If you like your music blog experiences to be timely and relevant, I suggest you stop reading now. This piece is neither. It concerns a book from five years ago that’s as inconsequential now as the day it was published. This book hasn’t dropped a track on Soundcloud, and it’s not in a Twitter fight with Azealia Banks (yet). It’s just super awful and, in this journalist’s opinion, worth a quick snort.
Hip-Hop for Dogs (2008, Simon & Schuster) (seriously, they published this) is not intended to be taken seriously. It’s a lighthearted comedy trifle by someone who just wanted to have a bit of fun editing urban fashions onto pictures of dogs. But something about it– its ineptitude, misguidedness, its sheer offensiveness– almost demands a closer look.
The conceit of the thing is that, I don’t know, dogs understand you when you say rap stuff to them? Or maybe that dogs secretly speak in rap talk, for some reason, and this will help you understand your dog better. If there’s a point, the introduction glosses over it as hastily as possible. I’m just gonna tell it like it is, friends: the fundamental thesis of this novelty gag gift book about dog rap is flimsy as hell.
Even if we forgive that, this book is an endurance test. I handed it to various co-workers and told them to read a little, but they all shoved it back within 30 seconds like it was a diaper full of cockroaches. This thing is like that box from Dune that you stick your hand in to prove you’re cool or whatever, but instead of searing nerve pain it causes something even worse: the sensation of hearing a Midwestern Jazzercise aunt saying “bling bling” 10,000 times per second.
This is the lexicon of hip-hop as presented by the squarest human in the whole of creation, one whose respect for hip-hop is competing with her understanding of hip-hop to see which can score lowest. While her bio says she’s a Grammy-winning (!) art director who’s designed album covers for Run DMC, she somehow avoided learning anything whatsoever from the experience: it’s clear that everything she knows about rap she learned from Bulworth, cute “rapping baby” videos, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” Republican NAACP speeches and, I don’t know, maybe there was some rap stuff in Ziggy at some point.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the whole thing is propped up by low-rent stock photo collages and dog humor that only at its rare best rises to the level of doo-doo puns. Let’s have a look at the page about the word “rap.”
That scores an automatic point for not containing the words “my name’s [name of rapper] and I’m here to say,” giving it a total of one point out of a hundred on the universal rap scale.
While most of the book is just a tin-eared exercise in cultural appropriation, it sometimes gets– maybe I shouldn’t throw the R-word around when talking about a book this silly– let’s just say it gets a little problematic. Here’s the page for the word “Sista.”
1. A dignified black woman who is proud of her heritage
2. A female friend
Me and my homegirls, we stick together everywhere we go: at the groomer gettin’ our ‘dos, on the street sniffin’ the B-boys, and all over the hood avoidin’ the baby daddies. Some of us are busted, some of us are fly, some got small bootys, some have badonkadonks. But all of us run in the same pack, help each other, and watch out for each other’s pups. I don’t know what I’d do without my SISTAS.
I don’t think you can say that stuff, Hip-Hop for Dogs. I’m not an expert on what’s offensive, but that whole thing strikes me as something that is probably offensive.
And here’s something even more infuriating than all the ugly stereotyping: this dog is presented as the definition of “wack.”
Are you kidding me, dude? This is the freshest dog in the entire book– it’s maybe the only dog here that’s NOT wack! It’s got a boombox and a hi-top Kid fade! If our author lacks a basic understanding of what is and isn’t wack, how can we trust her as a hip hop authority?
But even a stopped coin is heads twice a day, or soemthing: if there’s one saving grace about this book, it’s the photo used as the definition of “busted.” It is correct. This dog is busted. From now on, when I hear the word “busted,” I’m going to think of this stupid busted-ass Photoshop dog.
If you’d like to buy Hip-Hop for Dogs as a gift for someone you hate, or someone you want to hate you, you can pick it up cheap on Amazon. If you’re a big fan of the author’s work, she also wrote something called Yiddish for Babies:
Somebody stop this woman.