Angelou unimpressed by Common language

When you are a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, you tend to get picky about words. Maya Angelou has taken exception to the language of rapper Common, used alongside her own work.

Angelou was dismayed to find that a spoken-word collaboration with the rapper has been used on the title track of his new album The Dreamer/The Believer, in which Common gets a little more streetwise in his sections, interspersed with Angelou’s verses.

In the lyric he delivers sideswipes at "Ferrari testers, Armani dressers" and "exquisite thick bitches". "Niggas with no heart, I'm the pace maker", he asserts.

Angelou’s view is that the N word, which is pretty, well... common on a lot of rap, is "vulgar and dangerous" to black people. "I don't know why he chose to do that," she said, according to the New York Post. "I had never heard him use that before. I admired him so because he wasn't singing the line of least resistance." She said she was surprised and disappointed by the track.

Common seemed pretty surprised himself that the venerable writer would be offended by vocabulary that is hardly unusual in his work. "She knows I do use the word," he claimed. "She knows that's part of me."

Indeed it seems a little strange that Angelou should agree to collaborate with a hip-hop star and expect their language to be polite and elegant. Maya Angelou is 83. Common is 39. Maybe it wasn’t so much a spat about African-American identity as just a plain old inter-generational misunderstanding.

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