Written by Paul Devlin

Last Thursday, I wrote an article for Slate about The Anthology of Rap, officially published this week by the Yale University Press. In that piece, I pointed out the errors I'd found in reading the book's transcriptions of rap lyrics. (I also noted how tricky and difficult such transcription can be.) Inspired by my investigation, the blogger Jay Smooth launched one of his own and found more mistakes in the anthology, which he published on his site on Monday. Commenters on both Slate and on Jay Smooth's site, Nil Doctrine, noted that many of the mistakes found in The Anthology of Rap also appear on the Online Hip Hop Lyrics Archive, a collection of lyric transcriptions posted by hip-hop fans that has been around for more than a decade.

For example, I pointed out in my original article that The Anthology of Rap incorrectly quotes Ghostface Killah, in his track "Daytona 500," as saying "voice be metal like Von Harper." The line is actually "voice be mellow like Vaughn Harper," a reference to the smooth-talking radio personality. The "metal like Von Harper" mistake is also present in the version of "Daytona 500" posted at OHHLA.

This is not to say that every error in OHHLA's transcriptions made it into the anthology. The editors do not repeat another OHHLA mistake later in the same line from "Daytona 500." (OHHLA has "radio bubble"; the anthology correctly has "radio barber.")

Still, readers of my piece and Jay Smooth's were struck by how many of the errors discovered so far in the anthology are also apparent in the OHHLA transcriptions.


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