Diggin’ Through the Crates: The Roots “Thought @ Work”

Song: “Thought @ Work”
Artist: The Roots
Album: Phrenology

Lyric: “I’m like Aquaman and Brown Hornet/I’m like Imhotep but don’t flaunt it.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

This time on “Diggin’ Through the Crates, we focus our time on parallel subjects: The Roots out of Philadelphia, Aquaman, Brown Hornet, and Imhotep. Chances are, if you have watched Jimmy Fallon do his Late Night or Tonight Show thing in the past few years, then you know The Roots as the band that does all the homemade covers of pop songs (the Sesame Street theme is my favorite). However, to those of us rooted in Hip-Hop, The Legendary Roots Crew are the best damn group to ever rock a crowd. While Wu Tang Clan got all the hype for knockin’ heads in Staten Island, The Roots were noddin’ heads all over the country with their genre-neutral melodies and conscience rhymes. Perhaps being that good was a gift and a curse, with millions of fans across the world yet still not leading to the commercial success that other groups in their class had (Wu Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, N.W.A., etc). The Roots are always the underdog, and with the release of their most recent record, And When You Shoot Your Cousin, the world doubted they could still put music out like they used to. The Roots are a sleeping giant, and they finally have the recognition they deserve by being on the best late show on television and whether it’s soft melodies like “What They Do” or venomous cyphers like this one here, The Roots always put heart into their music.

“Thought @ Work” is five minutes of hard-hitting rhymes by head lyricist Black Thought, who covers everything from modern superheroes to ancient Gods in just one line. This started off as a way for us to give a nod to the recent photo that dropped of Jason Momoa as Aquaman, but no other reference embodied the spirit of the underdog quite like this gem. Until “Unite the Seven” became a household phrase (well, maybe just our household), Aquaman has been steadily been attempting to gain the reputation of being a comic book character people could get behind. His days of riding seahorses are over; Arthur Curry is a powerful force in the comic book world, possessing skills that no other on the Justice League has. He is a king of his own domain, a domain in which the other Justice Leaguers have no power in. Most importantly is his connection to ocean dwellers – his telepathy can direct the oceans’ inhabitants the way no other being could otherwise. I’m not saying that Philadelphia is the same as Atlantis, but both Aquaman and Black Thought have a special connection to and draw power from the land they rule.

Meanwhile, the Brown Hornet was a reference to a character from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, first airing in 1979. Created by Bill Cosby, Brown Hornet was the first mainstream animated black superhero to air on television. He was given segments within the show instead of his own series, believed to be due to Cosby wanting to avoid the backlash from putting out a black superhero cartoon based on morality – which was unheard of at the time. BH was a parody of the Green Hornet, and sort of a bumbling hero similar to Inspector Gadget, one that resolved issues with the help of his sidekicks, here named Tweetle Beele and Stinger. Black Thought, like the Brown Hornet, is a mighty force for good, but may have fallen to the wayside by not indulging in what mainstream media has dictated should be the content of Hip Hop these days. Even at the risk of falling off in popularity, Black Thought and the Legendary Roots Crew stand for justice and behind their people.

Contributing to this piece was Lewis Brown, the new Brown Hornet. You can find him here!

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