Thats That, an Ode to Lyricism

This song, “That’s That“, by veteran rapper MF Doom, serves a different purpose than most songs and poems we study in this class. Instead of focusing on one central theme throughout the song, this song is more of a showcase to the writing and performing abilities of MF Doom. This song is from the album “Born Like This”, which came after he took a multiple year hiatus from creating and releasing music. This is likely why this song is more about showcasing his skilful writing than a single general theme, as he was proving to fans and critics that he has just as much writing talent as ever. Figurative language, allusion, and a complex and constantly changing rhyme scheme are present throughout the song, and add to the deep personal allegories that he shares. Each aspect makes the others more impressive, as he so creativly and seemingly effortlessly connects completley differnet observations, ideas, refrences, and stories.

It is worthwhile to examine some of the refrences Doom makes to politics, life, and other forms of media as they are always related to a theme that is discussed in the song. I do not need to include more than a single line from the song in order to fully examine and delve into his writing skills, as each line has so many different refrences and examples of poetic devices that it would take pages to explain. Doom explains the background of his parents using the line, “Mama was a ho hopper, papa was a Rolling Stone star like Obama”, the first part of the line about his mother mostly exists to compliment the deep connection he makes about his father, or to reflect his mother’s attitude towards his father or men in general. Obama has appeared on many Rolling Stone covers, and calling his own father a ‘Rolling Stone Star’, is likely a refrence to his father’s rock star like behavior. Obama’s father had abandoned him and his mother at a young age, much like the behavior of Doom’s father, whom he describes in other songs in a negative light as he abandoned him and his mother.

Doom criticizes artists ether inferior to them in music/rap, or those who he believes are following the masses. The beginning of the song not only disrespects other artists and the state of the hip hop game, but makes a point about various political and social problems that exist today. Doom compares less succesful artists in rap who follow trends to political figures. He criticizes artists who believe that violence, drugs, and otherwise criminal behaviors are necessary in order to make hip hop music or be a part of the culture. He also criticizes those who enlist in the military as an alternative to prison, and compares them to figures in politics who are weak on their opinions, and simply flip to whatever side is the most profitable. This theme is echoed throughout the poem, but there is one line that I believe is a commentary on both of these topics, “Cornish hens, switching positions, auditioning morticians-
Saw it in a vision, ignoring prison-Ignoramuses enlist and sound dumb”. This line uses “cornish hens”, which are a type of hen that are raised to be slaughtered, and are mass produced and packed together, to compare them to the actions of these groups. “Switching positions, auditioning morticians”, is likely about our political leaders, who are seemingly switching positions to whatever side is the most popular, and are willing to audition/pay those to do their dirty work. Since Doom is not on the side of war, he disrespects those are enlist to get out of prison. Not only does he believe their actions were sadly inspired by a music culture that promotes drugs and violence, but they are also still just as captive as soldiers, risking their lives for the government, as they are prisoners.

Doom wraps up the song with a hook that proves this song is truly a testament to his lyrical skills. This time singing, “Can it be I stayed away too long?-Did you miss these rhymes when I was gone?-As you listen to these crazy tracks-Check them stats then you know where I’m at”. In my eyes, and likely the eyes of any hip hop fan or literature buff. Doom is a lyrical mastermind, and this song perfectly showcases this in so many ways. The hook wraps the song up with a steady decline from the fast paced, rhyme heavy, and deeply meaningful bars that came previously. This is a refrence to his hiatus from making music, and the fact that this song showcases his abilities so well, and parodies a Jackson 5 song titled, “I Wanna Be Where You Are

Inspiration behind Beloved

In the interview Tony Morrison gave shortly after releasing Beloved to shelves, she talked about the story of Margaret Garner, the woman who inspired her to write about slavery and more broadly what the mother-child relationship and dynamic is like for those who are enslaved or have experienced slavery. The story of Margaret garner is horrific but reflects not only the brutality of slavery but the intensity of a mother’s love for her child. Margaret Garner had almost escaped slavery with her family, but when stopped by US Marshalls, Garner killed her daughter as she would rather take her life than see it taken back by the slave owners. The act of taking her own daughter’s life would in no way be easy for her, but she is willing to do it to prevent her daughter from being enslaved. It also shows from the firsthand perspective of someone who had been enslaved for likely their entire life, that death seemed better than life as a slave.

This connects to Beloved, however Sethe did not have control of her daughter’s fate. This may have caused more pain in the longrun, as Sethe handed over her child, and is faced for the rest of her life with thoughts that if she had kept her daughter with her for those few days that she may still be alive. However, if Sethe had to do something like Margaret Garner did, and take the life of her daughter in a brutal way, and then lived the rest of her life safe from slavery, she would feel horrible and would be haunted ever worse by the Ghost of her daughter. The impact of Beloved’s death is shown throughout the novel, in one instance, Sethe refuses to move out of her home, even though it is causing them social and emotional problems. As she does not feel comfortable moving because the last time she did so, she lost her daughter, and likely because even though her daughter’s presence is not always positive, it is all she has left.

