It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop
We can debate how good Jay Electronica’s debut album is. I’m feeling this review. And — even before I got wind of the internet commentaries — I did view this “album” as much more of a collaborative Jay and Jay mixtape. But art is art. And it’s Jay and Jay. So I’m here for it.
What we can’t debate is how the final track hit. Yep, they are rhyming over a Khruangbin instrumental. But they picked the right one to say what needed to be said. It was written on the day Kobe died. And again, that’s another debate that we can have (and many already did), about the complexities of people and how we choose to remember, honor, and discuss them. But what we can’t debate is how my 10-year-old, who’s worn Kobe’s number 8 throughout his young basketball career, broke down in my arms when I confirmed for him that the helicopter crash was real, not an internet rumor.
“Sleep well, sleep well… lately I haven’t been sleeping well.”
I didn’t sleep well for weeks after Kobe’s passing. And I didn’t know why. I would wake up in the middle of the night and my first thought would be that it couldn’t have happened. Then I would remember that it did. I slowly grew to accept it, and think about why it mattered so much to me, and figure out how to move forward.
This time, with the current state of the world, as I struggle to stay asleep nightly, it all feels like too much.
When I first drift off, stressed about all of the unknowns and tired from trying to stay plugged into work that will keep me from guessing about the unknowns,I forget that this is our current reality. Sleep feels familiar, safe. But in the middle of the night, my subconscious sparks my consciousness and I start seeing things. It doesn’t feel like a dream as much as me creating frightening visions that don’t make any sense. I wake up and it’s eerily quiet. We live in the city; this night time peace from empty streets, no matter the hour, isn’t natural. It’s unsettling.
“… lately I haven’t been sleeping well.” I’m not the only one.
When I thought about Kobe’s passing, I think what struck me the most was how at this point in his life he’d found a freedom to create essentially anything he wanted. He was doing just that, centering his family, coaching ball, helping people grow, producing films, with so many unknown future gifts to add to an already global legacy. We all wanted to see what was next — for him, for Gianna, for women’s basketball, for whatever else he would have envisioned and set out to do. Now, with COVID-19, there are so many other families’ lives that will be reshaped by loss. So many other memories that won’t be made. So many numbers on phones that will never ring again.
My wife shared this piece on grief earlier today. It’s a word — and a feeling — that I don’t sit with often, or that hip hop spotlights as directly as Jay Electronica and Jay-Z have done on A.P.I.D.T.A. I’m thankful that they did. Naming this tension, acknowledging its grip on me, is helping me remember that there is another side.