MC Lula (James Mendez Hodes) is creating a hip hop translation of Homer's Iliad
38

patrons

$323
per book/album
Once upon a time, the ancient Greeks practiced an art form which combined lines of rhythmic poetry with musical accompaniment. These performers alternated between repeating chorus-like formulae and freestyled verses that told stories about wine, booty, fly ladies, stacks of treasure, macho violence, and ostentatious modes of transportation. Then an ambitious, possibly mythical master of ceremonies known only as Homer collected the work of myriad performers into a single twenty-four-volume epic called the Iliad, which became a cornerstone of Western literature and Western civilization. One who memorized and recited the Iliad for an audience was called a ραψωδος, or "rhapsode."

We have a similar word for this kind of performer today.

2750 years later, English speakers have access to dozens of Iliad translations in prose and poetry, but none which retain the work's original format—until now.

Muse, rhyme of the beef of the son of Peleus
that piled mad grief all up on the Achaeans
and spurred to Perdition the souls of real gangstas,
yo, and for bitches an' crows they made banquets.
The mighty god Zeus's will was accomplished
when, fighting, those two was split up in contest:
Atrides, lord of men, and Achilles with the brilliance.
Which of the gods willed these two to militance?

With your help, I will translate this epic into a modern English format that matches its original one, so that a new generation of ραψωδοι—or as we now call them, rappers—can carry the work into the future with their voices. This is Tha Illiad of MC Homer.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS which I actually just asked myself but whatever

May I read what you've translated so far?
Check the method.

This is a joke, right? This is like that potato salad project on Kickstarter?
This is not a joke and I'm not doing this because it's funny (although I do hope it makes you laugh). I firmly believe that the Iliad's original format was closer to rap than it was to any other expressive form extant in the English language, and that rap captures the spirit and the meaning of the original work better than any other medium.

It says I'm paying per "book/album." What does that mean?
Homer's Iliad is 15693 lines, divided into 24 books; so each book averages out about 654 lines, meaning that when I record it as music, it'll run 8-10 tracks long—between the length of an EP and the length of an album, depending on the book. A book should drop once every month or so.

Why did you decide to translate the Iliad into rap?
During spring semester of my freshman year at Swarthmore College, my Homeric Greek professor gave us an assignment to translate a few lines of the Iliad in whatever format we wanted, so I chose the poetic form in which I was most comfortable. After I finished the assignment, I just … kept going. More generally, I'm afraid that if I don't do this, no one ever will.

Isn't this much much harder than a more traditional translation of the Iliad?
Yes and no. It's much more time-consuming because rap is one of the most complex poetic and musical forms in English. I spend a lot of time on each couplet to build in the engaging rhythms and internal rhymes which characterize my favorite rappers' lyrics.

Is this a literal line-for-line translation?
No, but it's close. I read and loved the Robert Fagles-translated Iliad and Odyssey as a little kid, and so I'm aiming for his literality of interpretation and line-matching, though I won't quite hit it. The one really non-literal thing I do with the text is to modernize certain objects and similes. For example, Apollo uses firearms rather than a bow and arrows; and I've replaced some of the hyper-specific similes about obscure plants, which are lousy with hapax legomena anyway, with modern equivalents which someone might conceivably care about ever. I will clearly mark all of these divergences.

That said, I can translate many Greek idioms more literally than any previous translator. In Book 1, line 261, Achilles calls Agamemnon a δημοβορος βασιλευς, "people-devouring king." Achilles doesn't mean Agamemnon literally eats his people; he's exaggerating Agamemnon's intent to steal from them. Similarly, in rap parlance, we refer to stealing from someone (their rhymes or their style, for example) as "biting on" them. So I get to translate the figurative and literal meanings of the diss as "You bite on your own crew!"

I am a teacher at a thankfully permissive school. May I show this to my students?
Please. But only if you tell me how they react.
Rewards
Pledge $1 or more per book/album
7 patrons
Thanks for supporting Tha Illiad! I will shout you out on Twitter.
Pledge $5 or more per book/album
9 patrons
You get access to the text as it's getting translated. You see everything before everyone else does, and you get to laugh at the terrible lines I don't end up using.
Pledge $10 or more per book/album
16 patrons
You get to download the actual music tracks version of each album!
Pledge $15 or more per book/album
3 patrons
You get comment access to the in-progress text. You can offer your opinion, your encouragement, or just heckling.
Pledge $25 or more per book/album
0 patrons
You get to join a monthly Skype/Google Hangouts call to talk about Tha Illiad (and probably some other nerd things).
Pledge $100 or more per book/album
1 patron
Ancient Greek performers would often include their audience or their audience's ancestors in their freestyled verses, so I'm gonna do it too. You get to appear in the Catalogue of Ships in Book 2.
Pledge $250 or more per book/album
0 of 48 patrons
You will appear in one of the mass battle scenes, and will probably die in some unrealistically gruesome way. That's a thing people want, right?
Pledge $500 or more per book/album
0 of 24 patrons
You get to perform a guest verse in Tha Illiad!
Goals
$323 of $3,000 per book/album
I will hire immortal noise witches (or, failing that, a recording studio) to improve the quality of each track of Tha Illiad.
6 of 6
Once upon a time, the ancient Greeks practiced an art form which combined lines of rhythmic poetry with musical accompaniment. These performers alternated between repeating chorus-like formulae and freestyled verses that told stories about wine, booty, fly ladies, stacks of treasure, macho violence, and ostentatious modes of transportation. Then an ambitious, possibly mythical master of ceremonies known only as Homer collected the work of myriad performers into a single twenty-four-volume epic called the Iliad, which became a cornerstone of Western literature and Western civilization. One who memorized and recited the Iliad for an audience was called a ραψωδος, or "rhapsode."

