While I was in graduate school, I got really into the blues; specifically the works of Robert Johnson, Son House, and John Lee Hooker. There was something primal and tangible about their music. My response to their recordings was much more about the feeling I experienced than my intellectual understanding of the words they sang. That's the attraction of blues, isn't it? It's the musical exploration of both immense joy and undeniable pain in a very foundational and visceral way.
For me, Black Thought's sense of hip hop performance does much of the same.
You see, I feel Thought is an emcee who has an acute understanding of the primal impulses that make hip hop what it is. At its core, hip hop music is a celebration of a society's ability to retain its confidence and sense of self worth in spite of the seemingly insurmountable conditions it faces. It is the flower growing from the concrete; the unmistakable feeling of painful, aggressive jubilation that can only live down in the bowels of a culture successfully resisting the oppression of the ruling class.
Black Thought deliberately, and quite artfully, accesses these sensations in his lyrics and performances with a clarity and abandon few emcees can duplicate. Every time he performs, it's as if he was at a block party or playground cipher; he moves his listeners with a provocative optimism that is so incredibly of-the-people. Truthfully, I know of no other rapper (including most of my favorites) who consistently evokes such a fundamental sense of what it means to be an emcee.