher than King Hezekiah
I'm on fire like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
I'm Jonah and the whale
Daniel in the lion's den
And I'm Job with just a little hope
I'm John The Baptist, the Messiah's comin'
God's son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Thank Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for the narrative
And Paul for all the passages
Apostolic Episcopal before Constantine
Constant persecution, first century
Eventually, revolution
Sixth century and
On and on
Slavery, where are you takin' me to, huh?

(the chorus is a continuation of the spoken word poem at the start of the song)

(third verse)
I'm Kunta Kinte 'fore he was enslaved by America
Picture the freedom before the terror
Who had to carry the black burners to Nat Turner
During a slave revolt,
we came before Columbus dumped us
Off the slavery boat,
the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman
Yeah, we probably would still be slaves if it wasn't for Frederick Douglass
I'm up in his government before all them like Booker Washington
With all his boys like W. E. B. Du Bois
and Noble Drew Ali and Marcus Garvey
Takin' us to Africa like Chancellor Williams, Chandler Owens
and Asa Randolph
Master Fard Muhammad, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad
Louis Armstrong, Langston Hughes, and Thurgood Marshall
Richard Wright, Rosa Parks and Gordon Parks
Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and John Henrik Clarke
Alex Haley, James Baldwin
Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Clarence 13X
Maya Angelou, Ray Charles, Minister Farrakhan
Ivan Sertima, John Cochran, Stokely Carmichael
Emmett Till, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale
Huey Newton, Muhammad Ali
And even Gil Scott-Heron
Al Sharpton, Fred Hampton, Oprah Winfrey
Barack Obama, Assata Shakur, 2Pac Shakur, Biggie
And everyone else creating Black history
That lives with me every day, until I'm gone

The presentation ends with the words "until I'm gone"
repeating in a sampled loop, then echoing
as the words fade to silence.


This research has been supported by a grant from the Research Foundation of the City University of New York (Cycle 50, PSC-CUNY Award # 62473-00 50).


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