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Understand Rap

Parse hop hop's poetry with a book of dry interpretations

by Karen Day in Culture on 08 October 2010

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While most gets what Tupac meant when he rhymed, "I ain't guilty 'cause, even though I sell rocks/It feels good puttin' money in your mailbox" on his hit 1999 track "Dear Mama" (a song now included in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry if you needed anymore proof of rap's mainstream legitimacy), some rap lyrics are just downright baffling to anyone not pursuing a linguistics degree on the phenomenon of hyper-regional slang.

Seattle-based writer William Buckholz steps in with his book "Understand Rap: Explanations of Confusing Rap Lyrics You and Your Grandma Can Understand." The result is exhaustive and seemingly in earnest, making for hilariously thorough explanations of double entendres in the same class as the Twitter stream English50cent.

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The book's chapters cover ten thematic categories; "Fashion" includes favorites like "Hockey players pagin' me to practice on my wrist" (with so much diamond jewelry, my wrist is like an ice rink), while "Places" describes selling drugs on a particular street in Cleveland, OH with "Slang on the double nine," and from "Insults" you get poetic gems like "Leave you kinda startled like the funk off of Fritos"—comparing an element of surprise with the unexpected pungent smell of the corn chips brand.

Great for giggling over with friends or an ideal gift for any student of lyrics, "Understand Rap" sells from Amazon.

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