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Rapper MC Lars Shares His Favorite Book

MC Lars, a self-proclaimed “post-punk laptop rapper,” may be best-known for his fast-talking rhymes about Hot Topic stores and hipster girls, but the Bay Area musician is notably literary, and therefore a fitting participant in our ongoing series of musicians talking about their favorite books. Not only has MC Lars penned songs about Moby Dick, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” and Hamlet, he’s also published a book of his own poetry called Bukowski In Love.

For his Book Club pick, Lars veers away from iconic works of literature, instead choosing a practical tome for anyone making music these days: The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution, authored by two veterans of pop music who outline the music industry’s digital future.

SPIN: Why did you pick this book?
MC Lars: I studied English literature in college, but in a few years I want to do a PhD in media studies, so I’m always reading books about music technology and the digital music revolution and the evolution of content and new media economics. I read this book because one of the authors, Dave Kusek, is a professor at Berklee College of Music and he’s a really smart guy [who actually was one of the co-developers of MIDI technology, a revolutionary development in electronic music]. It’s really influenced my philosophies on technology and media and it’s also really influenced my business model as a guy with a label.

Why did you pick this book as opposed to something like Moby Dick or Hamlet, both of which you’ve written songs about?
I was thinking that a lot of other musicians would pick the classics and the books I’ve studied and written songs about. I picked this one because I figured no one would pick it. But one of my favorite [pieces of literature] is Hamlet, and I have that song about Hamlet on the new record, “Hey There, Ophelia,” (Click here to download it!) so I have to give props to that as well. That’s for pleasure, where this is a more business sort of textbook.

How many times have you read it?
Three times. It’s a good one.

Do you reread the whole thing or do you just have sections you go back to?
What happened was I read it casually and then I read closely and then I read it again because I wrote a song that was inspired by it. I took some of his philosophies and made it into lyrics. It’s called “Download This Song.” The author heard my song, and on the website for the book they did a little piece about how the song reinforced those philosophies. It was really cool to have this author I really love like the song I wrote about his book.

Who would you recommend this book to?
I recommend it to anyone in tech or the arts. Also hipsters and hip-hop fans will appreciate it because basically the whole book legitimizes stealing your friends’ music. You can feel good about doing something that maybe isn’t legal.

Would you recommend it to someone who thinks free music downloading is wrong?
Yeah. It provides a logical explanation of why it’s okay. What I like about the book is that it treats the music model as water as opposed to a physical thing. When you pay for water, you get a certain amount of water. You don’t pay per drop.

Listen: MC Lars, “Hey There Ophelia”(DOWNLOAD MP3)