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August 21, 2020

Nate Marshall's Playlist for His Poetry Collection "Finna"

Finna by Nate Marshall

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Nate Marshall's poetry collection Finna is timely, powerful, and unforgettable.

Eve L. Ewing wrote of the book:

"My original blurb was ‘this book decent,’ but I was told that the editor wouldn’t go for that so I am going to tell you instead that this book catalyzes a necessary conversation about Black language practices, culture, ownership, and belonging, and the commodification of Black people’s tongues. . . . So, like I said, this book decent."

In his own words, here is Nate Marshall's Book Notes music playlist for his poetry collection Finna:

Music is central to my writing practice. I’m not typically the sort of writer who can write while listening to music (music demands too much of my mental attention) but I’m always referencing music, consulting songs for inspiration, and borrowing techniques from songwriters to bring to bear on the poems. Every book I write tends to yield a minimum of 2 playlists. 1 being a simple record of all the songs and artists alluded to in the collection and another meant to be a playlist that more adequately captures the spirit of the book. Sometimes these overlap a lot, sometimes they do not. This playlist is a short glimpse into a few songs that were important to the making of the book or that I feel capture something of the spirit of the thing.

Live And Die In Chicago by King Louie

Look I don’t fuck with the actual national anthem so to me this is my national anthem. The nation is the South Side of Chicago. I’ve driven through the South Side weeping to this song more than once while working on Finna. King Louie is a special writer and to me one of the true gems from the Chicago subgenre known as drill.

GIOVANNI by Jamila Woods

Have to show love to this song that name checks one of the literary foremothers of this book Finna, Nikki Giovanni. This song is great and lives in the DNA of anthemic poems like ‘ego trippin’ and ‘Nikki-Rosa’

Twerking4Feminists by Psalm One

Psalm One is one of the best rappers to ever come out of the Midwest. This song does a lot of work simultaneously and manages to be subversive, radical, and funny as hell. Psalm is such a master of this kind of humor that is so important in the Black artistic tradition.

Mississippi Mud by Roy Kinsey

Roy has been one of my favorite artists of the last few years. He’s a Black Queer MC and also a librarian in the Chicago Public Library system. This song is a beautiful encapsulation of the experience of so many Black folks who are the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of The Great Migration.

LIFE by Saba

Saba is one the best and smartest writers I’ve heard. His ability to capture the particular anxieties of Black life is remarkable. This is a special song. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard such a great hook with so much lyrical depth.

The Secret Life of Blacks by Add-2

There’s something intoxicating and observational about Add-2’s work here that reminds me of what I hope to do in many poems. He makes poignant music filled with vivid images. This song is also such a great catalogue of images of Black life.

F.U.B.U. by Solange

An anthem. A damn anthem. I really love the way I think this song seeks to be a balm for Black folks. Listening to this while making this book taught me a lot about what I hope the book can do for Black readers.

I Be So Glad When The Sun Goes Down by Ed Lewis

At the root of the Black musical tradition and verse tradition in this country is the work song and the song written in the stolen moments in between work. There’s something of that blues and relief that I feel comes through on this song and that seems to me in conversation with the whole notion of finna that underwrites this book.

Ebonics (Criminal Slang) by Big L

The canonical hip-hop song about slang. A classic. R.I.P. Big L.

Song 33 by Noname

Some people will think of this as a ‘diss’ to J. Cole but I actually think it does what the whole book attempts to do. It captures our political moment and talks astutely about how Black men and our hangups and egos and harmful behaviors often stand in the way of communal progress. We gotta stop that shit.

Breadcrumbs by Jamila Woods

There’s two Jamila songs on here but she’s my friend and also one of the most important musical artists of my last decade at least. This is a beautiful song about a grandfather with Alzheimer’s and it captures the particular love and heartbreak of the relationship in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Pay Me by The Philharmonik

It is what it is. If we want a better country we need economic justice and that starts with some form of reparations. Fiddy’leven billion dollars for the people.

Nate Marshall is an award-winning writer, rapper, educator, and editor. He is the author and editor of numerous works including Wild Hundreds and The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. Nate is a member of The Dark Noise Collective and co-directs Crescendo Literary. He is an assistant professor of English at Colorado College. He is from the South Side of Chicago.

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