Alexander Nazaryan at the Atlantic Wire says you should read Signifying Rappers, David Foster Wallace’s recently re-released collaboration with Mark Costello about the emergence of hip hop in America.
A book about rap written a quarter century ago by two very white guys has tremendous potential to be embarrassing. I am happy to report that Signifying Rappers did not make me cringe a single time, though I did have to look up both cultural references (Schooly D) and words from DFW’s famously capacious lexicon (epiclesis; seriously, Dave?). It is also probably the only book about popular music to seriously discuss the origins of synecdochal imagery.
At heart, this book has heart. Its message is simple and humane. “Rap is poetry”…
This is part of the Wallace collection I have not gotten to, but Nazaryan gives it a healthy endorsement. My recommendation is to go buy Signifying Rappers, then get yourself copies of “Yeezus,” “Magna Carta Holy Grail” and Questlove’s Mo’ Meta Blues and make a summer out of it.
And if this Dave Wallace and Mark Costello collaboration isn’t grabbing you, maybe the new track from Elvis Costello and The Roots is more your speed:
– Michael Moats