Diggin’ Through the Crates: Mos Def and Talib Kweli “Know That”

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Artist: Mos Def ft. Talib Kweli
Song: “Know That”
Album: Black on Both Sides (1999)

Lyric: “I Strike the Empire Back/ I Strike the Empire Back/ Fuck the Empire!/ High flying like the Millenium Falcon/ Piloted by Han Solo/ I never roll for dolo, fronting on me’s a no-no”

Character Reference/Meaning:

You know what Mos Def and the Star Wars have in common besides being awesome, ground breaking and revolutionary? One word – Rebels. That’s right, all you nerds out there, if you have been paying attention to Star Wars news as of late you should know about the new animated series entitled, Star Wars Rebels. This animated series is set to drop this year and is to take place between episodes III and IV. Just recently, some of the first footage was released with some new characters fans ought to love; sadly though, Mos Def is not one of them. Especially with great Star Wars related lines such as the chosen lyric of the week, it’s obvious that Mos Def a.k.a Yasiin Bey (he has rebranded himself Yasiin Bey as of late to keep his old record label from making money off the stage name Mos Def) is down for the cause.

Like any good Rebel soldier, Yasiin speaks out against injustice happening in the world and is on a mission to betterment. However, what speaks louder than words? ACTION! Not only has Mos Def spoken out about important tops in his songs such as the right to clean water (“New World Water“), the maltreatment of Katrina victims via the government (“Katrina Klap (Dollar Day)“), Poverty rates among African Americans (“Ni**as In Poorest“), as well as the murder of Trayvon Martin (“Made You Die“), but he has also put his words into action. In 2000 he performed a benefit concert for Mumia Abu-Jamal a death row inmate who is a known member of the Black Panther Party and was convicted of 1st degree murder of a Philadelphia police officer. Popular belief that Abu-Jamal didn’t receive a fair trial, and the court system was unjust to sentence him to the death penalty. He remains in prison today. In 2007 Yasiin appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher where he spoke about racism against African-Americans and the poor response by the American government during Hurricane Katrina, and the Jena Six. A few years later he made a reappearance where he spoke upon the dangers of nuclear weapons and the possible mistranslation of Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist threats.

One of Mos Def’s largest and most “real” actions occurred in 2013 where he sought out to show the world the mistreatment, and violation of human rights people have been portraying on inmates at Guantanamo Bay. He did this by depicting how the prisoners have been forced feed against their will, despite it being an instructional procedure. It has been a point of Yasiin to spread positivity through his music and bring truth and reality to light by his actions. So in this song when he says he strikes back against the empire he is saying that he challenges and battles unjust happenings in this world. Seeing what “empires” have done to cause oppression with imperialism and colonialism it’s no wonder he rebels. Is Mos Def the Han Solo of our day and age, the rebel we need to speak and act out against the empire of today? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but regardless of how you look at it, Mos Def is a social activist for the betterment of civil rights and humans in general. With his ability to spread positivity through his music and social action, I feel the world can be more peaceful, united and just, than it was yesterday.

WARNING: The following video depicts graphic images of force feeding. These images at times can be disturbing and difficult to watch. View discretion advised.

Written by Evan Lowe

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