Is Shakespeare Getting a Bad Rap? Not if MC Lars Has His Way

MC Lars does literary rap (think of it as a nerdcore subgenre). He's in town next week to share the flow of Poe and why rapping about beat poets is a natural fit.

By Fiona McCann October 22, 2015

Mclars by nick karp robulg

MC Lars. Photo by Nick Karp

He’s a rapper with lyrics about literary classics, a TEDx talker who believes hip-hop can be a teaching tool for teenagers, and a man who rhymes about Game of Thrones. And now MC Lars is bringing it all to a Portland stage, on tour behind his fourth studio album Zombie Dinosaur. Still confused? Here’s our quick primer on the literary rapper.

1. MC Lars, a Californian, studied English literature at Stanford and Shakespeare at Oxford University in England, so his academic credentials are not in question. During his studies, he made music in his free time and found that the Bard and beats were natural bedfellows.

2. He’s opened for Nas and Snoop Dogg, so his rap credentials are solid too. Need more proof? Bronx-born rapper KRS-One recorded with him ("The Gospel of Hip-Hop").

3. He likes to update Shakespeare for a hip-hop generation. He’ll wax lyrical on iambic pentameter, and even uses full lines from the Bard in his lyrics. (See "Rapbeth’s" direct lift from Macbeth). But often he’s giving old tales a modern spin. "Hey There Ophelia" is a case in point: “My girl Ophelia is goth as hell/Keeps a razor by her wrist, rocks out to Soft Cell.”

4. From a whole album dedicated to the master of Goth, writer Edgar Allan Poe—that'd be The Edgar Allan Poe EP—his major hit was a track called "Flow like Poe." Chorus? “Flow like Poe (I’m going hard on that tetrameter)."

5. Zombie Dinosaur brings you such literary/hip-hop mash-ups as "Forgot About Jack,"  on beat writer Jack Kerouac, aka “The French-Canadian Dharma Bum/Who lived his life to the maxi-mum.”

6. He’s pretty serious about the whole hip-hop/literature crossover theory. In a TEDx Talk on the subject he recasts the death of Tupac Shakur in the vein of Hamlet, and raps the witch’s chant from Macbeth.

 7. He’s playing the Hawthorne Theater on Tuesday, October 27. Get your literary rap fix forthwith.

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