We believe automatically that Chris Knight is not — could never actually be — that homeless man with a gun.
Put the same lyric in Killer Mike’s mouth, though, and you think something different, don’t you? You do not assume instantly that Mike is merely inhabiting a character. No, in your mind, he is the man with the gun in his hand.
Think for a second about the history of Southern music. Our Appalachian musical heritage has a long and grand tradition of what the academics call “murder ballads” and what the musicians just call “killin’ songs.” The archetype, perhaps, is “Knoxville Girl,” in which the protagonist beats a girl with a stick “until the ground around her within her blood did flow,” then drags her by her hair into the river to drown.
Southerners have written and still sing hundreds of ballads about killings. We sing them at festivals…
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