It may be hard to believe, but hip-hop and literature are more closely linked than fans of both would probably ever care to admit. Each literary movement gives birth to new and exciting writers who push the boundaries and expand the horizons of the English language, and hip-hop is no different, here are some of my favourite rappers, and the authors who they seem to be spookily channelling on some level.

SNOOP DOGG and BRAM STOKER.

If you’ll recall, Snoop released an album 18 years ago (I fucking know, right?) called ‘Doggystyle’. Quite frankly it was very good. So good, and so damned influential in fact, that Snoop has been essentially living off the legacy of it ever since, while consistently churning out poor quality material that attempts to ape it. Remind you of anyone? Yep, Irish novelist Bram Stoker is sadly a classic example of the burnout of artistic excess, forever synonymous with his classic Dracula, to such an extent that his later works are slightly boring gothic tales of sexual perversions and oddly inhuman situations, while he still enjoyed top billing as the creator of the gothic age of literature. Reports of Stoker’s favourite tipple being either Hennesy or Dry Gin and juice are however, unconfirmed.

 

“As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me… a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal.” Bram Stoker.
“So turn off the lights and close the doors
But, but what? We don’t love them ho’s, yeah
So we gonna smoke a ounce to this
G’s up, hoes down, while you motherfuckers bounce to this” Snoop Dogg.

MF DOOM and JAMES JOYCE.

For anyone who has either read Joyce, or listened to DOOM, you will be all too aware of the bafflingly quick pace of both writers, the insanely detailed yet somehow extremely obvious cross references to pop culture, the ridiculous level of knowledge [of ALL spheres of life] required to truly ‘get’ each of their work. Yep, it’s pretty clear that DOOM is channelling Joyce in a big way. Aside from the style of writing, both men have a wickedly black yet hilariously earthy sense of humour that’s a joy to read and listen to again and again. Also, was the eyepatch a disguise? Slick Rick actually needed his, and I am pretty sure that DOOM’s mask is the biggest disguise of all, so yeah.
“Plenty to see and hear and feel yet. Feel live warm beings near you. They aren’t going to get me this innings. Warm beds: warm full blooded life.” James Joyce.
“As you call em, they call you when they need somethin
Trees for the bluntin’, to g’s for the frontin’
I found a way to get piece of mind for years
And left the hell alone, turn a deaf ear to the cellular phone”
DOOM.

JAY-Z and WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

Jay-Z didn’t invent rap music, and William Shakespeare certainly didn’t invent the English language.But no two artists have done more for their respective craft. Honestly. Jay-Z might be a bit overrated as he reaches his twilight years, yet his first record, off the bat, is one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. Across the pond and a good 400 years ago, Shakey hit the ground running with Romeo & Juliet. Each man’s craft and pure skill in taking language and tossing it on it’s side, before adding puns, rhymes, allusions and as much pop culture and mean humour as possible is still breathtaking to be hold. Enjoy Jay and Will, they might not be the best of their fields, but they’ve done more it single handedly than almost anyone else you could care to mention.

You pay a great deal too dear for what’s given freely“. Shakespeare.

“She said the taste of dollars was shitty so I fed her fifties
About his whereabouts I wasn’t convinced
So I kept feedin’ her money ’til her shit started to make sense” Jay-Z.

BIG L and D.H. LAWRENCE

From the off, Lawrence was a homosexual. Big L is not, if anything, he’s sadly one of those rappers whose casual and at times disgusting homophobia is nearly enough to negate his value as an artist altogether. And it is in this tiny detail that the two unlikely bedfellows meet. Lawrence is probably most famous for his graphically explicit novels detailing (for the first time ever, really) sordid sexual affairs in startlingly unabashed, and at times slightly gross terms. Big L, then? The rapper who said ‘you can kill me I was born dead’, also found a safe home for himself in telling shockingly offensive and lurid stories of murder, rape, infanticide, and much worse. Now that would be enough, usually, that the two men were content to court controversy, and use it to carve out a niche for themselves, yet the connection goes deeper. Born in the fledging industrial hub of Nottingham in the late 1800’s, Lawrence saw his beloved countryside laid barren by coal mines, industry and pollution, a message of desperate sadness and a need to cling to the ways gone permeates all of his work strongly, and same with Big L. The New York he knew and loved had been transformed from a cultural hub where you could hang out on the street corners with your friends and have innocent fun, to seeing his best friends murdered, the increase of AIDs, and life wrecking drugs like crack cocaine taking root in the poorest areas. On the surface, both men are controversial and unashamed, but look deeper and you find two desperately sad men who were terrified of the places they loved so dearly changing without them changing with it.

“..‘Th’art good cunt, though, aren’t ter? Best bit o’ cunt left on earth. When ter likes! When tha’rt willin’!’

‘What is ‘cunt’ ?’ she said.

‘An’ doesn’t ter know? Cunt! It’s thee down theer; an’ what I get when I’m i’side thee, and what tha gets when I’m i’side thee; it’s a’ as it is, all on’t.’..” D.H. Lawrence

“Yo ever since I was young, I ripped mics and I killed beats 
And I’m known to milk freaks and hit em on silk sheets 
No dame can give me a bad name, I got mad fame 
I’m quick to put a slug in a fag brain ” Big L.

NOTORIOUS B.I.G. and LEO TOLSTOY.

Pretty much the safest answer to “who is your favourite author/rapper?” would be Tolstoy and Biggie, respectively. With flawlessly natural styles, insanely well written pieces that detail everything from ‘everyday struggles’ (had to be done) to preparing yourself for death, these two giants have covered it already, and no two artists on this list represent the eternal conflict for any fledging artist, namely: ‘why the hell should I even bother? These two men have nailed it in a way that is unlikely to ever be beaten’. Unlike a lot of rappers and writers though, these two dudes nailed it from the off, they knew they were good, and damn it if everyone else knew they were the best too. This isn’t just a downer though, the achievements in the brief life of the artists have proven, if nothing else, that working to better yourself, and pride of your place in life yields visible results. Biggie may have died young, but his staggeringly vast impact on hip-hop is so plainly obvious to see even today, as is Tolstoy’s in literature, that each man’s legacy will live on way after all of us reading this are long long dead. And that, is brilliant in itself.

“Just as in the clock the result of the complex action of innumerable wheels and pulleys is merely the slow and regular movement of the hand marking the time, so the result of all the complex human activities of these 160,000 Russian and French – of all their passions, hopes, regrets, humiliations, sufferings, outbursts of pride, fear and enthusiasm – was only the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the battle of the three Emperors, as it was called; that is to say, a slow movement of the hand on the dial of human history” Leo Tolstoy.

“Four drunks trying to stop my flow
And what they don’t know will show on the autopsy
Went to see papi, to cop me a brick
Asked for some consignment and he wasn’t trying to hear it
Smoking mad Newports ’cause I’m doing court for an assault
That I caught in Bridge Port, New York”  Notorious B.I.G.

Advertisements