And we’re back with some further theories of hip hop and literature. And why not? Here’s five more hip-hop stars who also have an eerie taint of some classic authors…

 

GURU and WOODY ALLEN

If ever we had two souls with such a bent for one topic, it would be Guru and Woody. The topic? New York, of course. For years, Woody Allen has been placing his emotionally repressed characters in the beautiful city and letting them get on with it, and there’s no doubt Guru is cut from the same cloth too. Dark street corners, well lit avenues and the hustle and bustle of New York life run through both writers work almost constantly like the River Hudson itself. More than that, though, Guru and Woody have most certainly made New York the central character in all of their work, the city coming alive to remind characters who they are, who they’re up against, and where they’re from. Frequently they hate it, often they bemoan the state of it, but they know for sure that nowhere else are you allowed to simply ‘be’, in such a way as New York.

“Yo, it doesn’t make sense, for you to compete against
This new york vibe that gets your whole body tense
Calm down, listen to a brother who knows
Cause the rappers out here come up with mad different types of flows”Guru.
“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes…and I live here. ” – Woody Allen
 

KOOL KEITH and CHARLES BUKOWSKI

No two have ever done so much for their respective fields..And yet, they remain completely glossed over in their respective histories. Bukowski was first and foremost, a gritty realist, a poet, a short story writer, and of course as everyone knows, a complete dickhead. That doesn’t stop his artistic output from being universally brilliant though, as he ploughed through brilliant poem after brilliant story after eccentric public appearance.  Same goes for Keith (though, from what I’ve seen of him in interviews..he seems a relatively cool [KOOL?!]  guy, who is albeit, absolutely insane). From his early years, slogging away in Ultramagnetic MC’s to the years as Dr. Octagon, Keith has released consistently brilliant albums, and has never seemed to get anything but a passing mention in the footnotes of hip-hop. It also helps the case for similarity when you consider the following these two have in ‘indie’ and ‘underground’ circuits, they’re practically gods to hipsters, and why the hell not?! They’re brilliant! What the hell?! When will these two giants get the respect they duly deserve?!

“I crank up lyrical flows, spit spats, what’s that
The pattern records, don’t touch the DATs, yo
Check out the pro skills, medic fulfills
Contact react to style I’m back you lack
Channels and handles, Automator’s on the panels
Turnin knobs you slobs suckers like Baskin Robs
Carvel don’t tell your whole crew is ice cream fudge
Rappers that budge, makin moves step in grooves
And ride the pace like at thirty-three dark shades
Now you seein me
Rap moves on to the year three thousand!” Kool Keith.

“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”  Charles Bukowski.

 

OUTKAST and H.G. WELLS

From their dizzyingly fast futuristic raps on Aquemini to the down to Earth soul shuffle of Love Below, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that Outkast are one of the most beloved of all hip-hop acts of, well, ever. Belying their intelligent production and insane technicality, though, there is a message of humanism and pride, the possibility that everything could change, just that no one seems too bothered about changing anything at all. Sound familiar? Yep, it’s perennial British Sci-Fi favourite, H.G. Wells. The man who deliberately shrouded all his work with a tint of the future and impossibility really was one of the most basic examples of a humanist ever. All his stories, short and long contain a fairly obvious message of compassion, love for fellow man and above all else, the defiance of the human spirit. Plus, they’re both pretty brilliant? If that counts for anything..

“I met a gypsy and she hipped me to some life game,
To stimulate then activate the left and right brain.
Said baby boy you only funky as your last cut,
You focus on the past your ass’ll be a has what.
That’s one to live by or either that one to die to
I try to just throw it at you determine your own adventure” Outkast

“..”We were making the future,” he said, “and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making. And here it is!”..” – H.G. Wells

 

WU-TANG CLAN and HUNTER S. THOMPSON

Sometimes it’s boring as hell to hear people constantly talking about drugs. Blah blah blah. Yes, I know. But seldom, there’s a person who does this, who also happens to have an intelligent view on the world that is absolutely worth exploring. On the surface, Hunter Thompson comes across as an idiot drug addict..And yet, he totally isn’t. After reading quite a lot of his work, I’ve come to the conclusion that he might have been the only person in 20th century America to know a fuck about absolutely anything at all. His drug use (At times, even by his own admission, ludicrous and excessive) was his own self medication for what he saw as a failed culture, a society doomed to become consumers, live uninteresting lives, and die near penniless. Though he didn’t necessarily fit the mould of ‘hippie’, he embraced the culture and ideologies to such an extent that he was embraced back by everyone who ever met him. Wu-Tang are one and the same, their whole ethos is surrounded by growing/making, selling, buying and consuming drugs. So what? Idiot drug addicts who somehow got a record deal, and ended up becoming the greatest hip-hop act of all time? No, that doesn’t just happen. The Wu’s lyrics were not only incredibly poignant, intelligent, and totally affecting, but they also represent the exact same view point as Hunter S. Thompson’s, the quest for the origins of the American dream, and where they lie. Do they lie externally? Do you have to find them yourself? These two artists realised that the beginning, and end, of the journey lay right inside of themselves all along, how they unlocked their potential and unleashed it on the world, are different, and fairly arbitrary footnotes on the careers of absolutely extraordinary artists.

“Yeah, my pops was a fiend since sixteen
Shootin’ that shit in his blood stream
That’s the life of a crimey, real live crimey
If niggas know the half is behind me
Day one, yo, growin all up in the ghetto
Now I’m a weed fiend, jettin the Palmetto”Wu-Tang Clan

“The streets of every city in America are filled with men who would pay all the money they could lay their hands on to be transformed, even for a day, into hairy, hard-fisted brutes who walk all over cops, extort drinks from terrified bartenders and roar out of town on big motorcycles after raping the banker’s daughter.” Hunter S. Thompson

 

NAS and JOHN STEINBECK

It’s pretty odd when a writer makes you yearn for a place they have deliberately written to look like hell on Earth. But Nas and Steinbeck are two who you could most definitely level this accusation at. To be fair, both men were from cities that were in the middle of social crises (Steinbeck’s Salinas valley in California at the stage of huge migration during the economic depression of the 30’s, and Nas’ gun and drug ruled streets of New York in the late 80’s and early 90’s) so you can forgive them for maybe romanticizing their respective locales. Steinbeck’s sprawling masterpiece ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is an extremely detailed and upsetting portrait of a whole country gone insane, a family leaving their ancestral home in favour of money, which will buy them just enough to eat, the constant imagery of picking oranges off the trees to consume fresh, and the inevitable failure of whatever warped American dream the protagonists had held on to unflinchingly. Nas’ masterpiece, ‘Illmatic’ (his first release) is of similar tone, the man sees his familiar childhood streets run crimson with the blood of his friends, family and associates, and he blames the war squarely on another poorly controlled economic problem – drugs. Both men don’t mean to romanticize their work, but it’s an inevitable bi-product of such beautifully controlled writing, perfect metaphors, fitting puns, and just general passages so gorgeous that you can scarcely believe the horror they’re depicting. For sure, Nas and Steinbeck are the two Gods of their respective fields.

“King poetic, too much flavor, I’m major
Atlanta ain’t Brave-r, I’ll pull a number like a pager
Cause I’m am ace when I face the bass
40-side is the place that is giving me grace
Now wait, another dose and you might be dead
And I’m a Nike head, I wear chains that excite the feds
And ain’t a damn thing gonna change
I’ma performer and professional, show the mic warmer was born to gain
Nas, why did you do it?
You know you got the mad fat fluid when you rhyme, it’s halftime” Nas

“The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.” John Steinbeck

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