Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Portrait of the Rapper as an Author

Hiphop has become decidedly more literary as of late with a slew of rappers stepping away from the mic in favor of whetting their book writing skills on their way to becoming published authors.

It wasn't surprising when we all learned over a decade ago that Chuck D was going to write a book. He kicked knowledge on wax [and on TV] so why not on paper too?

Likewise, no one really raised an eyebrow even when a more mainstream artist like LL Cool J released his autobiography.

But nowadays the most unlikely of rappers are beginning to concentrate more and more on the literary side of their trade.

This includes and especially refers to Prodigy of Mobb Deep, who is currently incarcerated but has obviously made good time of his sentence by first landing a book deal and then penning his life story.

Not to be out done, though, is veteran rapper Buckshot of the legendary 90s group Black Moon, who just yesterday released a guide for how to navigate in the rap music and entertainment industries.

These tomes all come on the heels of Jay-Z's highly publicized and equally successful book that documents and breaks down a nice selection of his lyrics, succeeding where Yale University failed at attempting to explicate a wider range of Hiphop lyrics in general.

Considering how many rappers abuse the English language in their everyday speech, the casual observer cannot be faulted for incorrectly assuming that rappers -- if they know how to write at all -- would probably produce trashy street lit, adding insult to an already injurious literary genre.

But this past summer Styles P brought an innovative conception to life by independently publishing a novel that he wrote and simultaneously releasing an accompanying soundtrack of music inspired by the novel.

Rappers -- many of whom in the past few years appear to be uninspired and fading from relevancy quickly -- who are talented enough to conceive and write novels and/or other literary contributions should take a hint from Styles and work on their own version of that book-CD package that can not only possibly revitalize CD sales but also encourage the Hiphop community to actually pick up a book and read something other than the daily Lottery numbers.

Seeing the current financial woes being suffered by Nas, now is the time for him to branch out and write that novel he has long talked about wanting to publish. Not to mention he could exact some type of revenge against his the mother of his daughter/author of a recent tell-all book that used Nas's name to make herself a profit.

If C-Murder can write a book, Nas should have no problem.

But leave it to 50 Cent to pull his trump card, bypassing the role of aspiring author and starting his own publishing company that, according to Wiki, has 11 titles to its credit, including and culminating with 50's own top-selling book being published in 2009 on the G-Unit Books imprint.

Some rappers have even been asked to write a foreword for books, an honor usually reserved for more academically-inclined individuals.

2Pac's legacy was further tarnished and abused by one of the many posthumous exploitations of the rapper. This time it was in the form of a book of poems that many accomplished poets spoke highly of.

Of course there are always the lazy rappers who, ruining it for other potential rapper-authors, gladly and readily accept hefty book advances only to never even think about writing a rough draft, let alone single chapter for the books they were contracted to write.

Malice of Virginia rap duo the Clipse has been readying and steadily building anticipation for his novel with an innovative marketing technique of sporadically released online video vignettes that feature random excerpts.

Other improbable but noteworthy rappers-turned authors include:

Not bad for a group of mostly high school dropouts.

Let me know if I missed anybody.

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