Rapture is Not a Rap Song

20 Mar

Something about the album cover to Blondie’s Autoamerican thrilled and frightened my five year-old mind enough that I stole into my brother’s bedroom and peeked at it at every chance I’d get. It was the back cover, you see, that implied the band had jumped over the edge of a high roof. Committed suicide. And yet I could listen to the ethereal strains of Angels On the Balcony and Do the Dark, voices of the recently dead as depicted in the two-panel comic strip of the album cover. I knew that the band was quite alive, and yet indulged this fantasy every time I heard tracks from the album blasting from the recesses of my brother’s domain.

I’m aware that many Blondie fans consider Autoamerican the beginning of the band’s decline, and they’re entitled to that opinion. For me, the album is a trip down memory lane where the line between my appreciation for the music and reliving a memory from my distant past is completely blurred. Like anyone overly familiar with the album, I skip The Tide is High. I don’t listen to the weird intro track where Debbie Harry gives a speech every time. But I do still listen to the album somewhat regularly, and when I do, I play the tracks in order and (for the most part) all the way through. Over the thirty years since this album has been released, my feelings and opinions on nearly every moment of every song has changed in every conceivable way. Except for one: I have never, at any point, felt that Rapture was a rap song.

We can debate whether or not it is a new wave song, or a rock n’ roll song, or an 80s pop tune, but I cannot be convinced that Rapture is a rap song. I’ve heard it enough by now that I don’t really need to hear it ever again, but still I won’t say that Rapture is a bad song. It’s a fine song, one which employs a rap verse but is not itself a rap song. I can’t say why my kindergarten-aged self made this distinction, being that I had a tenuous grasp on the burgeoning world of recorded rap music at best, but it struck me as phony. In Rapture, rap lyrics were being used as a gimmick, like in Honeymooners Rap and Rappin’ Duke (two songs I loved, incidentally). I don’t think Rapture comes from a malicious place, and in fact I am quite aware of Debbie Harry and Chris Stein’s involvement with the early 80s East Village hip-hop scene. I just don’t think it should be considered a rap song.

Only the most insignificant percentage of the relatively small number of people who have ever heard Rapture would even give time to consider whether it was a rap song or not. I don’t think most people think about things like this, they don’t obsessively categorize and define their world in such rigid terms. However, there’s a significant segment of the population, many of whom seem to stem from my generation, that do. These are our future hoarders and sweaty weirdos who rock themselves into a hypnotic stupor while riding the public bus. People who care about continuity on Saved By the Bell, people who collect back issues of Word Up! magazine, people who care whether or not Rapture is regarded as a true rap song.

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