Monday, 21 January 2008

New Orleans as Hellespont redux? Continuity and contiguity in the poetry of Lord Byron and Lil' Wayne

"For me, degenerate modern wretch,
Though in the genial month of May,
My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,
And think I've done a feat today."
Byron, 'Written After Swimming From Sestos To Abydos'

"I'm pro'lly in the sky, flying with the fishes,
Or maybe in the ocean, swimming with the pidgeons,
See, my world is different."
Lil' Wayne, 'Ride 4 My N****s', Drought 3

This week, GMS was interested to read the following quote, from bumfluff-sporting anticon nerd-rapper Sole:

“When I was living in Spain, I’d read Byron all the time, and his rhyming was just ridiculous, like seven syllables. It’s not like I traced rap back to Romantic poets, but I started thinking of rhyme as something more than just clever ... [Lil' Wayne] did this one mixtape thing, The Drought 2: it’s, like, him rapping for two hours. He uses his New Orleans drawl to make shit rhyme that you never think would.”

Although the seven-syllable thing puts Byron in the Kool G Rap bracket, maybe this Solo chap has a point. They're hated-on by straight-laced middlebrow moralisers and homophobes alike, but are they two peas in a pod? GMS puts the flamboyant rhyme-happy libertines, self-publicists, counter-cultural icons and victims of pretentious critical deconstruction head-to-head:

Romantic cult of personality

J. McGann, 'Byron, George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron, 1788-1824, poet', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
"Byronism made an impact, too, on the images assumed by some of the more outrageous rock stars of the 1960s. The fast rhythm and excesses of his life that became synonymous with Byron are now recognized as part of the pattern of celebrity. The continuing appeal of this glamorous aspect of Byronism reflects the intense cultural interest in the individuality of the self that lies at the heart of Romanticism."

Lil' Wayne, 'I'm Me', The Leak EP:
"B***h, I'm me, I'm me, I'm me, I'm me
Baby, I'm me, so who you? You're not me, you're not me
And I know that ain't fair, but I don't care
I'm a motherf**kin Cash Money millionaire
I know that ain't fair, but I don't care
I'm a motherf**kin Cash Money millionaire."

Post-modern cultural authority

McGann, 'Byron':
"Byron's afterlife in popular culture was a crucial factor in his re-emergence after the Second World War in the high-cultural venue of post-modernism where parody, satire, wit, and an ethos of irony regained cultural authority."

Ryan Dombal, review of Drought 3,
"While introducing his revamp of T.I.'s "Top Back", Wayne clarifies, "T.I. is the king-- don’t get that shit twisted/ And me? I am the best rapper alive." The difference-- divine right vs. tireless politicking-- is spelled out through Wayne's regional-poaching as high-art stumping."

Intoxication as a locus of the divided self

Byron, MS fragment rel. to 'Don Juan' canto I:
" ... I write this reeling
Having got exceedingly drunk to-day,
That I seem to stand upon the ceiling."

Lil' Wayne, 'I Feel Like Dying', Carter III Sessions:
"Swimming laps around a bottle of Louis the 13th
Jumping off of a mountain into a sea of codeine
I’m at the top of the top but still I climb
And if I should ever fall, the ground will then turn to wine
Pop, pop, I feel like flying, then I feel like frying, then I feel like dying."


Political engagement

Byron, 'When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home':
"When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home,
Let him combate for that of his neighbours;
Let him think of the glories of Greece and of Rome,
And get knocked on his head for his labours."

Lil' Wayne, 'Ride 4 My N****s', Drought 3:
"I got the 40 cal. tucked in my P.R.Ps.,
What do you expect? I'm from New Orleans,
The majority of my city is riders,
They tried to make a brand new map without us,
But the tourists come down and spend too many dollars,
And no matter how you change it, it will still be ours."


i asked somebody who knows, and they told me that erudition is more important than a good conclusion with these sort of things. so let's just enjoy the music. and poetry.

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