Revising Rap For The Worst

Slate’s Paul Devlin has just posted what will probably be his strongest piece on The Anthology of Rap, a well-meaning collection by the Yale University Press that has some serious issues. Notably, it gets a lot of lyrics wrong.

That the flubs could happen is understandable – Devlin himself seems sympathetic to the task of trying to transcribe these lyrics – but it’s also clear that YUP messed up and is slow in responding to the issue. Devlin even talked with one of the MC’s who was included in the book, going through one of his songs and noting a slew of mistakes, which is about as damning to the anthology as it sounds.

Some of the advisory board for the anthology, featuring some hip-hop notables, feel burned, too. From an e-mail Devlin received from one among their ranks:

When Ice Cube says “your plan against the ghetto backfired,” and it gets turned into “you’re playing against the ghetto black fly,” more has happened than just a simple error in transcription; you’ve made an important song perplexing and impenetrable—while staking a claim, backed by institutional power and market presence, that your version is canonical.


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Author: James Brotheridge

Contributing Editor with Prairie Dog.

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