The ability to tame fate is the most adamantine and American of fallacies, especially in sports, where it is held that the sheer will of an individual can prevail over anything at the last, even in a team game. (Try persuading Dwyane Wade of this now.) We demand our stars work harder, be more valiant, tougher, more cutthroat, less sensitive, more solipsistic, less socialistic, develop a killer instinct, dominate, crush, destroy, show no weakness, dispense with humor unless using it to mock, have unwavering confidence in personal greatness, ignore doubt, reject fear, embrace hero status.
“Nothing positive comes from dwelling on our own good qualities and others’ faults. All that happens is that we develop a highly distorted, self-important view of ourself, and an arrogant, disrespectful attitude towards others.”—Geshe Kelsang, Eight Steps to Happiness
The song recalls Smoothe Da Hustler’s exercise in self-definition and pattern play, “Broken Language (1995),” in which the Brooklyn emcee and his brother, Trigger Tha Gambler, trade verses enumerating their most menacing traits and hustler credentials. No hooks—just rapid-fire hood surrealism at its finest and most fragmented.
Inspired by the art of freestyle, the “Broken Language” technique is all ego and invention—a formal exercise for rappers hell-bent on testing the limits of their imaginations and the elasticity of language. The three emcees who grace Small Pro’s production—Philadelphia’s own Curly Castro, Has-Lo and Zilla Rocca—embrace the style’s constraints, following the “money stasher, gun blastin’ razor slasher” flow that propelled Smoothe and Trigger’s original song. Scrapping conventional storytelling, they deliver an onslaught of outrageous, associative imagery, the outcome of which is a highway pile-up of flashy quotables.
While all the emcees impress, Curly Castro unleashes a few of the most stunningly original bars I’ve heard in ages, when he growls:
Bat Masterson who misuses ampersands Betty White with the anthrax in her baggy pants Piranha hands, the Bigger Thomas Native fan The Ouija board so that Emmett Till can take the stand
And now a moment of silence for English speakers everywhere.
A Word About Small Professor: Among other things, Small Pro is incredibly detail oriented and great at sequencing records. The next track on the album, a remix of Elzhi’s “Deep,” opens with the Detroit rapper employing the “Broken Language” technique before transitioning into another flow. The effect is pretty classy.