[On Hip-Hop, A Rhapsody (Full Text)] [Playlist]
All of these meanings and more play out in a poem Jonathan Swift published in 1733. It was titled “On Poetry: A Rapsody,” and that was the original spelling of “rhapsody,” too. Dropping the “h” from “rhapsody,” Swift played off a double pun on “rap,” a slap upside the head, and “rapp,” a widely circulated, counterfeit coin (Rogers, 1983:869-78; OED). Swift was a classicist (a satirist in the Juvenalian mode), a politically-connected Tory, and the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. His point in “On Poetry: A Rapsody” was predictably conservative, even reactionary. It referred back to Plato’s Republic, which banished song-stitchers and ode-rappers, and forward to C. DeLores Tucker’s mid-1990s war against the hip-hop nation.
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