Books that inspired rap and hip-hop



We’ve already covered the main connections between books and music, but this list isn’t limited to the world of rock. Literature plays an equally important role in the hip-hop hits of your teenage years, continuing into rhymes today. For example, did you know that the song “King” by Mike G has over 30 references to Stephen King? While the list is long, here are 10 of our favorite rap and hip-hop songs with a bookish muse. (You can also, as Busta Rhymes would say, nod your mom to our Spotify playlist.)

1. Divergent / “Distressed”, A $ AP Rocky

Veronica roth Divergent takes place in a dystopian future Chicago where children are factionalized according to their skills. A $ AP Rocky’s song “In Distress”, written for the soundtrack of the film adaptation, describes the instability of a society so dependent on apartheid. Referring to those kids who don’t fit into a faction, A $ AP presents himself as a Divergent, “I’m something out of this world / nothing like any other.” This makes us even more excited for the rest of the Divergent soundtrack, which features other artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper.

2. The legend of Sleepy Hollow / “Dumb It Down”, Lupe Fiasco

“I’m brainless, which means I’m headless. Like Ichabod Crane is …” Of course, in Washington Irving’s The legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane never loses his mind. In “Dumb It Down”, however, Lupe was just trying to evoke the iconic imagery of the Headless Horseman.

Overall, the song has a literary message: Lupe is for people who tell her her lyrics are too smart and the words are too big. He refuses to denigrate his words to gain fame and fortune; he won’t try to call the Everyman. What he wants to do is uplift the Everyman and encourage him to want more. Instead of bragging about her cars and her street reputation, Lupe talks about smarter things.

3. Farm animal and 1984 / “Animal in Man”, Dead Prez

Through a direct account by George Orwell Farm animal, Dead Prez lays bare the classic story, setting the scene with phrases such as “Under the leadership of Hannibal, the biggest pig in the pack.” But rather than just using the story, Dead Prez embodies the spirit of the book. Their refrain “This is the animal in man, this is the animal in you” reveals how fine the border between man and beast is.

4. The brilliant / “King”, Mike G

Mike G loves Stephen King. You can hear him in every line of his song “King”, each with a King title or reference. Phrases like “Wait until the sun goes down and organize a showdown in Lot of Salem / I still work on Night watch, I am the door “and” Welcome to my Horror show / Stay out of my Secret garden, i have a wolf named Cujo“—It’s amazing how Mike G makes it work. Although he” aspires to think like [Stephen King] done, “he really made the song to test people who claim to know King when in reality he doesn’t.

5. Marmion / “Do 4 Love”, 2Pac

Walter Scott’s poem Marmion mourns a love gone bad: Lord Marmion tries to take the woman he wants from his fiancé through dishonest means, and it doesn’t end well. Tupac’s song “Do 4 Love” also tells the story of a love that is ruined by lying. To link the two tragic loves, Tupac raps, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we conspire to design,” paraphrasing one of the poem’s most famous lines.

6. Lord of the Flies / “Willie Burke Sherwood”, the killer Mike

Growing up hasn’t been easy for Killer Mike, in a tough neighborhood and not naturally tough like the other boys. To get by, he took a page from William Golding’s book Lord of flies, which tells the story of a group of boys stranded on an island. In his song “Willie Burke Sherwood” he draws comparisons between the streets and the island the boys are stranded on. He knew that in order to survive on the streets he had to be less like Simon and Piggy, who are killed for not being violent and savage, and more like the primitive Jack. Not easy for a “literature addict” guy.

7. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / “Feel special”, Mykki Blanco

Even in the free-spirited world of music, it can be difficult to be different. No one knows this better than transgender rapper Mykki Blanco. Refusing to be defined by being trans, she comes forward with extreme confidence. She wants to take you for a ride with her. In “Feeling Special”, she is Carroll’s white rabbit Alice in Wonderland, prompting you to “follow me to this rabbit hole” to Wonderland.

8. The bluest eye / “Thieves in the Night”, Black Star

“I asked her why we follow the law of the bluest eye …” Toni Morrison wrote her novel The bluest eye to demonstrate a problematic part of African American culture that she said was lacking in literature: Growing up, she observed that black women thought they were ugly if they didn’t look white. The book inspired Black Star, a rap duo made up of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, to write the song “Thieves in the Night”. When Kweli read The bluest eye in high school, he was moved. He writes in the album cover notes that it “struck me as one of the truest critiques of our society, and I read this in high school when I was 15. I think that ‘is especially true in the world of hip-hop, because we are blinded by these illusions. “

9. The revealing heart / “Ol ‘Evil Eye”, group of crazy clowns

The Kings of Horror Rap take on Horror King Edgar Allan Poe in their song “Ol ‘Evil Eye”. Giving Poe writing credit for the lyrics, the band does a rendition of their story The revealing heart, a particularly gruesome murder story. Instead of living in the Evil Eye Old Man’s house, however, ICP knocks on his door to sell him cookies. In the end, they murder the old man: “His eye will no longer trouble me / His eye will no longer trouble me.

ten. Things are falling apart / “100% Dundee”, Les Racines

Besides calling their album Things are falling apart, The Roots continues to refer to Chinua Achebe’s novel on colonialism with “100% Dundee”. In the song, they compare themselves to the author in an impressive rhyme: “Plus the Black Thought em-cey, professional-lay / Push pen to paper like Chinua Achebe.”

11. Gatsby the magnificent / “$ 100 Bill”, Jay-Z

Written for the Gatsby the magnificent original movie adaptation soundtrack, Jay-Z’s “$ 100 Bill” has Jay Gatsby written all over it. He’s got the lavish lifestyle and parties in the front row when he raps, “Benjamin Franklins filled in, just bend it for the thrill / Go numb until I can’t feel anymore, or I can do skip that pill. ” With 1920s references and dialogue from the film, it’s not hard to see the inspiration.

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