Saturday, November 20, 2010

"The Intellectual Side of Hip Hop"

Written by:  WISDOM

     With the recent release of the Jay-Z book "Decoded", the literary aspect of hip hop has been illuminated.  "Decoded" originally was envisioned as a biographical release on the life and music of Shawn Corey Carter, but that written collaboration with journalist dream hampton was not released.  Instead, "Decoded" is a collection of Jay-Z lyrics, walking readers through the mind of arguably hip hop's most influential figure.  The book is garnering much attention from different walks of life, including inclusion on Oprah's Ultimate Favorite Things listing.

     There is a proliferation of hip hop-themed writings from various entities.  You have the aforementioned "Decoded" by Jay-Z.  "The Anthology Of Rap", constructed in part by editors Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois, is a collection of more than three hundred hip hop lyrics cross-referencing thirty-plus years of the culture.  "Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind & Naked" is the first book from The Clipse own Malice, detailing experiences from the eyes of a man who has recently found Jesus as the source of his inspiration.  Kanye West released a book entitled "Kanye West Presents Thank You and You're Welcome", a compilation of witty West rants and sayings.  Styles P wrote his first novel, "Invincible", as an urban novel about the trappings of the street.  More literary projects are slated from a hip hop slant, including writings from Nas, Common.

     What is this signaling?  It seems that it's a two-sided coin.  On one side, you have artists willing, and able, to go outside of their familiar comfort zone to put pen to paper from a somewhat different angle.  Hip hop artists are showing that those skills that have been cultivated to rock microphones can now be applied in a somewhat different manner for literary consumption.  It also shows a literary community willing to accept what the voices of hip hop have to say.  There was a time when hip hop culture was seen as a fad, but now because it's a cash cow, it's taken more seriously.  I'm definitely not mad at either side of that proverbial coin, because hip hop has a voice in literature, and the masses are ready to read what we have to say, instead of just hearing it "twenty times per day", as Pharoahe Monch so eloquently put it before. 

     Of course, there are some question marks.  For instance, with "The Anthology Of Rap" being a recent release, information has surfaced about inaccuracies with the lyric transcriptions throughout.  It seems that not enough research was put forth to ensure that the lyrical content inside "The Anthology Of Rap" was on point and fully representative of the words of the artists included.  Unfortunately, there may be some glaring errors that may taint the words, not giving the readers true context into the minds of some of hip hop's finest.  In addition, I'm hoping that the books that are going to be released are of good literary quality.  There are a plethora of books on shelves that are not of good quality, and I don't want hip hop artists to be classified as uneducated individuals not able to articulate themselves properly.  With hip hop intellectuals like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Dr. Cornel West lending positivity to hip hop as a whole, I sense that the culture will expand in a literary sense.  I'm proud of where the culture is headed, as long as there is advancement in different facets.  Before long, I'll be throwing my hat in the hip hop literature ring, so I'm excited! 


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