100 year book club 1916: Stephen Dedalus makes a summer playlist

indexWhat if James Joyce had written his semi-autobiographical work Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man not as a novel, but via the equally valid form of artistic expression that is a playlist of late 1990’s and early 2000’s hip hop. Look at the cover image of the book; Joyce is a thug, he’s ridin’ dirty. Let’s do a close reading of his music choices and see what else we can learn about the most influential writer of his generation.

1)Hard knock life (Ghetto anthem) by Jay Z

When sent to Clongowes Wood College, Stephen is despondent and homesick. He’s bullied, treated like an outsider, and generally feeling pretty darn sorry for himself.

It’s a hard knock life for us

It’s a hard knock life for us

Instead of treated, we get tricked

Instead of kisses, we get kicked

It’s a hard knock life for us

2) C.R.E.A.M by the WuTang Clan

Stephen gets to sit with the grown-ups for the first time at Christmas but oh no! Instead of being a happy occasion the table is overtaken by an argument. Stephen’s not so sure he likes the sound of this world he’s hearing about.

Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough

But as the world turns I learned life is hell

Living in the world no different from a cell

3) Gimme the Loot by The Notorious B.I.G.

Stephen spends the summer with Uncle Charles and learns the extent of the family debt. Things are so bad, Stephen isn’t able to return to Clongowes. What’s a young man to do?

Goodness gracious the papers;

Where the cash at?

Where the stash at?

4) Ready or not by The Fugees

At the Belvedere School, Stephen begins to realize his potential as a writer and actor. Others realize his potential too and he develops a reputation.

You can’t run away,

From these styles I got oh baby, hey baby

Cause I got a lot

5) Back that azz up by Juvenile

Stephen seeks to “appeal the fierce longings of his heart,” and there’s only one way to do that…

 Girl you look good, won’t you back that ass up

You’s a fine motherfucker, won’t you back that ass up

Call me big daddy when you back that ass up

Girl who is you playing with, back that ass up

6) Gin and juice by Snoop Doggy Dog

Dedalus begins to descend into a life of sin. And we know what that means:

Two in the mornin’ and the party’s still jumpin’

Cause my momma ain’t home

I got bitches in the livin’ room gettin’ it on

And they ain’t leavin’ til six in the mornin’

7) Get me home by Foxy Brown

After all that sinning, Stephen’s not feeling great about things so he decides to try a return to the church from which he was trying to escape in the first place.

You trying to say the right words to get us out of here;

Jackpot, what he said “it’s bullshit in here,”

8 )The Next Episode by Dr. Dre

After all that religioning, Stephen STILL isn’t feeling great. He realizes these carnal desires aren’t going away. He needs the ladies and artistic endeavors to begin the next phase of his life.

I’m on one, I might bail up in the Century Club

With my jeans on, and my team strong

Get my drink on, and my smoke on

Then go home with, something to poke on

Loc it’s on for the two-triple-oh

Coming real, it’s the next episode

9) My name is.. by Eminen

Stephen decides to leave Ireland to escape the pressures of family and culture. In this new phase he is like the mythical Daedalus and he’s coming close to realizing his potential and to self-actualization.

Well, since age twelve I felt like I’m someone else

Cause I hung my original self from the top bunk with a belt



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