Just shine

“They be saying I’m a cool cat,

Fuck that, tell them niggaz I’m a top dog.” 

  • Rashad, RIP Young. 

It might be that understanding yourself is difficult because you have never felt your absence. Unlike everyone else, you do not know what it feels like when you walk out of the room – or when you walk in. You have no sense of what your presence makes rise in others. How your ears make their tongues bend and your energy makes their hearts feel. Others have an acute sense of what changes when you aren’t around. Is life easier? Harder? More complicated? Too lax? Too tense? They are aware, just like you are aware of others. In this way we come into ourselves by coming up against others. 

“Big dog, every time you hit the red light

just shine. Ain’t nothing but a good day

don’t die.” 

  • Rashad

I’ve recently been reading Lyn Hejenian’s essays in the language of inquiry. In the book she interrogates everything about language and writing as a way of interacting in the world. There are many gems in there but I’d like to focus on something about the line break. She writes: “The dynamic of the line is different from that of the sentence, and the interplay between the two produces countercurrents, eddies, backwaters and swirls. The sentence and the line break have different ways of bringing meaning into view.”

As a page poet I can’t help but use these framings when listening to rap music. In RIP Young, Rashad breaks his lines and sentences in such a way that the last two syllables of every sentence are at the beginning of every line (or, to use the lingo, at the top of every bar). This creates a particular rhythm where the emphasis falls on these two syllables and as he rushes through the next sentence, one can’t help to wait for the two syllables at the top of the following bar. So let’s play a game. What if we only took those syllables from the last hook?

“Big dog. 

just shine. 

don’t die.” 

In making the break Rashad creates a poem of emphasis. Big dog, just shine, don’t die. A plea, placating the potential for harm. Reminding us to reach for the best within us and continue to show it – even when the world comes up against us. We only need to remember it is by this process that the world makes itself known to itself. And if it is by coming up against each other that we shall be known – then may we be known for our light.

“We ain’t teach them how to pump fake

big shot.”

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