Today I was driving home listening to Flashback Friday on the radio. Slick Rick came on and it dawned on me that the black male voice is probably the rarest one in YA literature. If the YA genre began with J.D. Salinger’s look into the emotional life of his erratic and misunderstood Holden Caulfield, it has since moved away from being a white guy’s world, to a place where girls rule the roost. There are exceptions, of course, but now that a female teen POV is more common than male, and black voices are rare to begin with…the black male adolescent experience doesn’t get a lot of time on the page. But the place in our culture where that viewpoint does exist, is in rap music.
So I started thinking of some of the great rap and hip hop songs from my generation that would make awesome YA books. Here are a few of my favorites….
LL Cool J “I’m Bad”
You know, if a vampire can sparkle and save the girl, why can’t he rap and save the girl? Edward, move over, LL’s in town. And he’s bad.
Biz Markie “Just a Friend”
How many stories are there about melanin-challenged boys who chase after unattainable girls only to get their hearts broken? Yeah, well, it happens to black dudes too. Just change the setting from college to boarding school and this one is YA-ready…
This one’s definitely a tragedy. The story of a good kid making some very bad decisions. Featuring Slick Rick’s eye patch.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince “Parents Just Don’t Understand”
No, no they don’t. A timeless message. Just as true today as it was twenty years ago.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!