The Original Wrapper


Lou Reed is the original rapper, is the implication here. That’s a tall order, not least because there is no one person who can truly claim that title, and if there was it would probably be Gil Scott-Heron; or Gylan Kain or Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets (or, ya know, anyone else who isn’t a white guy from Long Island.) Nonetheless, Lou Reed, in vocal style and in temperament, wouldn’t be entirely out of place among those guys. His spoken word delivery showed influence from beat poetry and was often very similar to what later emerged as rap music. Though he never claimed any particular kinship with the hip hop movement, he wasn’t exactly out of step with it either, with his hardboiled New York City man attitude, social conscience and interest in documenting the wild side. By any measure he was certainly the only middle aged white guy who could, with any shred of dignity, get up and deliver a fiery rap about the political ills of 1986. I would say that this song is uncharacteristically self-conscious in its hipness and topicality, in an uncharacteristic attempt to appear with it, I suppose. An aggressively remixed and truly embarrassing music video was made, and exists, and can easily be found, if you enjoy cringing. But beyond musically paying lip service to 80’s trendiness, it remains, at its core, a particularly dexterous vocal performance that shows just how with it Reed actually was. He didn’t need any dumb videos or gratuitous saxophones. He just did what he did.

 

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