Critical Thought: Beat

I like personification. I like the candlestick in the Beauty and the Beast Disney animation, and the centipede in James and the Giant Peach. I have written stories with personification before, but this time, I aimed for subtle personification. There is a personification like this. A casual personification. One which might seem like a coincidence or mistake. Like a poorly chosen description, an unintended distraction. A movie or book can suggest something so lightly that the viewer/reader might have an idea, and not know if the idea came from the work or from themselves. In Fat Bird Makes A Beat, I imagined the beats as women. My boyfriend read the piece, and he saw no women. Our different interpretations assured me the personification had the right level of subtlety. It entertains me to imagine male rappers creating beats and then dating them. It's always interested me how back-up female vocals can seem like an instrument. It was freeing to talk about beats, because beats are not physical, but very present and powerful. Humans make beats and love beats, but beats are unhuman. Beats are the aliens that make us dance, a science that I don't read about in science books.

Rachel B. Glaser is a western Massachusetts writer. She mastered things at Umass Amherst. Her book is called Pee On Water. You can read more about it here, or here, or read other stories of hers here.

Fat Bird Makes a Beat

Fat Bird made a beat. Stayed up all night with his comp and made a sly, wicked beat. The beat was low and repeating and wanted to be rapped over. The beat stayed in Fat's big bed and the beat was good. He had it all night. It got real soft while it slept, but it kept beating.


Fat woke early and tried to rap over it, but the beat was a little too good. He knew Willy would really go nuts for it. Fat muffled the beat under his pillow and showered and did his day job and ate some food and let his phone buzz off and watched some tv, and when his head was clear of the beat, he made a new beat. This beat was young and flowing He rapped all over it and recorded and was pleased about it, and he smoked with it, and felt great, but when he lifted his pillow the other beat was still beating, so he emailed it over to Willy.


Willy was in a room with a ton of beats. His bed was crazy and the beats clashed and he was feeling overwhelmed. He was working on his follow-up album and hating all the beats he was sent. His voice was the lonely type and needed a very particular beat. He listened to Fat Bird's beat and it worked. Willy twinged it a little so it had a little less fuzz and sounded more nostalgic. He skimmed a bit of music from the top of an old record and slid it into the beat. He skipped his job to be with that beat. He was held well by the beat. His rap was only for the beat. He ate food the way a genius eats food when he’s violently succeeding.


His woman kept wanting to come over, but he was all busy with the beats. Willy separated each to a room, so he could hear them more purely. His friends wanted to come over and trade beats and get drunk and listen, but Willy said no. He was in his album, and each beat held an opening for him, and each kept making him freestyle so easily, so he paid Fat Bird for the beat, and then felt so exposed that it was Fat Bird's beat. From which part of Fat Bird came the beat? Like how much did he try and rap on it before emailing it over? It gripped Willy, this. It made him rap badly on the beat.


Willy thought about rapping over things, and how it left a snail trail on the thing. He pictured it like a mumbling personal graffiti. He pictured his beat coated in Fat Bird’s genetic material. Willy’s phone moaned and he clicked it. He remembered his very first beat. It was so basic, it was like hand plus hand. It was really just one mouth. Willy went over to his comp and thinned his beat to a more primal beat. There were beats so basic, they were before culture. They were what had made culture. This thought dismantled his beat until it was tinny and sparse. He could hear his other beats in their rooms, wanting to be rapped over, beating to be rapped over, trying not to be too needy, but sounding actually very needy, and Willy felt haughty and private, and though it had been some time, he rapped by himself, and his voice was the lonely type so it drove the beats crazy.

by Rachel B. Glaser