David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello’s exuberant exploration of rap music and culture.

Living together in Cambridge in 1989, David Foster Wallace and longtime friend Mark Costello discovered that they shared “an uncomfortable, somewhat furtive, and distinctively white enthusiasm for a certain music called rap/hip-hop.”

The book they wrote together, set against the legendary Boston music scene, mapped the bipolarities of rap and pop, rebellion and acceptance, glitz and gangsterdom. Signifying Rappers issued a fan’s challenge to the giants of rock writing, Greil Marcus, Robert Palmer, and Lester Bangs: Could the new street beats of 1989 set us free, as rock had always promised?

Back in print at last, Signifying Rappers is a rare record of a city and a summer by two great thinkers, writers, and friends. With a new foreword by Mark Costello on his experience writing with David Foster Wallace, this rerelease cannot be missed.

What's Inside

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"The Best Mind of His Generation" —A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"A prose magician, Mr. Wallace was capable of writing...about subjects from tennis to politics to lobsters, from the horrors of drug withdrawal to the small terrors of life aboard a luxury cruise ship, with humor and fervor and verve. At his best he could write funny, write sad, write sardonic and write serious. He could map the infinite and infinitesimal, the mythic and mundane. He could conjure up an absurd future...while conveying the inroads the absurd has already made in a country where old television shows are a national touchstone and asinine advertisements wallpaper our lives." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"One of the most influential writers of his generation." —Timothy Williams, The New York Times
"Costello and Wallace's pioneering study is a dazzling performance: informative, provocative, funny and brilliantly written, an intellectually wired style combining subtle and original thought with great wit, insight, and in-your-face energy." —Review of Contemporary Fiction
"Two educated white guys do the right thing by scoping out 'The Meaning of Rap' without pretending to know everything about it...Signifying Rappers is both a cogent explication of rap and a cutting, revealing parody of overinflated pseudointellectual rap criticism." —Seattle Weekly
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