Thursday, July 28

Whaa’z Uuuup Geoff-Dog?

Baba Brinkman wants modern teenagers to learn to love Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic Canterbury Tales as much as he does. So, the Canadian rap artist has translated some of the best-known works of the fourteenth-century poet into hip-hop in an effort to make them “more appealing.” According to Baba, “All the themes of rap music are there in the tales: jealousy, anger, greed, lust.” He had the idea of converting Chaucer into rap when he was working toward a masters’ degree on the poet nearly a decade ago. “I tried to keep the rap versions as close as possible to the original, so I went through the tales line-by-line,” he said. “It was a painstaking process to convert Chaucer into a rhyme scheme that young people would like."

Yeah! I bet!

Commenting on the translation effort Jonathan Dickson, an English professor at a prestigious East Coast university, asserted, "I’m sure a few uppity traditionalist-types might object. But hey dude, we’ve had rock-n-roll Shakespeare and goth Milton, so why not hip-hop Chaucer?”

Hmmm. I think I’d best refrain from commenting on electric-razzle-dazzle Shakepeare, street-wise-posse Chaucer, or hipper-than-thou Ivy League Lit profs lest I find myself relegated to the cultural backwater of uppitydom. But, haute-goth-drag Milton? About that, I really think I'm just gonna have to go on record as hopelessly moss-backed.


Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

I dunno...I kinda like "West Side Story," which, I presume, is the aforementioned rock-n-roll Shakespeare.

Steve Burri said...

How 'bout an Ebonics Bible version?

gileskirk said...


I like West Side too. But, that's really a whole different thing. Indeed, Chaucer and Shakepeare often took old stories and recouched them in new settings. (I actually did something similar in my novel, Going Somewhere, when I recast Dante's Inferno in modern America). This new rap Canterbury Tales is not so much recast as retranslated. And it is done in a purposefully crude and profane fashion.

It is thought provoking, to say the least!

Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

My "uppity traditionalist type" streak is a mile wide, so I need no convincing that M.C. Geoffrey is a Bad Thing. Just not on the basis that same-story-different-genre is always a Bad Thing.

Courtney Huntington said...

It's an interesting concept, though I suspect that a movie version would be more effective in reaching the masses he hopes to. Recasting stories is as old as storytelling itself. In fact, if historians are correct, before writing became a common medium, oral storytelling was the norm, which usually resulted in some recasting. Ancient Greeks often recasted stories. Many of those same stories were recast time and again throughout the Middle Ages and are still being recast today. I agree with Valerie that same-story-different-genre is a poor rationale for opposing Baba's rap Chaucer, but I don't think George's post argued that. In fact, he openly refrained from commenting. I, too, will refrain from commenting until I hear the rap for myself. I generally don't care for rap and do think that modern recastings are fairly poor. I will reserve judgment for now, however.

Eva Lemmon..? said...

Bwa ha ha ha, that guy must eat paint chips for breakfast! Gee, I think I will ruin some great works of english lit. today! That way a the gangsta's on the block will dig it! "Meh, I be down wi dat! It be cool meh!
I don thet it be coo when it is, um, in uh, plain english... Ya know?"

Gary said...


sorry that this is off topic, but I've been trying to put a little thought into the idea of developing a set of standards for christians communicating on the internet and would love your thought on this idea. I would also love to know if you are aware of anyone else who has already done work on this.

My brief thoughts are here: