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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, 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

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