Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Real Old School

One of the biggest problems concerned parents have about music today is the lyrics. They worry about what words are being heard by their innocent children. They demand that companies either censor artists or put warning labels on their products. So what would a concerned parent think about the following lyrics:
"Ready to kill with their jagged-edged daggers drawn/The three aggravated braggarts staggered up the lawn/And without dragging on while the story is told/Beneath the tree they found a bag filled with glorious gold."
This particular piece seems much like the violence and bling filled lyrics of any rap song. And that is exactly how Baba Brinkman sees them too. Only he didn't write these lyrics. In fact the man that wrote them has been dead for over 600 years. That is because these "lyrics" are from Geoffrey Chaucer' Canterbury Tales. And Baba Brinkman is the guy who had the bright idea to make the Canterbury Tales into a collection of hip-hop songs.
Now this guy is no joke. He is not your average, run-of-the-mill rapper. He is a native of Vancouver and "has a master's degree in medieval and Renaissance English literature from the University of Victoria." In other words, he knows his stuff. Brinkman got the idea when he started comparing the lines of Chaucer's work to modern rap. The similarities were amazing. Like much of today's rap, the Canterbury Tales contains references to "hard living, violence, sex and the secrets to true love." The transition from page to music was almost seamless.
Brinkman has been working on his albums for awhile now. He has currently put the "Pardoner's Tale," the "Miller's Tale" and the "Wife of Bath's Tale into this updated format. The name of the album is "The Rap Canterbury Tales" and features "a picture of Chaucer wearing wraparound shades on the cover. " All in all, I think this a great idea. If anything it illustrates a point about censorship in this country.
Too often we put our prejudice views ahead of our own judgement. We think that people like Young MC, Slick Rick, Ice T, 2 Live Crew, Snoop Dog and LL Cool J (all of Brinkman's influences) could not possibly be making anything close to Chaucer's work. But the truth of the matter is that they really are. In some ways, these artists are the Chaucer's of today. They are talking about the same issues and themes. The difference is the presentation. And I think that is where censorship gets it all wrong. We don't hear the message or we misinterpret it. We only want to censor those things we disagree with. And that, of course, is wrong. Find and by this album. You may start to appreciate something that is a large part of our culture now. Merry Christmas.

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