Stop Hiding

Produced and sung by Mos Def and Talib Kweli, who refer to themselves as “Blackstar”, The song “Thieves in the Night” was released on September 29, 1998 and is their 12th track in their debut album. The song represents and inquiry of how life is like in the hoods of New York, in which the style of the song is much like a spoken word performance.

In the first verse, Talib Kweli Starts by referencing Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest eye” in which he asks the black community why their priorities and cultural understandings are determined by the white community. He then goes on to state that the neglect from the government until someone within the community commits a crime, then their entire population is shaped by the authoritative figure in order to “create crime rates to fill the new prisons they built“. Its a short verse, but Talib Kweli’s speaking makes sure that every word in every stanza means something different on every aspect of the black communities trials and tribulations.

In the second verse, Mos Def examines the way people within his community act like nothing is wrong with their state of life and where they are.

“A lot of jokers out running in place, chasing the style,

A lot going on beneath the empty smile”

The lines above summarizes the rest of the verse that Mos Def constructs, In which he also explains that the black community is forced into a personality of happy go-luckiness so that authoritative figures could ignore them entirely. Mos Def’s entire verse ties in to the chorus and the whole meaning of this song:

Not strong, only aggressive, not free, we only licensed
Not compassionate only polite, now who the nicest
Not good, but well behaved
Chasing after death so we can call ourselves brave?
Still living like mental slaves
Hiding like thieves in the night from life
Illusions of oasis making you look twice
Hiding like thieves in the night from life
Illusions of oasis making you look twice”

This Chorus is a summation of what the black community has to put up with in order to not be the focus of the government and the policing system. Mos Def and Talib Kweli put together a song that clearly this all in the style of spoken word/poetry. They don’t specifically say that but they refer to that as if they were adding pieces of a puzzle.

1. Is it Poetry? – True/False

When starting this assignment, I was not able to find a song that I knew fit the definition of poetry we were working with. I changed directions and picked a random song I normally listen to–“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles, from the Abbey Road album–and decided to evaluate how poetic it is. What does it say about a certain experience or about life in general? Does it paint enough of a picture of an experience to be considered poetry at all?

The second question was difficult for me since the lyrics of this song are so repetitive:

Here comes the sun, do, do, do / Here comes the sun / And I say, it’s all right”

This is the chorus of the song, and it’s played five times. The sun’s repeating welcome and the assurances that everything’s going to be okay serve to deliver the central subject of the song: the sun has come out after a long, harsh winter and the relief it’s caused is immeasurable. It’s noteworthy that the sun is personified, imbued with the life it gives to the narrator and their peers. The emphasis on the sun coming (in present tense) suggests that it hasn’t fully returned, which is echoed by the other lines: “The smiles returning to the faces” and “I feel that ice is slowly melting” both suggest that the sun’s return is an active process, with cold and unhappiness being a still somewhat present reality in the song’s world. However, the song’s focus isn’t on the present, but the future, which is why the people are so excited to welcome the sun–they know a happy future will come along with it (that’s why they say “it’s all right”).

This feeling of relief the sun provides is emphasized by the line “it seems like years since it’s been here” the repetition of which only emphasizes it more, like the narrator can’t seem to get away from this thought. The song doesn’t seem to be set in a specific time or place besides the end of winter, so the return of the sun and the relief everyone feels because of it have more universal weight than a simple change in weather (it also feels more exalted and magical thanks to the reverent tone of the chorus). The mention of “smiles returning to the faces” creates a sense of community; the sun shines for everyone, so everyone has come together to celebrate, providing a sense of shared happiness–one that even includes the listener since the “little darling” at the start of every non-chorus line addresses them. In this way, I think the theme of this song concerns the experience of shared joy following shared hardship. When things get better, people may come together to celebrate as well as become more optimistic for the future overall (they also may share their own joy with others). The vagueness of the song invites the listener to partake in the relief whether or not their specific experiences match the events of the song because everyone has known hard times and the feelings of happiness and freedom that follow their ending. The goal of the song is to remind people of those happy experiences so they can share in the song’s general cheeriness.

My final answer is a shaky True. Even when trying to analyze it, this song’s lyrics are very straightforward and don’t have much in the way of dimension. However, they do speak to an experience, one that’s specific but applicable to possibly anything the listener wants it to be given the song’s very broad meaning. “Here Comes the Sun” does fulfill one of poetry’s core purposes in that respect.