Superhero Hip Hop

dj spiderman

There are many hip hop songs that are about or heavily reference Superheroes and comic books. Once a month the Degobot will review one of his favorite songs that reference comics or Superheroes.

Artist: Mos Def
Album: The Ecstatic
Song Title: Life in Marvelous Times

In June 2009 Brooklyn born Hip Hop MC; Mos Def released his fourth studio album entitled “The Ecstatic” on Downtown Records. The seventh track on the album is a song called “Life in Marvelous Times.” None of Mos Def’s lyrics on this track directly make any references to any mainstream Superheroes, but his lyrics do tell a story and as his similes and analogies build, one cannot help but think of the Superhero genre.

The song begins with French DJ and producer Mr. Flash dropping a heavy electro bass beat that hits you in the face like a lightning bolt. In his flow Mos Def begins to describe a bleak world in need of rescue.
Mos Raps:

This is Bed-Stuy ’82
Ninth floor,three tiny floors, one view
Buck-town, Roosevelt house
They green grass is green, our green grass is brown

Mos Def is using the poor living conditions facing the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in the early 1980’s to build an image in the listener’s mind of a place where there is no hope.
He goes on to sing:

Shots rang, my phone wasn’t touchtone
A heavy beef in the street, ET had to flee

Here Mos is adding the notion of violence to the bleak image he is describing. Implying that there is no way to call for help, that the bad guys have taken over, and your heroes are gone.
He furthers this image by exclaiming:

Grey heavens, good grief

While Mos is rapping and building this world in need of a hero, Mr. Flash has mixed powerful french horns and keyboards into the beat. These horns play sounds that one might expect to hear during a movie when the hero stands triumphant over the villain. As these horns and beats build to a crescendo, they break and Mos declares:

Ends don’t meet where the arms can’t reach mean streets
Even when it’s free it ain’t cheap
On going saga, terminal diagnosis
Basic survival requires super heroics
No space in the budget for a cape
It’s when you got to fly by night, to save the day

Here is the most literal reference Mos Def makes to Super Heroes. Though it is bleak, Mos Def is saying that not even Super Heroes can save this day.
The chorus of the song is:

It’s just another shot to the heart
It’s just another shot in the dark
It’s just another place in the stars
Life in Marvelous times, Life in Marvelous times

The chorus implies that we are living in an all new and different world, where one needs to be “Super” to survive.

In 1994 Kurt Buiek and Alex Ross released a four issue limited series entitled “Marvels”. In that series fictional journalist Phil Sheldon refers to all of the Superheroes as “Marvels”. It was a very popular comic series.
When most fanboys here the term “Marvel” their minds immediately thinks of Marvel Superheroes. When a fanboy hears the phrase; “Life in Marvelous Times” he cannot help but think of the Marvel Universe. Seeing as how the Marvel Universe is based primarily in New York City and that Bedford Stuyvesant is a neighborhood of Brooklyn which is a borough of New York City, Fanboys could make the argument that Mos Def is using his hometown as an analogy for the Marvel U.

Click on the attached link to hear the song.



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