D Smoke – Best Lyrics from Black Habits

Inglewood’s very own D Smoke is back. Known as a solo act, he recently shared the mic with labelmate Rexx Life Raj for a song called « Optimistic ». « Optimistic » is the latest single of record label EMPIRE’s compilation Voices For Change. For D Smoke, this is another step in what’s taking the features of an impactful career.

D Smoke came into the spotlight by winning Netflix show Rhythm+Flow. Performances after performances he showcased the depth of his artistry, leaving a lasting impression on each appearances.

Building on his success on the show, he crafted a refined vessel to adress history, culture, and spirituality with Black Habits, an album in which his potent creativity and lyricism are on full display.

1) History: Bullies

« The plight of our life’s been a fight over centuries
The history books never mention me
Not in a light where we got dignity
But I’ll make you respect me eventually

As the album title suggests it, a strong part of D Smoke’s music is embedded in black culture and history.

Through this excerpt of « Bullies », he expressed a feeling that’s common to many people of African descent.

As rich as it is African-American history bears wounds that are still felt to this day. Unfortunately and suprisingly that history is not being told enough, many learn about it outside of school, outside of history books.

2) Influence: Sunkissed Child

« Ya little mans a fan of rap songs, he bein’ raised by tunes
Where the spirit of the lyrics don’t deposit him with jewels

A former Spanish teacher, D Smoke is very aware of the impact one can have on the youth, this may explain the balanced spectrum of his work.

As the most influential culture, hip-hop does have an impact on what young minds are being fed. Many MC’s have expressed how much those who came before them influenced them.

This specific line reminds us of the little girl reciting raps that got Common thinking in the “6th Sense” : « how many souls hip-hop has affected/How many dead folks this art resurrected/How many nations this culture connected ».

Sunkissed Child also paints a vivid picture yet as beautiful as painful to watch. Despite the sad environment that’s being depicted by the rapper, Smoke manages to draw the beauty out of the struggle.

Took her to Heaven and then Hell, but meant well

Such lyrics hold a profound philosophy, based on forgiveness and unconditional Love, personified by Jill Scott, featured in the song. Love for his closest and love for his Culture.

Every day God is born
He find himself in human form
He denies himself to find true wealth within
In his tribe, his health is prized possession
Sin is diverting from the rugged path that leads to the truth
And he is I and I am we

In a way, Sunkissed Child reminds us of the narrative along Kendrick Lamar‘s albums which portray a good kid (God bless the child), damned in a world of sins and violence.

No matter how wrong we could be, it is like someone above still believes some light within us can overcome our bad habits.

3) Culture: Black Habits I

« Black magic, black excellence
Black habits, this medicine, everything
Black Chucks, black tux, everything, everything
Praise black Jesus, play black Moses
Give’em flowers whilte they still here, black roses, everything
Black tie, black ride, everything, everything
Black pride, black lives, everything

A few years ago, when asked about storytellers of black stories, Denzel Washington said « it’s not color it’s culture ».

Embedded in a culture, one can understands specific lifestyles, customs, or the underlying text behind certain words and gestures.

Through Black Habits I (and Black Habits II), D Smoke celebrates the culture that was shaped by black history. Every single word of the chorus has a weight and a story behind it.

The last words « black pride, black lives » hit differently since the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

4) The Bridge: Free

« ¿Quiúbole, carnal’? (My brother)
Me pueden poner en cadenas (They can put me in chains)
Me pueden encarcelar (They can lock me up)
Pero no me pueden atrapar la mente (But they can’t trap my mind)
Lamentablemente han tratado de hacer esclavos de mi gente (They tried to make slaves of my people)
Pero del corazón hay un fuente (But from our heart runs a fountain)
Corriente (Flowing)
Siguiente (Continuing)
Sí se puede (Yes, I can)
Si Dios quiere (God willing)

« Free » speaks volume on D Smoke’s creativity. On this multidimensional tune, he rhymes alternately from the perspective of a former president (and slave owner) and from the perspective of his late friend and rhyme partner Chiz who passed away after battling cancer.

This excerpt, simultaneously done in English and Spanish, is a testament to D Smoke’s desire to build the bridge between the African American community and the Latin community, two communities that do share a common history.

Distilling several rhymes in Spanish throughout the project, D Smoke went further on by naming his collaboration with Snoop Dogg after afro-mexican revolutionary Gaspar Yanga who not only led a rebellion to free black slaves but also forced the hand of spanish colonizers into a peace treaty in the 17th century.

5) A Family Affair: Like my Daddy

« I’m grinding like my daddy, shining like my daddy
Rolling in a Caddy
I be grinding like my daddy, shining like my daddy
Working like my daddy did, I’m glad he did

We know the old saying, it takes a village to raise a child. In D Smoke’s case the village, Inglewood, seconded a strong family structure. « Like my Daddy » is self explanatory.

Due to social, economical and systemic reasons the absence of father figures has plagued several african-american families for generations.

Those factors add to the power of D Smoke’s chorus, expressing how pivotal his father was in his life, the MC channels a childlike innocence of a kid wanting to emulate his first hero.

6) Faith: Closer to God

« Uh, I go to church to listen (Yeah)
The music had me lifted, the sermon left me conflicted (Yeah)

Introduced by a « Morning Prayer », Black Habits is crossed by religious themes. More accurately, it is marked by D Smoke’s report with God. In « Fly », he explains how significant that report is to his art, rapping : « I got an appetite for the afterlife (Yeah)/ That’s why I search for Heaven every time I grab the mic ».

With « Closer to God », D Smoke shares more about his experience, explaining that much like the church experience, a spiritual journey is not free of hardships.

Assisted by his brother SIR, he adresses his own turmoil, judgement from his peers while conceding that he remains a work in progress.

Alfred Dilou

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