In an interview with her brother, British rapper Doc Brown, Zadie Smith reflects on the difference between writing and rapping in the first person:
ZS: The reason I could never be in that business is that you always have to speak in the first person. I find it a really strange experience to say “I” all the time.
BS: Yeah. A lot of artists don’t really get felt by people until they bare their soul. Look at the most popular artists in rap, and it’s the ones who have really tended to wear their heart on their sleeve – people like Jay Z, or Andre 3000, the reason they’ve touched people is ‘cos they’ve said, “This is me.” Andre said, “Yeah, maybe I look a bit fruity but at the end of the day, that’s me.”
ZS: Well, that’s what I’m saying. There’s a lot of novelists who say “I” all the time — Philip Roth, John Updike, and nobody races to their door asking if every single word of it’s true. It’s a funny thing about rap, that when you say “I” into the microphone, it’s like a public confession. It’s very strange.