South Bronx, Way South Bronx

“Welcome once again to BookTalk, where my guest, inexplicably, is Tyrell Hokus. He has been our guest twice before, under a policy by my previous booking agent of not bothering to find out anything about potential interview subjects. It’s a policy I had hoped would be reversed, but we don’t choose the hand life deals us, so I might as well be pleased to welcome you back, Mr. Hokus.”

“It’s good to be back, Tom.”

“Your lat…I’m sorry, did you say…did you just call me Tom?”

“Bollocks, Tim I mean. Sorry. Forget me head next.”

“No, actually, you’d got it right, for the first time ever. I’m glad I gave you a chance to correct yourself, though, I’d hate to form new opinions of you at this late stage. The last time we spoke, you were leaving the field of literary biography to become a novelist.”

“Oh aye. I gave up on the fiction, though, about a year back.”

“Any particular reason?”

“A lot of reasons, really. The hours. Book tours take a lot out of a lad. Bloody hard to keep making up different names for characters. But if I had to pin her down, I’d say it was the lawsuits mostly.”

“Brought on, one assumes, by the fact that your books were word-for-word plagiaries of previously best-selling novels.”

“If it worked once, it ought work again, was my theory. But try and propose something revolutionary to them blinkered do-nothings at the publishing houses.”

“So you abandoned your career as a professional thief…”

“Literary re-interpreter, is what I called it, before the judge told me to stop.”

“…and you’ve returned to your original love, arts biography.”

“It’s more of a passion, really. That’s what I tell the wife when she’s on me to come up out the basement and trim the hedge anyway.”

“Tell me a bit, if you must, about Graves Diggaz: The True Origins of Hip-Hop.”

“Oooh, er, it’s about that boom-boom-boom music the lads like these days. You know the lads, the ones with the big cars, the boot shakes when they drive around. Don’t much care for it myself but I understand it’s big in the States.”

“You’re talking about rap music.”

“If you say so. Can’t stand to be around it, a bunch of noise is all. Anyway, the book is about Graves County, Kentucky, the real birthplace of the unlistenable junk.”

“Graves County, Kentucky.”

“Just as you say.”

“And not New York, as is commonly accepted.”

“Them New York boys, they jumped on someone else’s train. Mayfield is where the music came from.”

“How did you come to this conclusion?”

“That’s where I heard it, anyway. I was stopped there to buy some petrol and a grapefruit squash, and there it was pumping out of the back of a car. It was what do yer call revelatory.”

“When was this, Mr. Hokus?”

“I’d say, around 2001, 2002. After that, I believe it became extremely popular. Hipper-hoppers cropping up everywhere, like weeds in a garden. But it all came from Graves County, and I’ll stand by that claim, as far as it goes.”

“Does it go as far as New York?”

“Absolutely, Alan. The book tour takes me there right off. I’ll be doing a reading of the chapter ‘Dirty Mayfield’, and a bit of ‘Whitey Preach’.”

“And what is that?”

“It’s the part where I argue that the coloreds are trying to cop all the credit for this what-do-you-call-it music, just like they did with jazz.”

“You think white people invented hip-hop?”

“Well, the lad who sold me the petrol was a white fella. Or possibly a Chinese, it’s hard to tell with the young ones. Anyway, I can’t imagine this sort of thing has anything to do with blackies, can you?”

“What’s next after you get out of the hospital, Mr. Hokus?”

“Oh, you know me, ho ho! Always something on the back burner, me lad!”

“That’s a good place for it. Anything in particular?”

“I think it’s about time someone took down that Carl Sagan a peg, for one thing. Always lording it over people, thinking he’s so-and-so just because he’s the CEO of Microsoft. Someone needs to get at him while the iron is hot, and I’ve got it on good authority that he’s really the BTK Killer.”

“I’d correct you, but that would rob me of what will no doubt be a winning next appearance on this very show. Any last thoughts?”

“I’m hoping that my book will be the final word on this hipty-hop nonsense and we can get back to listening to real music, like Dannii Minogue, H-Town, the lot. All the classics.”

“Good night, everybody.”


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