Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The First Gangsta Rapper?

Karol points to my Post collegue Tom Elliott on the powers of "that" word and the ability for American culture to transform it:

"As I've written, there's something positively American about people turning a word formerly used to oppress them into something celebrating their brotherhood. "

Well, it's open to question as to whether there is anything "positive" about it. However, while Americans may have perfected it, they didn't exactly come up with the idea of trying to turn a negative word into an empowerement device. Not only isn't it American -- it predates the 20th century by quite a bit.

Credit a certain English Bard. King Lear, Act I, Scene 2:
Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound.
Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake?
Well, then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
As to the legitimate: fine word,--legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive,
Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Thematically, that sure as heck sounds a fair bit like this:

Why do I call myself a nigger, you ask me?
Because my mouth is so motherf***in nasty
Bitch this, bitch that
Nigger this, nigger that
In the meanwhile my pockets are gettin fat
Gettin paid to say this sh*t here
Makin more in a week than a doctor makes in a year
So, why not call myself a nigger?
It's better than pulling the trigger and goin up the river
And don't I get called a nigger anyway?
Booked as a motherfucker and locked away
So... so, cut out all that bullsh*t
Yo! I guess I'll be a nigga for life

{ Niggers, crack-heads, thieves.
If there's a hell below, we're all gonna go. }
And, would add Edmund, throw in the bastards too.

(This analogy actually occurred to me several years ago. I wrote a lengthy piece discussing, "bastard", "nigger", "queer" and other such words for a now-defunct journal on culture and politics. If I can find a copy, I'll see if I can recreate the piece).

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook