Famous Rappers and Their 20th-Century Literary Counterparts

[Editor’s note: Flavorwire is counting down our most popular features of 2010. This post comes in at position number 8It was originally published September 2, 2010.] If you’ve read a magazine in the past few years, you’ve probably encountered the fiction writer’s lament: America, they say, no longer has room for literature. Google is apparently rotting our brains. Flashing screens everywhere feed us a constant glut of infomercials, video games, Snooki’s hair poof — what literary figure can compete with that? But the decline of the printed word has seen the concurrent rise of a different kind of wordsmith: the rapper. The work of hip-hop artists might be collected on mixtapes instead of in weighty tomes, but in both games, lyrical dexterity and a nimble wit are key. To put this all in perspective, we’ve determined the 20th century literary doppelgangers of 10 top rappers.

Big Boi = William Faulkner

Now, Wild Bill Faulkner never had a partner quite as prolific or snappily dressed as Andre 3000, but both are regional figures that transcended their subject matter — in both cases, the South — to earn national recognition. Both paved the way for other Southerners in their respective fields, ushering in the ages of Southern literature and Southern rap. They’re both darkly eloquent and utilize the same fictionalized cast of characters repeatedly: for Faulkner, the Snopeses and the Compsons, for Big Boi General Patton and Sir Lucious Left-foot. Plus, Big Boi’s lyrical prowess often falls into the same modernist, stream-of-consciousness voice that made Faulkner famous. Just sayin’.