Nadia and Saeed, the Answer to Existentialism

Starting this novel, I believed Exit West would connect to the theme of existentialism in the same way that The Stranger or the movie Trust did. However, this novel proved to do the exact opposite; by providing a way to cope with and get through a difficult situation that completely defies the cornerstones of existentialism. At first, their relationship is simply a distraction from their everyday lives, the author makes a point of stating that this is before the violence, danger, and peril that they would soon flee becomes prevalent. While describing Saeed and Nadia’s first introduction, the author foreshadows this terror that would soon make their relationship much more than just a fun, playful, distraction, “Saeed spoke to Nadia for the first time. Their city had yet to experience any major fighting, just some shootings and the odd car bombing…” He goes on to list more detailed and graphic examples of the lack of stability that would soon become commonplace in Nadia and Saeed’s worlds.

Contrasting this with the actions of Meursault in The Stranger, it is clear that Meursault does not have the same desire for human connection that Nadia and Saeed do. Saeed and Meursault both find themselves attracted to women, however Saeed is interested in more than just the physical beauty of the opposite sex, but Nadia’s interests, intellect, and overall character, in a way that Meursault is not. While working, Saeed is unable to stop thinking about Nadia, this is something that is almost laughable to picture Meursault relying on another person for happiness, or even using someone else as an outlet during a moment of struggle. Throughout Exit West, the relationship between Nadia and Saeed gets more serious, while the condition of their home does the same. The bond between Nadia and Saeed is as close as family, as Nadia is comfortable referring to Saeed’s dad as “father”, and they connect through prayer, another outlet to calm their mental state through the great trauma they have experienced.

While I have not yet finished the novel, the relationship between Nadia and Saeed has been everything but negative. They rely on each other for support, love, and sex, which is not only passionate but another outlet for them to forget the danger around them. Comparing this to The Stranger, Meursault was going through struggles that were far less serious or life threatening, however Meursault ends up struggling far more. He has nothing in his life that he finds fulfilling or is passionate about. While he is not unable of having connections with others, he does not find much value in them, and does not allow his deepest emotions to be shared with anyone. Exit West represents how an emotional connection with someone that understands your situation can be uplifting, and a source of purpose in a dark and sometimes unfulfilling world. The necessity of human connection through times of struggle is echoed in Trust, as the two main characters, the girl struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, and Matthew, the Existentialist who cannot find something to fulfill him and resorts to violence and alcohol, come together and find each other as a way to cope with the outside world.

Why Bloodchild Could be a Major Motion Picture

While reading the short story that my group presented on, Bloodchild. I could not help but picture it as a Hollywood major motion picture or an episode of Black Mirror. Black Mirror episodes take a part of human life and criticize it, by dramatizing certain behaviors that humans engage in, and showing how this plays out in an often not so distant future. Bloodchild is the perfect example of this. One of the most important political issues of this generation is abortion rights. A small group of powerful men are making decisions about something that they will never have to experience. They have all the power, and they are often making decisions, (such as restricting abortion rights), that negatively impact others.

The “Tlic”, the alien life forms that have taken control of humans, restricted their rights to drive, own weapons, and many other basic freedoms. This comes most severely at the expense of the men, who are forced to carry the Tlic’s babies, and have them violently removed at the time when they are ready to be born. Sound familiar? This completely flips the script on one of the most heavy political debates of our time.

Does Existentialism Suit Me?

As someone who had never previously been introduced to the idea of existentialism, the novel The Stranger and our in class conversations about existentialism have been my only exposure to the topic. Upon learning about this new way of viewing the world around us and all the things that society tells us have meaning, I wondered if this is a belief system that one must adopt or be born into, and if this is something that would either enhance or detract from my life if I applied it to myself. Aside from the grim ending of the novel and Meursault’s existence, the idea of existentialism was not showcased as something completley negative.

While the reader and those around Meursault are taken often back by his lack of emotion, for example the way he does not cry at his mothers funeral, his lack of a desire to find a lifelong partner, and when he turns down a new job opportunity, Meursault himself does not suffer from making these choices. If anything, the way that Meursault looks at the face value of things instead of holding them up as pillars of humanity that hold immense value helps him see the true importance of things in his life and prioritize what makes him happy.

This is not to say that things like friends, family, and religion are not useful and fulfilling parts of many peoples lives, but it does make the point that we must value aspects of our life based on the real benefits they bring us instead of trying to live by what most of society views as “success”. I personally believe that I can take many lessons out of this novel and existentialism as a whole. While I would not call myself an existentialist, I very often find myself not valuing things that society deems important, but after careful examination I have realized are either not for me, or do not bring me happiness in the long run.