The doctor diagnosed young son Leo recently with the stomach flu — which is colloquial shorthand for a condition which isn’t the flu, per se. (The most recent editor of the relevant article on the almighty Wiki agrees!)
The Kaopectate Kid
Our medical professional then suggested we give Leo some Kaopectate to soothe his stomach. So, what is the active ingredient in Kaopectate? Clay. Yes, modern medicine’s 21st-century response to our son’s stomach flu … was for him to eat dirt. (Expert biologists will surely argue that clay isn’t dirt per se, but we ignoramuses outnumber them. ;) )
I didn’t realize Kaopectate was a real-life product, never having used it in my youth. The first time I’d heard of the stuff, I was about twenty, and listening to my brother’s copy of The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight — the fourteen-minute version. (The song makes Don McLean’s interminable “American Pie” seem short in comparison!)
In Rapper’s Delight — recently rated the 2nd-best hip-hop song of all time by Rolling Stone — one of the MC’s raps about the universal human experience of, um, not enjoying a friend’s partner’s cooking:
“Have you ever went over a friend’s house to eat, and the food just ain’t no good?
I mean the macaroni’s soggy, the peas are mush, and the chicken tastes like wood.”
… a story which eventually culminates with this masterful flow:
“So you bust out the door while it’s still closed, still sick from the food you ate
And then you run to the store for quick relief from a bottle of Kaopectate.”
Since I’d never seen a bottle of Kaopectate in my life, I’d always assumed it was urban slang…!
The Sugarhill Gang
While The Sugarhill Gang were the ones who brought hip-hop to a wider audience (among other things, Rapper’s Delight opens with the lyrics “I said a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop”) they were complete nobodies.
As chronicled by Wikipedia’s sources, the Gang were the first to record a popular rap record … mainly because they were the first rappers to record (verb) a rap record (noun). And that was because most rappers — the better rappers, the artists — weren’t interested in recording.
Instead, it fell to a bunch of rank amateurs — no, make that rank-less amateurs — to bring rap to a wider audience. Better-skilled, higher-regarded MC’s must’ve been horrified to learn that their art — their art! — was being introduced to white America with legendarily-terrible lyrics like:
“…Like a can of beer that’s sweeter than honey,
Like a millionaire that has no money…”
“…It was the best advice that I ever had,
It came from my wise dear old dad…”
Rapper’s Delight was probably the first rap song to get censored on the radio as well, with these lines addressed to Lois Lane, in reference to Superman:
“He may be able to fly all through the night,
But can he rock a party ’til the early light;
He can’t satisfy you with his little worm,
But I can bust you out with my super [yep, they went there].”
This was immediately followed by the following example of virtuoso “flow”:
I’m goin’ do it, I’m goin’ do it, I’m goin’ do it, do it, do it.
“Big bank Hank” then brings it all home with the now-cliched lines:
“Just throw your hands up in the air
And party hardy like you just don’t care.”
Of course, The Sugarhill Gang weren’t the first to put these lines together (the modern variant of which is “wave them around” like you just don’t care) but again, they seem to’ve been the first to record them. Like bards of old, MC’s probably kept a mental catalogue of stock rhymes, and “hands in the air / just don’t care” proved popular. Indeed, Rapper’s Delight is so massively long, that it delivers another variant that fell by the catchphrase wayside. Partway through, Master Gee raps:
“Then you throw your hands high in the air,
Ya rockin’ to the rhythm, shake your derriere.”
Homer (not Simpson)
The fact that the first rap record was brought out by the marginal, unknown Sugarhill Gang — because no rapper of stature deigned to record themselves — opens the delicious possibility that maybe, just maybe, Homer (of The Iliad and The Odyssey fame) was a third-rate rhapsode in his day.
Back in the day, blind bards would go from town to town recounting their stories, entertaining the masses. If you were a revered poet, you probably did pretty well for yourself (whatever “pretty well” passed for, in that era) and you probably wouldn’t have the drive or need to collaborate with some scribe on this new “writing” technology. Indeed, you might take offence that someone else wanted to take your exact words so they could try to replicate your divinely-inspired performances… without you!
But if you were a third-stringer who only ever booked the worst gigs in the barren rock-pile that was ancient Greece (and, what with the austerity measures, future Greece*) well, maybe, just maybe, you might indulge some stranger who came up to you asking if you could recite your story, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, so he could write it all down! :)