April 5, 2018
This week in rappers whose names do or do not describe them accurately: Novelist
by Ian Dreiblatt
It is a known fact that rappers sometimes go by monikers that simply describe who they are, as human beings, accurately. For example, the GZA, the Genius, truly is a genius. Young MC is—or at least, in his celibate rope days, was—a young MC. The Beastie Boys were very beastie, the Fat Boys were pretty fat. For that matter, Fat Joe and Lil’ Kim could not, comfortably, share a see-saw. Prodigy, taken from us too soon, was certainly aptly named. So is Chance the Rapper. Noted Amazon foe MC Paul Barman is, in fact, an MC named Paul Barman.
On the other hand, rappers sometimes pick names that do not reflect their terrestrial existences at all. Earl Sweatshirt is many things—including the son of a beloved South African poet—but he is most assuredly not a sweatshirt. Besides the political issues his name summons, Young Thug actually seems pretty sensitive (at least compared to Slim Thug). Pharoahe Monch does rule, but will (probably) not, upon the inevitable, ascend from his pyramid to become a star in the sky. Coolio was, um, of disputed coolness in his heyday — a situation the ensuing years have not improved. Killer Mike is very much not a killer, Ghostface Killah has a distinctly human face. And so on.
Which brings us to Novelist, the twenty-one-year-old voice of grime. The envelope, please…..
Here’s our answer: Novelist is not, in fact, a novelist. (He may now claim the seat in section B next to U-God, who is neither me nor a god — though he has recently written the first major Wu-Tang memoir.)
That said, Novelist is but a wee sprout; he may live up to the name yet. He wouldn’t be the first rapper-novelist out there (Logic, we’re still waiting on that manuscript), and judging by his appearance on the BBC’s Grime Mums (aka the Britishest Thing Ever), he has some appreciation for the power of family drama. He also knows a thing or two about the impact of a well-told story. And he’s been known to express smart opinions on serious matters (here’s to the Absolute Boy!). So there’s hope.
Meanwhile, as we wait for Novelist to produce the next great hip-hop book, he’s unleashing his self-released debut album, Novelist Guy, next week. The lead single—which bears the grimily inscrutable title Nov Wait Stop Wait—is out now, and already burning MCs like a hot plate.
Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.