foam:e, Laurie Duggan and Hip Hop

Laurie Duggan doesn't like hip hop.

Laurie Duggan doesn’t like hip hop. That’s according to an interview published in the excellent, untold and fresh issue of online poetry journal foam:e, where Duggan tells Angela Gardner, ‘I don’t like rap or hip hop because there are too many words. When I hear that kind of music I just feel like I’m being lectured to.’

While I’ve never considered Laurie Duggan to be his poetic generation’s equivalent of John Schumann, (the singer from 1980s political folk band Redgum, who joined up with Melbourne hip hop group The Herd to re-record ‘I Was Only Nineteen’), I think it’s also useful (and fun) to consider the possibilities of fusions between written Australian poetry and hip-hop forms.

I think it’s also fair to point out that the style of rap Duggan critiques as ‘like I’m being lectured to’ is a million miles away in style and context from the lyrical loopiness of your De La Soul, or the crossover legacy of your Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys. Then again, if Ice T can come back as a police drama TV star, then anything goes.

While as an outsider I’m admittedly pretty weak when it comes to remembering the lyrics of Public Enemy’s ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’, I also know that the stylings of Chuck D (or, perhaps more pertinently to Australia, Michael Franti) can be heard today in the works of performance poets in Melbourne, a million miles away from South Central LA.

Consider the possibilities. For example, I’d love to hear De La Soul’s take on Laurie Duggan’s ‘Blue Hills’ sequence. I’m serious. Why not? I’d love to hear the Beasties take on John Tranter’s The Floor of Heaven, with the Dust Brothers on production. Come on, wouldn’t you kill for Salt ‘n Pepa’s version of Judith Wright’s ‘Woman To Man’?

Of course, when it comes to other rap and hip hop artists, we start to face some more interesting decisions. Given Nathan Curnow’s love of Kanye, I think that nothing short of an album of ghost stories featuring Mr West on vocals (complete with Cher button for the ‘Love Lockdown’ moments) would suffice. On the other hand, Paul Mitchell’s suburban blues could do with some Kanye soul, too.

Similarly, while I’m sure you’ll all agree that asking Beyonce to remix Jill Jones is the obvious and the right thing to do, I’d also like to flag the idea of a Destiny’s Child 12″ of Pi O’s latest, plus an M.I.A. mash-up of MTC Cronin’s collected works. Add Bobby Brown (taking a stab at John Forbes’ ‘Tropical Skiing’, obviously) and you’ve got trouble.

Or a deal.


  1. now i know why curnow blasting kanye albums on my car stereo grates a bit – kanye is lecturing at me! how dare he. he doesn’t even have a non-honorary PhD.

    he should be more like thom yorke, & stretch each syllable out, up to around 30 second each. that way each song only needs 10 word at the most.

    actually we should all be more like thom yorke.

    seriously though, the remixes are a good idea. you should find a government with some money, & insist they fund the project.

  2. or Paul and I could announce a battle… whoever sells the least amount of books will quit writing forever. and when i lose… I’d say that it’s been the best thing for poetry sales for years. (and then keep writing).

    combined, Paul and I would probably both lose to Laurie.

  3. Hi Derek, Nathan, Jill!

    Thanks for your comments, they make me think I really am onto something with this idea. To answeer your question, Jill, I’m not sure as I haven’t actually approached Beyonce yet. But I am sure she’ll be into it. I do like the LCD Sound System idea though.

  4. Holey mackeral. Everyone wants to talk to you these days, David. Cool.
    It’s a pity you put the kybosh on my last idea for Cordite. I wanted to do a whole series. Is Paul Squires the John Singleton of Australian Poetry? And then David Prater, is he really Dick Smith in disguise? Then of course to be fair I would have to do some of the women and then the trouble would really start.
    Son of Sir Les.

  5. Hi Paul,

    not so much the kybosh as the ‘I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole’- bosh! But you’re wrong about me being Dick Smith – I’m actually the child telepathist Derek Ogilvie.

  6. Fair enough Davey. I’m just being a Grumpy Old Man. And now that I’ve reached the age for a bus pass (in the UK), I guess I have a right to that title. My comment is probably part of a general feeling that sometimes performance-based poetry is kind of overdetermined. I mean, these people seem to know only too well what it is they want to do. Personally I just operate out of doubt.

  7. also, please tell Laurie that he has to wait until the end of May (thats ‘is birfday) to get a Seniors Card here in the country he once (sob) called ‘home’

    also also GIVE ME BACK “THE HERD” – go on tell im !

  8. Hmm. I seem to have created a perfect storm here. As for ‘doubt’, as opposed to certainty, I always exist as though I might never write again. I can’t begin to feel that ‘I’ve got it right’ and can just sit down and do a poem. It’s not a very comfortable way to be (though in most other respects my life could be said to be comfortable). It also means that I don’t like being asked what I do. I usually mumble ‘I’m a writer’, but that gets me nowhere because then people ask ‘what do you write’. But this is pretty neurotic stuff. Enough already!

  9. I agree, Laurie!

    Now can you please give Pam her CD back?

    But seriously, I know what you’re saying about ‘being asked what i do’ – because, as you say, it’s never based on certainty. ‘i write poems forty hours per week’ … duh. But then, when you’re writing a lot, when you’re in the middle of a project, that’s actually what you’re doing.

    Which is a completely different creative process from that of a (theoretical) performance poet or hip-hop artist who ‘produces’ orally, through (say) rhyme play and collaborative spoken word games (the kind of experiments a ‘print’ poet would conduct in notebooks).

    Anyway, I think reaching bus pass age is a cause for celebration, and I’m looking forward to your blog posts from various train stations in England and Wales on the ‘pensioner’s excursion fare’ ;-)!


  10. I think i’m a doubter too, Laurie. That’s why I was curious to get to the heart of what you meant. I think at least part of my doubt comes from a suspicion that confidence would be a creative dead end for me, in a sort of dichotomous “happy where I am” vs. “what could be different?” way.

    I think the kind of discomfort you’re talking about can be very productive.

    I think I like doubt more than confidence because I like humility in people more than its opposite.

  11. Jill – the Keats thing, yes. The whole business about being annihilated by a bunch of people in a room (children even). But this has been a very civilised discussion and I’m grateful, as an old geezer, for your forebearance (I was never as kind to my own elders). Funnily I was having a pint and a bite in a pub today in a village in the Kent Downs and there were some rap tracks playing in the bar that I sort of liked (I do, by the way, own Paul’s Boutique, as well as (courtesy Pam) The Herd. And I always liked the rhyme of hip-hop and fish and chip shop which seemed peculiarly Australian). I wouldn’t want to cut off any kind of source that writers might get a charge out of. But I find myself listening to early 1960s surf instrumentals way too often. Either those things or some items from my distant Mod past!

  12. You’re putting the lie to Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone from the Sun – ” … And you’ll never hear surf music again”. I can dig surf music. And 60s psychedelic, nothing’s too silly or pompous in certain moods.

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