Thursday, December 07, 2006

Waxing Poetically About Rappers

I don't care a bit for rap music. But I do recognize and enjoy great storytelling. And I love it when a writer can get me to care about the people behind the story, even if the narrower subject matter isn't something I thought I cared about. My friend Clarence the designer does a beautiful job of making me care about the people with
this wonderful piece in this week's Free Times. Clarence is prominent in certain circles for a number of reasons: as a kid from Cleveland's projects who grew into a seriously accomplished professional, as a popular onetime coffeehouse poet, and as the design genius behind the sorely missed and beautifully rendered (though now-defunct) publication Urban Dialect (Columbia Journalism Review mentioned it here). He's designed handsome logos for such local mainstays as Talkies coffeehouse and the nonprofit juggernaut Computers Assisting People. More recently, he designed a whole bunch of beautiful Gray & Co. book covers , including the one you see nearby, in which his own likeness can be seen (that's him with his head propped against his palm).

And yet for all that design genius, he has somehow also found a way to develop a serious devotion to arranging words in pleasing combinations (very different talents rarely found in the same body). But I think this riff is easily the most eloquent, knowing bit of prose he's yet written. Listen in if you will:
While hip-hop is a young man's game, both emcees try to bring a different perspective to it, one that's steeped in the reality that comes from the poverty and despair running rampant in the country's poorest city. The Ill Disciples' music contains more than a heaping dose of optimism and enthusiasm for the future. 'We want to write about a lot of stuff and show you a wide range of experiences,' explains Dap. With image being clearly more important in the rap game and the debate on the validity between rap versus hip-hop raging on, both emcees remain well-grounded with their work with children in their 'everyday' lives: Dap works as a youth mentor, and Khaz is a special education teacher. They understand first hand hip-hop's influence on the young.


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