Rap N’ Roll is the sixth book by Toronto writer and concert presenter Dalton Higgins, and his most unique and different one yet. That is a big statement for Higgins, as anyone who’s read his work at NOW, The Source or VIBE magazine, along with his blogs and tweets can attest. His first book was about legendary MuchMusic VJ Master T, his last an unauthorized but certainly not unqualified biography of Drake, and in between he’s released titles on his favourite subjects: music, hip-hop and fatherhood. Those titles have landed in school classrooms across North America, the Harvard University’s hip-hop archive and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s collection in Cleveland.
This newest volume is a collection of essays on pop culture, music, race, politics and the publishing industry written in Higgins’ rambling digital slanguage and hip-hop-inflected voice. Some pieces are short rants on listening to crickets on a Friday night while waiting for the Leafs and Raptors championships that will never come or the underappreciated literacy and wisdom of the street corner emcee. Others are longer, on subjects of varying importance including the unstoppable force that is the cultural appropriation of black music, even the seemingly un-appropriate-able—reggae, and the life, death and digital reincarnation of books and bookstores.
Some are hilarious and just plain brilliant. The piece “Hogtown Hack, The Summer of ’98” is about working nine-to-five to the pay the bills because his career as a Canadian hip-hop journalist won’t. The cover letter he pens to potential daytime employers begins, “Because the society in which I live encourages me to prostitute myself to survive, I am here to offer my services to you and your bottom-line, profit-making business…” and is signed “Defeated Dalton.”
In between the meme and music reference-laced diatribes and jabs at the TTC’s slogan—“The Better Way?”—he shares tips and lays out the pros and cons of being a writer for those who want to make a living putting finger to keyboard like him. In “Hey Writer, Who’s Your Target Audience?” he asks, “are you writing for Toronto, or for global audiences?” We could ask Higgins the same thing of this eighty-something page hardcover (also available in softcover), which is full of Toronto people, places and things, always broken down for readers that may not reside in The Centre Of The Universe. As in his previous books about Toronto culture giants Drake and Master T, he’s clearly trying to carry our way of life to the world, and he succeeds, and then some.
Subscribe to the JeffRoulston.com E-mail Newsletter