Please don’t tell me that “b-boys” have a connection to Whitman’s “Bowery B’hoy.” In his book, Slumming in New York: From the Waterfront to Mythic Harlem, Robert M. Dowling suggests that Whitman “discovered in the B’hoy a refreshingly American articulation” (57). Furthermore he cites Whitman as being referred to by 19th century reviewers as the “Bowery B’hoy of Literature.” What this all add up to for me, is Walt being the American Disc-Jockey poet. Whitman seems to have been fascinated by the theater and the idea of creating arts that were distinctly “American.”
Musically, I believe that the “b-boys” of the Hip-Hop generation play a similar role to Whitman as a poet. Both Whitman and b-boys employ free verse as strategy of expressing their respective thoughts. Whereas Whitman writes, the b-boy utilizes dance as a medium of expression. 100 years after Whitman’s death, b-boys were reaching their zenith. Adidas tennis shoes, leather jackets and a mash-up with rock and roll launched Run DMC into stardom and brought prominence to innovative b-boys who articulated the culture via dance. A recent review of The Roots’ album Undone by Melophobe of www.melophobe.com asserts that MC Black Thought, of The Roots, is “the Walt Whitman of contemporary Hip-Hop” as he expands his barbaric yelp to supreme effect” in the last verse from the song One Time MC Black Thought states: “Then I went missing looking for the sublime/ A nigga stayed low left the ladder unclimbed/Time after time, verse blank, the line unrhymed” capturing what I believe is the essence of Whitman’s Song of Myself; specifically, the search for the sublime?