FROM KANYE TO SCROOGEJust when I thought I knew it all, life reminded me that I didn’t know diddly.
When I was growing up I was 100% certain that Ebenezer Scrooge was an elderly, miserly, loveless money-lender, wrecking lives in Victorian London. Boy was I wrong! At least according to who symbolizes Scrooge today.
The first chink in my belief that I knew Scrooge’s identity came when Kanye West was voted Scrooge of the year. Kanye West: Voted SPIN Magazine’s Scrooge of the Year Though Kanye’s selection shook my confidence I still held firm in my belief that Scrooge could only be a rhythm-less, cold-hearted, crusty, aged, Englishman.
But then somehow a kid from Marcy projects became the symbol of the 1%! Occupy Wall Street Labels Jay-Z Scrooge
Somewhere along the way Scrooge had gone from being a miserable 19th Century curmudgeon to being a hyper-talented, Black, Hip Hop star.
One of the great things about being a writer is having the ability to express what you love as art, and two of my loves are Hip Hop and Dickens. Now, some might think that any association with Hip Hop would cause Charles Dickens to be rolling over in his grave, or at least would cause Dickens purists to be outraged. But I beg to differ, I think Dickens would be happy to be embraced by the urban poets of today and that his fans should celebrate the connection. In large part Dickens’ art grew out of the challenges he faced growing up desperately poor, forced to quit school, having to work in a blacking shop and seeing his own father thrown in a debtor’s prison. Dickens knew first-hand what it was like to be at the bottom of London’s social scale, and he used his art to challenge suffering and exploitation things that growing up as a poor boy in New York City public housing I could relate to.
Which is why artists from Method Man to Lil Wayne to OutKast have referenced Dickens. And why Kanye after almost dying in a car crash rapped that as he lay in the hospital he looked back on his life “like the Ghost of Christmas Past”.Kanye Through the Wire And why when Jay-Z wanted to dedicate a song to his mother he turned to Dickens for inspiration, using Oliver Twist to turn Anything into an ode to his mom.Jay-Z channels Oliver Twist
Like I said, I once had no doubt who Ebenezer Scrooge was, but when I began writing On Top Of The World I was happy to discover that he was not stuck in the 1800s but that he is a character for this age, a music superstar fashion mogul obsessed with money power and fame, who must take the journey of lifetime to win back Belle, the woman who inspired him to believe in himself when no one else would give the biggest nerd on campus the time of day. All he has to do to win her back? Become the man she fell in love with. Now that’s gonna take a miracle! But after all, isn’t life miraculous?