Book of Rhymes: A Rapper/Author Wish List

I can’t even remember the last time I used an iPod. Must’ve been back in 2005 or so; I had the one that held 1,000 songs, but the piece of you-know-what froze on me one day, right in the middle of All City’s “The Actual” (classic DJ Premier beat that nobody ever talks about), and never thawed. A few quiet, dreadful days’ worth of train rides followed, full of “I wish I was listening to Cage’s Movies for the Blind right now” thoughts—that’s such a great album to play during alone-time, and sounds great through those comfortable earphones that come packaged with an iPod.

I’d say it only took a week for me to wake up and smell the scent of a fresh, just-bought paperback—why drop another $200 on a new iPod when I can hit the used book store and stock up? So, I did just that, and I’ve yet to look back.

You could call me a “bookworm,” and I’d smile with pride. Fiction has always intrigued more than reality, which explains why my love of hip-hop is strongly rivaled by my affinities for both literature and film.

But, enough about me—this is XXLMag.com, damn it.

Throughout the incessant 50 Cent coverage that’s dominated the Internet over the last month, there’s curiously been little mention of his fascinating book, The 50th Law, written by celebrated author Robert Greene with 50’s assistance and inspiration. Greene—most applauded for The 48 Laws of Power—uses Curtis Jackson’s hood-to-Hollywood story to prove that fearlessness is the key to success.

Written in dry, yet thoughtful, prose, The 50th Law doubles as both a quality 50-biography and a motivational tool. The book is just as interesting, if not more, as any other piece of recent 50 Cent merchandise, so the fact that it’s gone largely unnoticed within the hip-hop circuit is a bit troubling. More mind is paid to 50’s disses and disrespectfulness— that’s not a surprise or anything. He seems to prefer it that way.

Flipping through The 50th Law again the other night, I got to thinking—wouldn’t it be crazy if some of my favorite fiction writers teamed up with MCs, a la 50/Greene? Greene specializes in non-fiction, so his rapper-collaboration instantly makes sense, but how about a scribe soaked in the make-believe? I’ll avoid any “studio gangsters” or “We don’t believe you, you need more people” jokes here, by the way; rather, I’ve given some thought to compatible sensibilities, to writers who share the same outlooks on storytelling as certain rappers.

The following list is comprised of three writer-rapper partnerships that I’d love to some day read, though, I realize this is purely wishful thinking. If any of these were to actually happen, though, the fiction that’d be produced would be special.

Eminem & Chuck Palahniuk
This is the first one that came to mind; it’s a duet that’s almost too perfect. I’m talking “Slim Shady,” though, not the Marshall Mathers responsible for “Beautiful” or “Sing for the Moment”; give me “Medicine Ball,” or “Insane,” or even “Criminal,” and I’ll slide you Mr. Palahniuk’s publicity info. Reading a Chuck Palahniuk novel is the closest you’ll ever to get to mental beatdown that’s equal parts hilarious and haunting. A mind-pummeling that you’ll gladly entertain. Though the film version is brilliant in its own right, Palahniuk’s Fight Club is in its own league. Choke—about a sex addict who fakes choking in restaurants to earn sympathy dollars—is essential dark comedy, while Lullaby is one of the most subversive horror novels I’ve ever read. The book of his that’s most Eminem-inviting, in my eyes, though, is Haunted, which locks 17 wanna-be writers into a shitty house for an indefinite amount of time, forcing each to finish their works of fiction. Cannibalism, death and sexual depravity commence—it’s as if you’re listening to shuffling Eminem playlist.

Nas & Richard Price
The common bond between these two storytellers is their shared ability to dictate inner-city turmoil in precise detail. Perhaps not as vivid or in-depth (an unavoidable inferiority that short songs have against 400-page books), the narratives of Nas’s “Undying Love,” “Blaze a 50,” “Poppa was a Playa” and “Get Down” give me the same birds-eye-view into unfamiliar projects as that of Mr. Price’s best novels. Price, a Bronx native also put in tons of script-work for HBO’s The Wire, penned the dynamic Clockers, which Spike Lee adapted into a solid film; the book is better. And then there’s his most recent work, Lush Life, about a NYPD investigation into a murder in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. If the book had a soundtrack, Nas would be the best suited to oversee it. I flirted with the idea of “Ghostface & Richard Price,” but Ghost’s stories are, while great, a bit too erratic to match Price; the more-solemn Nas makes more sense, ultimately.

