Your home for intelligent conversation on the web
Music Room Non-classical music On Shakespeare and Lil' Wayne
THINQon is a platform for a more intelligent web. It aims to replace the ruling paradigm of the web – that of sharing and gathering information – with a sharing and achieving of understanding. Instead of the Q&A model it offers an experience. A platform for discovery of ideas, people, and yourself.     Continue >
On Shakespeare and Lil' Wayne
Now I am no heretic (at least not by the standards of 16th Century England) but in this post I might very well be embarking upon a discussion that will surely send me to the gallows. To get it out of the way from the very beginning, I am making the absurd comparison between William Shakespeare, the bard of all bards, and Lil' Wayne, the tattooed and dreaded(locks) self-proclaimed Best Rapper of All Time.

As you all head to your garages for buckets of hot tar and feathers, I will use the intermediary time to cover a brief review of the literary tradition of rap music. Rap lyrics are unique from other forms of music because of their non-linear form. In rap, while the lyrics may still explore just one thought, feeling, or narrative, the trajectory the rapper takes from line to line is much like the way a spider crosses its web. The metaphors and similes in rap music tend to layer one on top of another so that the subject by the end of the song is degrees of literary devices away from the original subject matter. Like a spider web, a rap song is weaved with dozen of threads. However, the way the strings of silk maze in and out makes the final product look like a single thread, a spiraled arrow pointing from all directions towards the heart. This web, suspended in the air by the strings of imagination, allows the rapper-spider to jump from a seemingly unconnected outside-thread right back to the nucleus of his song without any sort of linear explanation.

Now, to me at least (a fan of both Elizabethan Drama as well as post-hippie hip-hop) the comparisons between Rap and Shakespeare are ripe. Both employ meter, are fueled by rhyme, and weave music and language to create unique tapestries. Specifically, Shakespeare and Lil' Wayne are unique for their high degrees of wordplay. It is hard to go more than a couple lines in either without losing oneself in a junglegym of wordplay. Samuel Johnson even once said that "a quibble was to Shakespeare the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world and was content to lose it."

Some of my favorite lines from both:

So we grew together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted;
But yet a union in partition,
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem.


I’ll tickle your catastrophe - Falstaff

I may justly say, with the hook-nosed fellow of Rome,
— "I came, saw, and overcame."


There live not three good men unhanged in England;
 and one of them is fat, and grows old.


Tis not due yet: I would be loth to pay him before his day. What need I be so forward with him that calls not on me? Well, 'tis no matter; Honour pricks me on. Yea, but how if Honour prick me off when I come on? how then? Can Honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour hath no skill in surgery then? No. What is Honour? a word. What is that word, Honour? Air. A trim reckoning! — Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. Is it sensible then? Yes, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it: therefore I'll none of it. Honour is a mere 'scutcheon, and so ends my catechism.


Romeo: Is love a tender thing? it is too rough,
Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.
Mercutio: If love be rough with you, be rough with love;
Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.

Lil' Wayne:

"I am a vegetarian, I only eat beats, wear a lot of carrots and I smoke the best greens. No beef in my grocery bag. Just a whole bunch of swishers and a can whoop ass. I strapped like a book bag so anyone of y'all can come on and get a foot tag."


"I advance my flow, and they must like that. They like it so much they say they write that. Barking at the dog but I don't bite back. I ain't CPR I ain't bringing their life back."


"I'm a beast, I'm a dog I should rap with a muzzle. Peyton Manning flow, I just go, no huddle. Baby girl getting straight dick no cuddle. You know I'm out this world I just bought a space shuttle."


"I'm running this, and I can jump the hurdles. I feel like I'm racing a bunch of little turtles. I keep a bandana like the Ninja Turtles. I'm like a turtle when I sip the purple."




That is all I've got right now, it's much harder to find the good Shakespeare lines online so if anyone has some favorite feel free to post. It seems I see the angry horde out my window, when did pitchforks go out of fashion?
So here come the pitchforks.

I have been a fan of lil' wayne since I saw him in Destiny's Child Soldier clip. He has an amazing screen presence, and he's a great rapper. But as Chamillionaire says:

A couple of dudes is real but not as real as me
Tell your favorite rapper to diss me if he disagree
I’m bad, I’m acting like your favorite rapper isn’t me
You should tell your second favorite rapper who is the best, and show a pic of me
He would have to take me out to show that he is as sick as me
So me verse me is the only battle yall gonna get to see





And so the battle: Chamillionaire or Lil' wayne.

As the comparison was to Shakespeare, lI'll keep it high.
I think Chamilliionaire is simply more intricate literaly. I find some his songs brilliant. But, Chamillionaire moves to a basic beat, while Lil' Wayne music is more intricate.
I was wondering how would you compare the two? Literally and musically. And if lil' Wayne is Shakespeare, who is Chamillionaire?

How would you compare them in light of this Shakespearean line: That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man, If with his tongue he cannot win a woman.
Hey Arthur,

Personally I've never had much of a taste for Mr. Chamillionaire. He doesn't stand apart from other rappers in my opinion and I disagree with him being more literarily more intricate. To me, he seems very straightforward and rarely does anything unique with imagery or simile. For example, in the song you linked he doesn't employ any techniques, it's just like he put his conversation to a beat. It might be a personal preference, but to me the great lyricists pull out literary devices from the poets.

For an example of what I consider to be truly literary rap, I recommend you check out Aesop Rock. His style reminds me of Thomas Pynchon in that it is so dense and fast paced.  Here is an example of Aesop:




The only reason I wouldn't put him above Lil' Wayne, is that his wordplay gets so tangled that it's fantastically difficult to follow, especially with his fast flow. Lil Wayne's wordplay is much closer to William Wordsworth's idea of poetry (to keep the long-dead poet comparrisons going) in being readily accessible to the common man.


I don't necessarily agree with Lil Wayne's statement that he is the best rapper alive, but I definitely think he is the funniest and most entertaining to listen to. If he applied himself to more serious subject matter I think I would consider him the best, but for now it's fun just to listen to whatever jibberish he comes up. For a peak at Lil Wayne's more political rap this song about Hurricane Katrina (he is from New Orleans) is fantastic:    It's called Georgia Bush.




I'm sorry I couldn't speak more to Chamillionaire but I am not that familiar with him. If you can point me to a specific song I can give a more detailed response.
Hi Robin,
I wanted several years ago to write about Chamillionaire's songs Grown and Sexy, and later Picture Perfect. I'll try to write something, even if small, in the near future but it won't be so near.

As for the Georgia Bush song - I was not impressed. I did on the other hand very much liked a similar thing he did with a brilliant take on Nina Simone's Misunderstood:




As for a different example of a song about Bush and Katrina. A critique of the coverage of the news, by Chamillionaire:




I'll try to say more on Chamillionaire, but can't promise when.
Join the Community
Full Name:
Your Email:
New Password:
I Am:
By registering at THINQon.com, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Discussion info
Latest Post: February 24, 2010 at 6:09 AM
Number of posts: 5
Spans 258 days
People participating

  
Searching
No results found.