Signifying Rappers


wallace costello signifying rappers cover
David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello
Signifying Rappers
(Little, Brown, July 2013)

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.

“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

“Self-conscious about their outsider status and given to lamenting how hard it is to get people on the rap scene to talk to dorky white people…Mark Costello and David Foster Wallace have nonetheless delivered…the only theoretically interesting book on rap.”
The Village Voice

“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

“At its heart, this book has heart. Its message is simple and human. … Signifying Rappers tries to understand the attitude behind the confrontational rap of the late 1980’s without either condemning or fetishizing the genre.”
The Atlantic Wire