GC-14 and Little Willy

Geoff (stage name GC-14) adjusts his lapel mike. Photo courtesy Wikicommons.

I’m pretty fussy when it comes to pop music. I like a nice hummable tune, interesting instrumentation, and lyrics that mean something. As a teen I claimed to dislike disco because its lyrics were often insipid; some big hits contained only half a dozen words. (Though truth to tell, it’s just as much because disco was such happy music that moody Turtle Teen didn’t care for it. )

I never really understood rap music, either. There’s plenty of meaning in its words, even if I don’t understand all of them; some expressions seem to be new to the English language. But tuneless lyrics? I didn’t get it.

Shame on me.

In the 14th Century, a rap artist named Geoffrey Chaucer was knocking ’em dead onstage. He protested the excesses of the Church and the inanities of the over-indulged; he joked about sexual infidelities; he took potshots at minor government officials. Most people in his audience didn’t own any books, and many were barely literate.

Two hundred years later, a radical named William Shakespeare thumbed his nose at the Puritan authorities and penned sexy, satirical, sensitive stageplays in a funky backbeat rhythm of ten beats per line. When the words didn’t fit quite right or didn’t express what he wanted to say, he invented new ones.

If the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare were taught properly in school — with emphasis on hearing those works rather than reading them — the commonalities between them and rap would be more apparent.

Stage entertainment. Rhythm and rhyme. Reflection and social critique. Ingenuity, passion — and spoken, not sung. Rap is POETRY, you silly Turtle! If you want tune, go listen to Silver Convention’s “Fly, Robin, Fly.”

10 Responses to GC-14 and Little Willy

  1. goodbear says:

    what a great post lavenderbay! the english major i have been suppressing for 15 years is charmed by this entry!

  2. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks, Goodbear! But you and Urban Thought have to take the credit for inspiring it.

  3. Great post! I only minored in English but I’m with Goodbear on this one; I can imagine Shakespeare busting out the beatbox for stuff like this:

    All that glisters is not gold;
    Often have you heard that told:
    Many a man his life hath sold
    But my outside to behold:
    Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
    Had you been as wise as bold,
    Young in limbs, in judgement old
    Your answer had not been inscroll’d
    Fare you well, your suit is cold.

  4. How very interesting. I’ve learned something here. I like how you’ve connected the generations and how even as current as hip-hop is to our time and we still revel in Shakespeare’s work, the impact is something very similar.

  5. adelecaelia says:

    Great post! I too have learned something.

  6. lavenderbay says:

    Ooo, nice choice for a quotation, James! It works really well.

    I’m very much a believer in there being “nothing new under the sun”, Urban Thought. Endless variety, incomprehensible diversity of beauty, yes; but basic human motivations, interests, and ideals are a constant. I like to see where seemingly disparate things meet. Glad you enjoyed this post.

    Thanks, Adele!

  7. Alyson says:

    I liked “Fly, Robin, Fly” but I also liked “S-S-S-Single Bed”…what do you mean I missed the point?

  8. lavenderbay says:

    Umm… how do I put this?

  9. Nope. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. I appreciate the spirit of your post, but I cannot link rap with either Chaucer or Shakespeare. Just sayin’…

  10. lavenderbay says:

    But of course, that’s what self-publishing is all about, Bobbie. You don’t have to buy it: it’s free.

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