One of the things about the year 2008 is that not only have many seemingly bizarre ideas reached fruition, many of them have been done quite a while ago and escaped wide attention. Somewhere, I am sure, someone is suggesting the idea of hip hop filk humorously, not realizing that it has already been done.
"Mics of the Roundtable" is a song by the Hieroglyphics collective, released on their first full album, Third Eye Vision, in 2008. The song treats, as do many hip-hop songs, the subject matter of battling for hip-hop supremacy and/or righteousness. It does this through a story of battling demons and hobgoblins in a fantasy world that is inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, Arthurian Legend, or both. This could come across as ridiculous, but personally, I find it to be very effective. The verses manage, in a few short minutes, to describe an imaginary scene of medieval hip-hop warfare in evocative detail, and manages to be emotionally compelling. After all, when the prophetess of the powerless appears to send them on their quest, or when they realize that failure means "our people will either be dead or be slaves", they are talking about something larger than either a rap battle, or an evening around the kitchen table. And when Tajai asks "Does this Holy Mic really exist, or am I wasting my life chasing visions?", I often ask myself the same question. The song also has some great mysteries in the lyric, especially this:
Her royal highness was boiled alive in turpentine
Right in line with the serpentine skirt, she died cursed
The whole Oligarch was torn apart before the Dark Ages eclipsed the planet
which may be about Queen Guinevere
, Second Maccabees
. This is the type of hidden references that I find fascinating.
I would suggest that this is the type of thing that should be attempted by more people more often, but writing something conceptual like this and having it work is not something that can be done easily, or by formula.