Okay. You know how you’re meant to stand up when you hear the national anthem? Everyone should be upstanding for not only one of the great hip hop tracks, but, in my opinion, THE great lyrical masterpiece in hip hop history. Bar none. Could anyone else conceive of a CHORUS that goes
“Bug Powder Dust and Mugwump Jism
And the wild boys runnin’ ’round Interzone trippin’
Letter to control about the Big Brother
Try like hard to not blow my cover”
Unsung, reclusive hip hop legend Justin Warfield (who does the vocal on here and released his incredible Prince Paul produced debut album My Field Trip to Planet 9 in 1993 aged just 20 ) is notoriously obsessed with William S Burroughs and the Beat generation generally – get fucking clued up if you’ve never heard of them – and the track is saturated with references to that 60s counter culture. My picks being:
“I’ve got the soul of the sixties like Ginsberg’s Howl”
Allen Ginsberg was the figurehead poet of the beat movement and wrote some of the great poems of the sixties and the movement at large – the most notable of which was HOWL (my personal favorite being “Hadda be Playing on the Jukebox” – as popularised by Rage Against The Machine, who often performed it live. I have a 20 minute version on the B-Side of some Rage 7″ or other).
“I always hit the apple when I’m going to shoot”
William S Burroughs killed his wife in a heroin fuelled Willaim Tell reenactment.
The title of this entry –I’m Like Bill E Writin’ when I’m In Tangiers – is also a line from the track and refers to the fact that William Burroughs (Bill Lee / Billy) went to Tangiers to write himself off heroin. The result is the frankly demented Naked Lunch. Bill Lee is also the name of the main character in David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of Naked Lunch.
There is a cursory assessment of the lyrical content on Bug Powder Dust here, but seriously, if you want to feel the complete texture of the references in the track, you’ll need to be steeped in the Beats, like Warfield is. I have read much of the work, and the guy’s knowledge is encyclopedic. Amazing.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Here is the video (filmed in Brazil apparently).