hip hop handihap
came hip hop handihap out through the pikeopened arkway of his three shuttoned castles
Today’s Wake Words, “hip hop handihap,” may refer to the stutter that shows up in the speech of the Finnegans Wake character HCE. Throughout the book there are phrases like “I am bubub brought up” (532.07) and “What a hauhauhauhaudibble thing” (16.18) that when read aloud, turn the most skillful reader into a stutterer. It’s a vocal tic that some might call a handicap; it leaves in its wake some undesired implications, like seeming to laugh while saying “What a horrible thing.”
This Wake Word phrase raises the anachronistic musical question: What is a hip hop handicap? In the world of hip hop music, it’s difficult to flatly state what might be a handicap to your career.
What about getting shot nine times? It didn’t hurt 50 Cent’s sales when it happened to him, even though a slug through the cheek left him with a slurred voice ; actually, his career took off after, and some say because of, the shooting.
How about getting shot nine times and not living through it? Death turns out not much of a hip hop handicap — ask Tupac “2pac” Shakur, who has had eight Top 10 albums (two hitting Number 1 on US charts) since being gunned down in Las Vegas in 1996. Nor did it hamper 2Pac’s East coast rival, the Notorious B.I.G, gunned down in Los Angeles in 1997 — four Number 1 albums and three Top 20 singles after Death, and counting.
Growing up poor certainly is no hip hop handicap, as many of the biggest stars — Jay-Z, Master P and Biggie Smalls came out of struggling single-parent households. And not being poor is not really a hip hop handicap either: Will “The Fresh Prince” Smith and Beyoncé Knowles are two examples of hip hop icons that came from solid middle-class families.
What about being white? Does that count as a hip hop handicap? No way. The Beastie Boys, three white lads from the boroughs of New York City, had the first Billboard Number 1 hip hop album, License to Ill and Eminem, a white rapper out of Detroit sold more CDs in the last decade than any other musical artist, hip hop or otherwise. Pasty white English “Chap Hop” artists Mr B., The Gentleman Rhymer and Professor Elemental rap about tea and cricket and rap-battle with each other with intensity equaling their hip hop colleagues on the other side of the pond.
How about being female? It hasn’t hurt the hip hop careers of Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot, Lil’ Kim, M.I.A. or Nikki Minaj. They all have a hip hop sensibility — passion, verbal twists and hooks as a good as any guy throwing down. It might be the nature of what the music video programming executives want, but female hip hop artists end up being considered “pop” by many mainstream viewers who encounter them outside of where they feel “hip hop videos” live (i.e. BET). Female hip hop videos have a slightly easier time “crossing over” to VH-1/MTV Hits format specs (the details of which are proprietary, but I suspect the letters T and A are involved)than their male counterparts, whose flashes of flesh or raw sexuality is more problematic to some viewers and sponsors.
OK, what about having your jaw wired shut? Certainly that is some sort of hip hop handicap, isn’t it?
Nope — ask Kanye West, who had a top 20 hit with “Through the Wire,”a record that stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for nearly half a year, even though Kanye recorded his vocals a mere two weeks after having his jaw wired shut after a near-fatal car crash.
Lots of misfortune turns out lucky in world of hip hop music. Less so in the animal kingdom, where the “lucky rabbit’s foot” is truly a hip hop handihap. For the bunny, it’s a “hip hop handicap”, and a “hip hop mishap.” For the lucky recipient, it’s a “hip hop hand I hack” or “hip hop hand I hav(e)” — or paw, if you prefer.
When you are running towards good fortune, it’s bad luck to end up a foot short.