Sunday, March 15, 2009

Raised on Rap Music

I can appreciate this article by Chris Martin abt "avant rap". It wld be great to get others' takes on rap in fact, knowing it to be a much bigger influence on contemporary poetry than it's been given credit for... Michael Cross? Paolo Javier? Brandon Brown? ...wanna field this one?


BB said...

Hey Thom!

I’m still always constantly trying to figure out how to talk about it—but, at the risk of overstatement, a childhood obsession with hip hop music is probably the reason that I write. The sonic articulations, the politics and rhetoric of rage that obviously appeals to a youth in revolt (not to minimize it—to those in revolt of all ages), the paronomasia (“you C.I.A. / you see I ain’t kidding”), inherent to the work of old school and “the school” hip hop (I started listening to this stuff in 1990 or so, with an initial interest in contemporary artists but also a back catalog that extended back to, oh I don’t know, 1985).

I’m sticking in blog comment mode and not going too deep into this, Thom, sorry, but I’ll also mention since I was called out that the avant-rap thing has never been very interesting to me. I’m much more interested in the Zukofskyan tautness of a Jay-Z, the drugged weirdness of a Wayne, the semi-nostalgic nastiness of a Missy Elliott. Sort of a contradiction I know, to have such pedestrian taste in music and still obviously participate in an avant-garde poetry scene (this is typed with a knowing smirk), but c’est la.



Thom Donovan said...

thanks for yr comment Brandon. I never know how far to extend any dialogue/correspondence on a blog. I mean, there are only so many hrs in the day, right? so I appreciate yr posting anything here in response. it's fun you shld quote that specific P.E./Chuck D line, since it runs thru my head every so often, as do many other lines from Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang Clan, and other groups from my youth. I think it was Michael Cross who I first bonded with abt our being raised on rap after he wanted to talk abt the rhythms of my lines and use of caesura in an early chapbook in terms of rap prosody/delivery. as far as contemporaries go, the stuff Michael is doing with internal rhythm within lines (not to mention his delivery), Paolo (Javier's) "lv bo(e)m(b)s," yr Camels are some wonderful examples of rap's extrusions into poetry. and I'm with you abt "avant" vs. "mainstream" rap. with the exception of some of Stone's Throw's stuff (like Quasimoto's first album, which is a limit case of the kind of rich multi-layered dialogue one can have through sampling) and Def Jux, I don't really care for "avant" or indy rap. I'm not sure why, but something seems less authentic abt "avant" vs. "mainstream" rap. as tho rap's troubling (and thus productive) status in the cultural industry were being effaced by obscurantism/noodling. I think this is because there is a very thin edge between what one hears on Hot 97 in New York City, and the language as phylum (large cultural substrate). rap crosses over language at large constantly, showing one where we are in it (or it is in us?). have you ever felt this concretion of the "new" listening to a rap song?. of course, so much more could also be said abt dj culture, which has long offered metaphors for construction, and cultural "hybridity" (something Alan Gilbert addresses in On 1 in relation to DJ/Rupture's work) , and performance, which Rodrigo (Toscano) and Paolo bear-out thru their work (how to "call and respond" through the text; how to "move the crowd"; how to become the "bachelor machine" that the dj/mc function is?). Creeley always located the "cutting-edge" in jazz (a fact Nathaniel Mackey dwells on in his chapter on Creeley in *Discrepant Enagagement*), but for our generation I feel that rap/dj culture is the closest our generation has to jazz insofar as it also overdetermines its origins in a specific cultural location (African-American Disapora) by its reterritorialization of nation-language. That rap music and Hip Hop culture have now been global cultural phenomena for decades complicates matters since rap would now tend to be a kind of translation device across cultures. Not so much leveling (tho I often imagine it as a social leveler), but truly translative: bearing across cultural boundaries, borders, and identities; stamping discrete cultural identities with the mark of each other (as Walter Benjamin's image of the translated text goes in relation to its translator)...