We have a similar word for this kind of performer today.

2750 years later, English speakers have access to dozens of Iliad translations in prose and poetry, but none which retain the work's original format—until now.

Muse, rhyme of the beef of the son of Peleus
that piled mad grief all up on the Achaeans
and spurred to Perdition the souls of real gangstas,
yo, and for bitches an' crows they made banquets.
The mighty god Zeus's will was accomplished
when, fighting, those two was split up in contest:
Atrides, lord of men, and Achilles with the brilliance.
Which of the gods willed these two to militance?

With your help, I will translate this epic into a modern English format that matches its original one, so that a new generation of ραψωδοι—or as we now call them, rappers—can carry the work into the future with their voices. This is Tha Illiad of MC Homer.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS which I actually just asked myself but whatever

May I read what you've translated so far?
Check the method.

This is a joke, right? This is like that potato salad project on Kickstarter?
This is not a joke and I'm not doing this because it's funny (although I do hope it makes you laugh). I firmly believe that the Iliad's original format was closer to rap than it was to any other expressive form extant in the English language, and that rap captures the spirit and the meaning of the original work better than any other medium.

It says I'm paying per "book/album." What does that mean?
Homer's Iliad is 15693 lines, divided into 24 books; so each book averages out about 654 lines, meaning that when I record it as music, it'll run 8-10 tracks long—between the length of an EP and the length of an album, depending on the book. A book should drop once every month or so.

Why did you decide to translate the Iliad into rap?
During spring semester of my freshman year at Swarthmore College, my Homeric Greek professor gave us an assignment to translate a few lines of the Iliad in whatever format we wanted, so I chose the poetic form in which I was most comfortable. After I finished the assignment, I just … kept going. More generally, I'm afraid that if I don't do this, no one ever will.

Isn't this much much harder than a more traditional translation of the Iliad?
Yes and no. It's much more time-consuming because rap is one of the most complex poetic and musical forms in English. I spend a lot of time on each couplet to build in the engaging rhythms and internal rhymes which characterize my favorite rappers' lyrics.

Is this a literal line-for-line translation?
No, but it's close. I read and loved the Robert Fagles-translated Iliad and Odyssey as a little kid, and so I'm aiming for his literality of interpretation and line-matching, though I won't quite hit it. The one really non-literal thing I do with the text is to modernize certain objects and similes. For example, Apollo uses firearms rather than a bow and arrows; and I've replaced some of the hyper-specific similes about obscure plants, which are lousy with hapax legomena anyway, with modern equivalents which someone might conceivably care about ever. I will clearly mark all of these divergences.

That said, I can translate many Greek idioms more literally than any previous translator. In Book 1, line 261, Achilles calls Agamemnon a δημοβορος βασιλευς, "people-devouring king." Achilles doesn't mean Agamemnon literally eats his people; he's exaggerating Agamemnon's intent to steal from them. Similarly, in rap parlance, we refer to stealing from someone (their rhymes or their style, for example) as "biting on" them. So I get to translate the figurative and literal meanings of the diss as "You bite on your own crew!"

I am a teacher at a thankfully permissive school. May I show this to my students?
Please. But only if you tell me how they react.

Recent posts by MC Lula (James Mendez Hodes)

Rewards
Pledge $1 or more per book/album
7 patrons
Thanks for supporting Tha Illiad! I will shout you out on Twitter.
Pledge $5 or more per book/album
9 patrons
You get access to the text as it's getting translated. You see everything before everyone else does, and you get to laugh at the terrible lines I don't end up using.
Pledge $10 or more per book/album
16 patrons
You get to download the actual music tracks version of each album!
Pledge $15 or more per book/album
3 patrons
You get comment access to the in-progress text. You can offer your opinion, your encouragement, or just heckling.
Pledge $25 or more per book/album
0 patrons
You get to join a monthly Skype/Google Hangouts call to talk about Tha Illiad (and probably some other nerd things).
Pledge $100 or more per book/album
1 patron
Ancient Greek performers would often include their audience or their audience's ancestors in their freestyled verses, so I'm gonna do it too. You get to appear in the Catalogue of Ships in Book 2.
Pledge $250 or more per book/album
0 of 48 patrons
You will appear in one of the mass battle scenes, and will probably die in some unrealistically gruesome way. That's a thing people want, right?
Pledge $500 or more per book/album
0 of 24 patrons
You get to perform a guest verse in Tha Illiad!