The Essayist

Aggregated long-form essays from the world's best writers and publications.

Signifying Rappers

An excerpt from David Foster Wallace now priceless 1990 book on Hip Hop culture, Signifying Rappers

Rjam Productions, modestly headquartered in a mixed black/Hispanic Field, Corner section of North Dorchester, is as follows:

* One (1) four-car garage fitted with dubbing and remastering gear worth more than most of the rest of the real estate on the block;
* One (1) touch-tone telephone (leased);
* Two (2) Chevy Blazers, vanity-plated RJAM1 and RJAM2, each equipped with cellular phones and slick tape decks (also leased);
* One (1) VCR with Kathleen Turner’s Body Heat cued up on the morning in question;
* Most importantly, eight (8) promising acts under binding contract.

If, as has happened to many local labels, Rjam were liquidated to satisfy creditors, these would be the pieces. But there are stores of value in the converted garage beyond the reach of the auctioneer’s gavel. Schoolly D, the original Signifying Rapper, looms irresistibly from the pages of rap “fanzines” Hip-Hop and The Source; and Rjam’s prime, unauctionable asset is the consuming ambition of the artists in its stable to be the next Schoolly D. Or the next Ice T, or Kool Moe Dee, or L. L. Cool J., or whoever’s the special hero of the kid cutting the demo.

Read this article                                                                         Share/Bookmark

  1. essayist posted this