“Make My” is the song that made me fall in love with hip-hop.
This might sound like a momentous claim, one that can rarely be limited to a single song. But I can remember with perfect clarity the first time I heard “Make My”, purely by chance. The hypnotic, gentle keys, clean drums, and the beguiling sousaphone. The weight of K.R.I.T’s words. The meditative hook. The frustration in Black Thought’s voice. The crystal-clear mix. The entrancing musicality of it all.
As an Indian teenager with little exposure to American vernaculars and accents, however, the words were hard to grasp — among my peers, Eminem was the ‘cool’ rapper, and people could care less what he said. Nevertheless, the unassailable, stark beauty of “Make My” got me to keep listening. And I had to know what it all meant.
Thus began my journey of research and discovery. Something that hooked me so easily kept my curiosity. I dug into the meanings of individual words, fit it into the broader context of the verses, then the song, then the album — then the genre. I learned to be a student of the music, of the strength of lyrics. The sheer poetry of “Make My” unraveled itself to show me the gems that lay within.
When Big K.R.I.T opens the song with an almost conversational flow, the tone is set for a masterful existential reflection on the contradictions and consequences of his life’s choices — at the moment of the narrator’s death.
My heart’s so heavy that the ropes that hold my casket breaks
’Cause everything that wasn’t for me I had to chase
Dice Raw’s hook takes on an ethereal quality, despite its nihilism. The realization that at the end of one’s life, the end won’t justify the means, won’t “justify the dreams” is a powerful moral statement.
The final acceptance of death in Black Thought’s verse comes with perhaps the most damning epiphany of all — the narrator’s life was all for naught.
Unwritten and unraveled, it’s the dead man’s pedantic
In the end, he can’t find the stairway to heaven. The verse taps into a primal human fear — what if our lives have no grand epilogue after all? What if this is it — our choices on this earth are the only ones that matter?
As the song goes out with a dense instrumental that seeks to reflect the tuning out of death, these questions linger. The hope of an answer lies within us, and only us.
The individualist moral narrative of “Make My” stands strongly on its own two feet. But the power of hip-hop is its larger narrative. The sociopolitical experiences of a community I wasn’t part of, but the meditations on whose realities were so pertinent to the world at large took me more work to understand. When I did, is when I knew hip-hop to be a genre into whose depths I would dive. I have no reservations in stating that understanding its social consciousness, starting with “Make My,” set me on my own path of aligning myself with principles of social justice.
On “Make My,” The Roots bring together everything that makes hip-hop so powerful, so unique in its cross-genre appeal. It was the song that introduced me to The Roots, who would go on to be one of my favourite bands. It was the song that introduced me to Big K.R.I.T, who would go on to be one of my favourite rappers. It was the song that introduced me to undun, which would go on to be one of my favourite albums ever.
Perhaps most importantly though, “Make My” introduced me to the transformative ability of music. My life has been better for it.
(Song recommendation by Prem Sylvester)