Scarface & Cormac McCarthy
I’d say that this is the most far-fetched of the lot, since Mr. McCarthy is quite the recluse and, I’m willing to bet, knows only of Tony Montana; ask the nearly-80-year-old author about Brad Jordan and you’ll surely be met with a blank-then-disinterested stare. McCarthy’s weathered insight into mankind’s darker side is exactly what parallels his work to that of Scarface, though; if hip-hop has any seasoned writer capable of recording a song as bleak and mature as McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men, it’s Face Mob himself. The Scarface album that I think McCarthy would most enjoy—if any, at all—is The Diary; its somber views on mortality (heard clearly on “I Seen a Man Die”) seem on par with the unafraid-to-perish spirit cast over McCarthy’s The Road.

Are there any fellow bookworms out there? If so, hit me with your own rapper-author pairings. A part two is currently formulating in my head. —Matt Barone

  • http://www.justice.gov.za GO-Getta’

    Lupe Fiasco & Angelo Sabbath = Lupe’s conscious rhymes & Miss Angie insightful story-telling ability will make a gr8 pair

    U know most of these rappers r actors so i’m still scratching my head tryna figure who to pair next with……………

    Intelligent drop btw

    • Chris S

      Lupe is currently working on a book of his own called “Reflections of a Window Washer”. he said he’s on like chapter 3 or something

  • http://Pierzy11@gmail.com Pierzy

    Matt B -

    Good call on all three of your suggestions, particularly your final one, but my question is this: Why can’t you be both?

    I have a 160 GB iPod but also an extensive collection of books and other varied reading material (not to mention what I’m required to read for school). Some days I like to crank the music, other days it’s chill with a book.

    I realize the point that you were making, but I’m just saying – you can be both.

    I’d say you could put Stephen King with RZA in his Gravdiggaz persona.

    Good drop!

    • Matt Barone

      What up, Pierzy?

      You’re right about this. I think it could be because I listen to music all day here at the office, you know? It’s a good change of pace to crack open a book on the way here/way home. But you’re absolutely right, I do need to get back in the iPod game at some point. I’ve been out of it so long that I don’t even know what the best new one to get is; I’m guessing that 160 GB one you have is a good call?

      • http://Pierzy11@gmail.com Pierzy

        I feel you, Matt…and I agree that sometimes taking a break from the music and opening a book makes the music sound even better when you come back to it.

        The 160 GB is silly. I keep adding albums and I’m still not filling it up! I think they stopped because there were some issues with it (mine occasionally pauses at random times) but I love having virtually every album in my hand…even if I don’t listen to all of them.

        Keep up the good work!

        • Lowedwn

          I think you both bring up good points. Personally over the last 2 years it’s been strictly books for my bus ride home. I listen to music all day at work just to get me through the day, so the change of pace a book brings is good for me because it allows my mind to kind of switch gears in between work and home.

  • SOUTHSIDE A -TOWN

    Pimp C & Donald Goines (i havent read much lately, but i have too good of a time reading his stuff)

    every book of Goines that i’ve read had some kind of a pimp, or just badass dude kicking ass & getting bitches. the late, great pimp instantly popped in my head.

  • http://www.jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

    Donald Goines(rip) and Raekwon!

    Maaan those DG books are gritty as fuck! Full of heroin, set ups, murder, racism, crooked cops, and more murder. Almost never a happy ending.

    DG was TOO real in his stories, and it may have cost him his life. I know of some old-time hustlers in Detroit that are still mad because of those books fucking up their money in the 70s. DG didn’t name names but some of those street tales weren’t tales at all.

  • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grands

    DOOM & Michael Crichton-sci fi thriller

    NaS & John Grisham-urban crime & mystery

    Ludacris & Eric Michael Dyson-black love & mystery

    DMX & TD Jakes (no, I’m serious.)-inspiration

  • OG Matt Herbz

    “Throughout the incessant 50 Cent coverage that’s dominated the Internet over the last (5 years)”

    There, fixed that for ya.

    –OG Matt Herbz–

    • Matt Barone

      Haha, I stand corrected.

  • capcobra

    common and maya angelou.

  • X

    Iceberg Slim and Willie D from the Geto Boys

  • LuNaTik

    Fightlcub is the only fictional book i own

  • D. $cience

    I have a couple of good suggestions…

    Ghostface/Roald Dahl- Even though Roald Dahl is dead, imagine a book collaboration between him and Ghost. They would come out with stuff such as “Charlie and the Kilo Factory” or “The Fantastic Mr. Starks”.

    DOOM/Stan Lee- Marvel needs to make a comic based off the masked villain…or at least a Fantastic Four cameo with Daniel Dumile in it.

    Raekwon/Alice Walker- The Color Purple Tape. *winks*

    The Roots/Chinua Achebe- The Roots have a knack for naming their albums after books, but The Roots “Things Fall Apart” and Chinua’s “Things Fall Apart” are both classics.

    • Dub Sac

      The Color Purple Tape

      ^^^^

      Ahahahaha!

      • http://www.bboycult.com www.bboycult.com

        ^^^^^^that was good, wasn’t it?

  • Lowedwn

    George Pelacanos and Andre 3000. If your familiar with their works I think it would definitely make sense, I think you’d be presented with unmatched outside the box insight and honesty of today’s human being searching for general meaning and purpose in life.

    A Nas x Richard Price Collabo would just be too sick. I just finished reading Lush Life too a few months ago. That’s a book definitely worthy of the HBO mini-series treatment in my eyes, but only if they got the same production/writing team from “The Wire” to keep it authentic.

    great blog, much props

  • mazemayhim

    “Survivor” is the WORST book I ever read. Since that book, I’ve denied any fiction from Palachiuk to enter my mind. I hate his writing style…period! He better have better s#!t than that damn “Survivor” book cuz dat book was a piece of s#!t

  • $ykotic/Don McCaine

    Yo Matt!

    “right in the middle of All City’s “The Actual” (classic DJ Premier beat that nobody ever talks about)…”

    Soooo, since you have the power of actually making the forum why don’t you do it?

  • http://xxlmag.com Jon

    Kid cudi-Stephen king

  • YoungDyce

    Ay… off top, that story Guts from Haunted was FUCKED the fuck up. I wouldn’t recommend no parts of that shit to NOBODY.

  • Moi1

    roald dahl and ghostface is hilarious. props to who said that. if only chester himes was around to colloborate with nas . . . irvine welsh and eminem.

  • http://www.jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

    Misha Defonseca, the Oprah co-signed author who wrote what turned out to be a fake memoir of the holocaust.

    AND…

    William Roberts (rapper), the Jay-Z co-signed artist who STILL reps what turns out to be a fictional character.

    • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grands

      ^^With the books preface written by James Frey.

      • http://www.jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

        Haha, excellent! I remember that guy. He was the fake crackhead, right? I think he also got a co-sign from Oprah. She was so pissed that she invited him back to the show so that she could air him out. I wonder if I can find that episode on YouTube.

        • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grands

          Yeah, she got dude back on the show & embarassed him in true “She-Women Man Haters Club” fashion:

          Kept asking him questions, called him a liar, a few times, took back her co-sign for all the world to see, & I think she even made him apologize to everybody who bought it.

          I had bought it before she put him on blast, but if I hadn’t, after all that shit, I really would’ve went out & got it. Fuck Oprah Windbag.

  • Caino

    Andre 3000 – Philip Pullman, that shit would be awesome.

    Eminem- Stephen King. how much horror can u handle?

    Ghostface – Lee Child, lol, classic Jack Reacher with a gansta edge!!!

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