One of my goals in writing Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking was to engage in acts of unprecedentedness. This explains why I coined so many portmantypos, wrote a section in faux French, created an Interstate Scavenger Hunt, and included so many cameos by famous rappers. To my knowledge, no other contemporary novel includes appearances by Kanye West and Biggie, let alone T.I. and Redman.
All of Humboldt‘s rapper cameos appear within Chapter XXXVII, which is a creative misreading of the Circe section in Ulysses. (And by the way: no rappers appear in Ulysses either, although it’s easy to envision Buck Mulligan as a MC in 3rd Bass.) After drinking toilet wine on his final night in prison, Humboldt (or rather, MC H Money) dreams that he’s on-stage at Hot 97’s Summer Jam. While he’s”creatively misrapping” The Humpty Dance, the Summer Jam Concert Cam pans across a row of rap royalty who offer their assessments of Humboldt’s skillz. These assessments are magpied song lyrics; for example, the first rapper to appear is Rakim, who says: (with stern E.F.F.E.C.T) “He’s a smooth operator, operating correctly.”
By my count, nineteen songs are referenced in Chapter XXXVII, beginning with The 900 Number (best known as the soundtrack for the Ed Lover Dance) and ending with DMX’s Ruff Ryder’s Anthem. The section includes many classic tracks, such as Fight the Power, Juicy, and Gold Digger. It also includes some surprise selections, like Childish Gambino’s Fire Fly, Shyne’s That’s Gangsta, and LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge (James Murphy appears questioning if he’s in the right place).
As a soundtrack to reading this section, I’ve created a playlist on Spotify of every song, in correct order, that appears in this scene, which I’m pretty sure is something Shakespeare never did.