Start the video, listen for a few moments, then keep reading.
Anderson: “as YOU can GO, beLOW zeRO” — he’s creating iambs out of words that don’t naturally fall into that pattern: i.e., he stresses ‘zero’ on the second syllable instead of the first, where the stress naturally falls…. His pronunciation of “zoo” is one of the cooler things I’ve ever heard: a “z” with the smallest possible nondescript little vowel syllable attached to it. There is no way on earth to communicate the musicality of the refrain that ends that song in print.
Kelley: One thing that gets lost when only reading rap lyrics is the singing/rapping along.
Anderson: You mean the listener rapping along?
Kelley: Rap along out loud — and it’ll be all the more impressive that someone has managed to wrap their tongue around a lyric, or keep going without taking a breath. Rapping is HARD.
- NPR Music’s Frannie Kelley discussing Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Brooklyn Zoo” with New York magazine book critic Sam Anderson. Anderson recently completed editing a 788-page anthology of rap lyrics, without listening to the songs. Kelley asked Anderson to listen to several songs he included, then discuss them with her. The results are one of those rare instances where you actually get to witness an entire art form revealed to someone, in every sense of the word. Play the songs and read their amazing conversation.