The music for the promo was a rap song I'd never heard before. The clip ended with a couple lines that the swimming coaches probably would have preferred not to have broadcast under their imprimatur to the entire school at 7:55 a.m.:
Told her beauty is why God invented eyeballs
and her booty is why God invented my balls
I raised an eyebrow, but none of the freshmen in my homeroom seemed to notice.
I thought the rapper's voice sounded familiar, though, and I asked the students who it was. A kid near the front of the room said it was G-Unit. Then I realized who it sounded like: Kanye West.
Thinking about ways of talking about rap and hip-hop in my African American Voices class next year, I've been reading about and listening around in the genre lately, including Kanye's recent album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I guess the timbre of his voice had wormed its way into my consciousness.
The student challenged me, so I looked up the lyrics and confirmed that it was indeed Kanye, making a guest appearance on the Lloyd Banks song "Start It Up."
"That's pretty sad," I told him, smiling, wanting to make it cut a little deeper, "when I know rap better than you do."
The lines are obscene, of course, not to mention crudely sacrilegious and completely inappropriate for homeroom. But on the level of sheer wordplay, they're pretty impressive.
As the bell rang and I walked out into the hall, I thought of all those 17th century wags, poets like John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who delighted in writing sexually obscene and politically transgressive poetry. One might develop a comparison between contemporary mega-star rappers and these decadent aristocrats.
I doubt their poems were ever read after morning prayer at Eton, though.