5 Reasons Why You Should Buy...: The Dozens: A History Of Rap's Mama: "Rap Makes The Past Look Different... We Now Know That This Was Leading Somewhere That Would Change The World's Culture."

Friday, Jun 8, 2012 12:15AM

Written by Amber McKynzie for Elijah Wald

[Remember the days when you circled up around the playground, going back and forth saying things like, Yo mama got more clap than an auditorium, or yo mama's so ugly she looked out her window and got arrested for indecent exposure? Every generation has their version of "the dozens," but here's your chance to learn where the declaration of coarse word battles began. Elijah Wood, author of The Dozens: A History of Rap's Mama, is here to tell you five reasons why you should know your battle history.]

1. Just Nasty

I wasn't prepared to find out how deep [the dozens] goes into African culture. We just think of "yo mama" jokes as stupid and funny, but in Africa they go real deep in circumcision and coming-of-age ceremonies. [They're] also real deep in wrestling matches and boxing matches. They have these verses that are officially recited and have really nasty lines about peoples' mothers.

2. The Truth About Dirty Raps

[I wrote this book because] there ain't nothin' new about rap, and that was the real important thing for me. This stuff is 100 years old. People have always been rhyming, they've always been battling and they've always been nasty about it. I used to teach a history of blues class, and most of my students grew up on rap. I would say to my class, "I'm going to play some things in here that are dirtier than a Lil Jon record." When I would I actually give them the stuff I would say, "Now you didn't believe me, did you?" There's stuff from the 1920s that's dirtier than anything you'll ever hear a rapper say.

3. Harlem Renaissance

There's [a lot] from the Harlem Renaissance, from people like Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright and Langston Hughes using the dozens, using "yo mama" stuff, and I didn't expect to find that there. When Langston Hughes wrote his last full book of poetry, a lot of it basically addressed how annoyed he was with his White neighbors in Long Island. And the title of the book is, Ask Your Mama: [12 Moods For Jazz].

4. Yo Mama & African American Literature

In 1929, there was this huge hit in 1929 by a guy named Speckled Red, a blues singer, called, "The Dirty Dozen," and everybody starting putting out these records of "yo mama" songs. I [saw] that, and then I just started looking at writers from that period, from the '20s and '30s, and this was turning up with every major African-American writer. Zora Neale Hurston I kind of expected because she was really deep into folklore, but I was surprised by Langston Hughes. And Richard Wright's first novel, Lawd Today, and it has this long "yo mama" insult match that [caused] the book not to get published when he wrote it. It didn't come out until the '60s.

5. Rap Changes History

Rap has made it possible to talk about a lot of history. Rap makes the past look different. People say, Oh, we don't need to talk about that, it was just a bunch of kids talking dirty. We now know that that's not true. We now know that this was leading somewhere that would change the world's culture.

You Decide. Will you purchase the book about rap's battle history?

To get your hands on The Dozens: The History of Rap's Mama, just click here.

SOHH/The Dozens Contest:

Want to get your copy of The Dozens: The History of Rap's Mama? Here's what you gotta do:

1 - Follow @sohh and @sohhdotcom

2 - Beginning around 1 PM EST, check out SOHH's Twitter accounts for questions based on Elijah Wald's five reasons you should purchase his book. Make sure when replying you include the hashtag #SOHH5 and #TheDozens in your response. G'luck!

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