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Fizza-Ma-Wizza-Ma-Dill: The Elegance Of Trap And Dr. Seuss

A sign installed at an interactive exhibition dedicated to Dr. Seuss at the Children's Museum of Manhattan on July 6, 2004.
Mario Tama
Getty Images
A sign installed at an interactive exhibition dedicated to Dr. Seuss at the Children's Museum of Manhattan on July 6, 2004.

Less than a week ago, rapper Win Nevaluze uploaded a dramatic reading of the Dr. Seuss deep cut Wocket In My Pocket, to the time of Migos' current single "Walk It Like I Talk It." The video, complete with handheld camera zooms and supporting ad-libs, quickly got caught up in the internet riptide and currently sits just shy of a million views.

It's not the first time the jolting, ad-lib-heavy flow of Migos has been wielded in service of children's literature. Prompted by a radio show in January 2017, the North Atlanta rappers themselves recited the words to Llama Llama Red Pajama over the beat of their No. 1 hit "Bad and Boujee."

The syllabic emphases of rap is perfectly suited for the re-painting of a nursery rhyme, requiring minimal effort but maximum meme-ability. Other rappers have recited kids' books in their own respective flows: Big Shaq, Jeezy and YG have all accepted the challenge. But this new Wocket In My Pocket video seems to prove that the Migos' flow is the prevailing method of marrying rap and rudimentary reading.

NPR Music enlisted the help of our colleague, pop culture expert and father of two Stephen Thompson to decipher how and why the Migos' signature cadence fits so well over the simple genius of children's books.

NPR Music: Have you ever read this Dr. Seuss b-side book to your children?

Stephen Thompson: To some, There's A Wocket In My Pocket! is second-tier Seuss, but in my home — as in my heart — it's second only to his towering masterwork, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Though they are now sullen teenagers who view me with a carefully calibrated mix of patient affection and seething disdain, when they were kids they clamored for reading time with their dumb dad. Those books were both A-sides for us.

Unfortunately, the copy of There's A Wocket In My Pocket! I had on hand during my kids' early childhoods was an abridged version, so we missed out on several key passages. But the most memorable couplets ("There's the Yottle in the bottle, whom I do not wish to keep / But the Zillow on my pillow always helps me fall asleep") are seared into my memory, to the point where I wouldn't have to look them up. When my son was little, he'd practically tremble with anticipation of the words "Nooth Grush on my toothbrush," because I'd always — always — tickle him when we got there. Long story short: Yes, I read this book to my children.

Have you ever played Migos for your children?

I have not. I used to try to get the kids into my favored music, especially on road trips when they're a captive audience, but now they just demand that we shuffle an iTunes playlist called "Katie Is In The Car." You see, their stepmom likes to listen to fun music in the car, with an emphasis on Beyonce, Sleigh Bells, New Orleans bounce, and some of the filthier collected works of Nicki Minaj; this has imprinted on the kids' tastes to a degree I could never muster in even my most selfish parenting fantasies. If Katie got into Migos, then the kids would probably get into Migos; if I were to put on Migos in the car, my daughter in particular would accuse me of trying too hard to look cool.

Why does this work so well? Is it the deadpan delivery? The imaginary lexicon?

Seuss mixed a freewheeling imagination with rhyming poetry so sturdily structured, reading it feels musical. So it's no wonder that it grafts so neatly onto hip-hop.

If Dr. Seuss were alive today and he wanted to get into rapping, what kind of rapper do you think he'd be? Who would he collaborate with?

Because of the iconography surrounding The Cat In The Hat — especially the hat itself — I tend to associate Seussian music with trippy, hyper-performative jam-band types more than rappers. So... maybe someone like P.M. Dawn?

A few years back, the good folks at Jimmy Kimmel Live!came up with an astutely cast Seuss/hip-hop pairing when they had Tyler, The Creator rap a few passages from Seuss' What Pet Should I Get? I think Tyler's got the right gift for the surreal, as well as a vital willingness to adapt and try new things. And, as the video demonstrates, he makes the hat work for him.

In your professional opinion as a pop culture expert, do Migos have a future as children's book authors? Should they release an album of Dr. Seuss readings?

I mean, why not, you know? Life is short, but it's also long, and who's to say where Migos' lives will take them? You've successfully identified the path I'm rooting for.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.