Some of my favorite books, songs, paintings, poems offended me the first time I took them in. I’ve realized that for a work to truly offend me it needs to be very well done. That is what makes it hurt the most.
The Tiger Song ends a very warm brilliant album (Startisha) and its author sounds like what Prince would be if he was coming up right now as a young artist. Right off the bat you realize the feel of this song is different. It starts “I was born a lover/raised a fighter. Sworn in a saint/turnt into a sinner” and he’s rapping it as the beat ramps up and bubbles down. When he says “Malcom was a failure/more fame than lethal/feeble shot by his own people…” I jumped out of my chair and thought HOW DARE YOU! Anyone who actually thinks Malcom was killed by The Nation of Islam is brutally uninitiated to the assassinations of black leaders prevalent at that time. They just didn’t have the resources to follow Malcom around the world and hunt him.
I looked up the lyrics and floored by the character building in this song. The character speaking is not necessarily Naeem(could be) and is definitely not sold to us as a refined character. The song is full of painful poetic digression and wrestling. The Malcom v. Martin element of it is beautifully articulated “Both portraits hanging over the couch/Martin on the left/Malcom on the right/ as if still debate/ still choice in route…”
In reality, it takes years of researching both men to understand they were so deeply right about so much. That to pit them against each other leaves out all the beautiful shades of thought between them. In an album that floats and vibes with a focus on electronic pop influence and lovely vocal tones to end on a deeply lyrical note like this leaves a lot to unpack and forces another listen of the album under a new context. Nine songs and the ninth takes you back to the first. I don’t have to agree with what is said. I root for the speaker to get there.