Vast Aire ft. Raekwon & Vordul Mega – Thor’s Hammer
This new joint by Cannibal Ox (if Vast & Vordul are on the same track I’m calling it Cannibal Ox, okay?) featuring the chef got me thinking about the strong similarities between hip hop and comic books. Both (at least where superheroes are concerned in comics) are viewed as quintessentially American artforms, both came up from an underdog postion breaking into the mainstream, and both grew up in the eighties. Hip-hop with the acceptance of graf into art galleries, it’s first platinum albums and Mtv rotation, while more and more comic books containing depth and mature themes gained traction in the world of literature, especially those under the wing of the new wave of British writers during that time.
Now if you were to decide to create a Venn diagram of rappers and comic book readers there’d probably be a pretty big overlap too. Aside from the whole dual identity thing, you’ve got everything from rappers calling themselves after comic book characters, to being avid collectors or even penning them theirselves. Hip-hop culture has always been pretty chummy with the sequential art. In light of 2011’s comic book movie summer, TRU proudly presents some of the greatest superhero/villain namedrops in rap.
Terrorize the jam like troops in Pakistan
Swingin through your town like your neighborhood Spider-Man
Inspectah Deck (Protect Ya Neck) – The first official Wu verse unleashed upon the world contained a reference to Marvel’s flagship character, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time a Wu emcee proved to be familiar with Marvel Comics.
Jams I write soon become the ghetto anthem
Way out like Bruce Wayne’s mansion, move like a phantom
You’ll talk about me to your grandsons
Mos Def (ReDefinition) – The quintessential banger from the Rawkus era is still a trusty staple of many DJ-sets. While both Mos and Kweli are known as rap intelectuals, even owning Brooklyn book store ‘Nkiru Center for Education and Culture,’ they thankfully weren’t afraid to show an interest in different books and flaunt a bit of geek swag either.
Hit the bitches, went out I could make the crime
And when it’s on we transform like Optimus Prime
DMX (Get At Me Dog) – DMX already scored an anthem with this track from his debut album and no matter how tough you are, what kid from his generation didn’t grow up with Transformers? It’s become an increasingly horrid (but good looking) series of movies with Michael Bay at the helm, but back when they were still drawn by Japanese dudes in a glorified toy commercial, that red truck was the epitome of bad-ass.
But don’t nobody wanna test though, ya niggas is petro
When I put the lead to your head like Destro
Ras Kass (If/Then) – Another glorified toy commercial from the 80s pitted a top squad of “real American heroes” against the insanely ludicrous terrorist plots of a speech impaired dude named after a snake and his equally gimmicky henchmen. Uhm, it actually seemed pretty cool at the time. Come on, Destro’s head? You need some serious supervillain swagger to pull of that look and still bag a Baroness.
Play my position in the game of life, standin’ firm
on foreign land, jump the gun out the fryin’ pan, into the fire
Transform into the Ghost Rider, a six-pack
and A Streetcar Named Desire, who got my back?
Method Man (Triumph) – Method Man is one of the most avid comic book collectors in rap. He’s penned a book of his own, has a huge collection, and is often spotted at cons where he hangs with other fans. His Johnny Blaze alias (the civilian identity of Ghost Rider) has even inspired other rappers, with a gem of a posse track bearing the name and the Madd Rapper angrily claiming he “got John Blaze shit!”
I been up in the office you might know him as Clark
But, just when you thought the whole world fell apart
I – take off the blazer, loosen up the tie
Step inside the booth, Superman is alive
Jay-Z (Kingdom Come) – The title track to Kingdom Come not only contained a slew of references to comic book characters, the album title itself is one. ‘Kingdom Come‘ is set in an alternate future where the world has fallen into chaos after Superman retires. He comes to realize he needs to inspire a new generation of heroes and dons the cape again. Jay basically drops the plot in a nutshell in those four lines. The fact that Jiggaman was inpired by his work is what comic writer Mark Waid considers one of his career highlights. The song also contains a cool Spidey reference and a great Batman line: “The Bruce Wayne of the game, have no fear. When you need me just throw your ROC signs in the air, yeah!”
V. Vaughn, the traveling Vaudeville Villain
Who don’t give a flying fuck who ain’t not feeling him
Watch what ya’ dealing him: ace, king, death card
Strong-arm the wrong man, pardon the left, god
DOOM/Viktor Vaughn (Vaudeville Villain) – Basically any song by DOOM would’ve been admissable into this list, just look at that guy. DOOM throws jabs at other comic book characters, utilizes samples from the old cartoons and inhabits a whole different personality concocted for his rhymes. He also spits better than 99% percent of rappers out there. When he follows the theme to the old Spidey cartoon with a sampled exchange between Reed Richards and Viktor von Doom (Reed: Viktor, I could help. Doom: You?!? Help ME?!? Hahaha!) and then launches into an awesome assault of alliterative rhymes, it’s pure bliss.
Yo, when they kidnapped your boy, and forced me to do evil
I created an iron suit, to protect my people
Escaped, bound to be Iron Man the great
The billionaire Tony Starks’ll renew your fate
Ghostface Killah (Slept On Tony) – Similar to DOOM, a lot of Ghost’s discography could be included here, especially from his classic ‘Supreme Clientele’ album. But Ghostface has become so synonymous to Iron Man aka Tony Starks that they even gave him a cameo in the first Iron Man movie:
Unfortunately, Ghost’s scene got cut from the theatrical release, but they still managed to sneak him into the film. Pay attention to the big screen playing behind him when Tony parties en route to one of his destinations early on in the movie. It’s playing a Ghostface music video, and the song blasting through the scene is an unmistakable Ghostdeini banger. They also commissioned this excellent soundtrack cut; Ya done slept on Tony!
BONUS: Last Emperor – Secret Wars