So evidently Yale University Press has published The Anthology of Rap, which according to Slate’s Paul Devlin “sets out to capture the evolution of rap lyrics through what its editors consider representatives examples”. The volume includes contributions from Henry Lous Gates Jr., Chuck D, and Common in addition to transcribed lyrics from some of rap music’s most prolific lyricists.
Here lies the problem however. As Slate reports there are numerous transcription errors caused either by the rappers using slang or purposeful mispronunciation or the authors at Yale University Press not understanding the real meaning behind the lyrics. Some examples from Paul Devlin:
—50 Cent, here on “Ghetto Qua’ran,” clearly says, “From Gerald Wallace to Baby Wise, don’t be surprised/ Of how freely I throw out names of guys who dealt with pies.” The song relays the history of the drug trade in south Jamaica Queens in the 1980s and 1990s. (A pie is a large quantity of cocaine.) He does not say, as the editors have it, “From George Wallace to Baby Wise, don’t be surprised/ Of how freely I thought of names of guys who dealt with pies.” If he wanted to say George instead of Gerald he would have done so. (The image of George Wallace, the segregationist former Alabama governor, dealing drugs in Queens is an amusing one, to say the least.) And 50 says “throw out,” meaning to list publicly, not “thought of,” which implies to consider internally.
—Ghostface Killah, here in “Daytona 500,” is referring to a prominent New York radio personality named Vaughan Harper when he says “voice be mellow like Vaughan Harper radio barber.” He is not saying “voice be metal like Von Harper,” as the editors have it. There is no such thing as a “Von Harper” with a metal voice. Vaughan Harper, with a mellow voice, was a host on New York’s WBLS, 107.5 FM, at one time a popular hip-hop and R&B station.
Another issue with the anthology is the fact that it does not specify in the title that this is Yale UP own version of a rap music anthology. As the work omits many acts that could be considered vital to the history of the genre, this should be made more clear especially since this is the first and currently only volume of its kind.
Perhaps the history of a music genre is better left for people to learn about from cultural experience and not learned from a book. Depending of your geographical location, surroundings, and other localized and cultural variables the entire rap world will have different major players, history, style, and purpose.
The author (of the Slate article) does a really good job on calling the book out on mistakes, omissions, and issues. Give it a read on the link at the top of this entry.
The editors will argue that they are the compilers and it is up to them to choose what to include:
from the always reliable (i’m serious) Wikipedia “An anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler.”
Yeah but come on… they should identify themselves with more effort rather then simply calling it The Anthology of Rap.