Music

Book critic smart and stupid about hip-hop

I love hip-hop. Until college, I mostly listened to radio b.s. and gangsta rap. I brought home a copy of The Chronic when I was a wee lass. I got my casette tape of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Mack Daddy confiscated in the sixth grade.

In college, I did a project on hip-hop as poetry. A DJ buddy brought by all kinds of amazing stuff for me to study: Company Flow, Cannibal Ox, Aceyalone, Black Star. ... Really, he filled his backpack full of his favorites and left it at my house for a month. I am indebted.

So I gave my little report. I used fancy poetry words to describe things I saw in the lyrics. I said a lot of dumb things about how hip-hop should be considered poetry—the kind of poetry the mainstream experiences—not book poetry, which few regular people read. College me should go bowling with Sam Anderson, who reviewed the forthcoming Anthology of Rap for the New York Magazine.

He read the rap and reviewed the book without ever having heard any of the songs. Then, NPR had him listen to some of the tracks, and it BLEW HIS FREAKING MIND. Dude! Words are totally different when you hear them out loud!

I’m a fan of both articles. It like watching Sam Anderson try to validate hip-hop as poetry, as I did as a fretful young college student. And it’s funny, because hip-hop really doesn’t need our help, you know?