How this Dillingham teenager turned an ancient epic poem into a rap

Nov 23, 2021

A Dillingham high school literature class recently had a unique assignment: Write a skit, essay or song about the world’s oldest known epic poem, the story of Gilgamesh. One student decided to apply his passion for rap to the text.

Tracen Wassily. November 2021.
Credit Kendra Kapotak/KDLG

  

Tracen Wassily wasn’t sold on the hefty Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem that dates back roughly 4,000 years.

“At first, I didn’t like it," said Wassily, who is 16 years old. "But what I wrote about was the part I like most.”

 

Wassily is an 11th grader at Dillingham High School. He and his classmates in world literature recently got a unique assignment: Transform the Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest surviving epic poem, into a skit, essay or song.

 

For those of us who aren’t fresh out of high school, here’s a very basic summary of the story of Gilgamesh: It’s a Mesopotamian poem about a hero who sets off on a quest to find the secret to immortality. Along the way, he forms a deep friendship and fights many battles.

 

When Wassily got the assignment to create something new based on the ancient text, he went right to work.

 

“Not even a day after — like right after school — I got to work producing a beat, a good rhythm, like a fast-paced rhythm for what I’m going to be doing," he said. "’Cause that’s what I’m most comfortable on.”

 

Wassily said he drew inspiration from some of his favorite artists, like Denzel Curry, XXXTentacion and Zillakami.

“They just have really good energy, really good lyrics," Wassily said. "And their delivery is just, like, perfect, for me. Their production team, their engineering, it’s just all really good.”

His song is called G and Enkidu, and it's about a minute long. He said to compose it, he focused on matching the rhythm he created on an app on his cellphone to the emotion in the poem.

 

For example, take Humbaba, a monster in the story. Gilgamesh and his friend, Enkidu, embark on a journey to kill Humbaba.

 

Gilgamesh is the son of a goddess and a mortal, and a fierce king. But he’s also undiplomatic and greedy. So his mother helps create another man, Enkidu, out of a piece of clay to serve as Gilgamesh’s friend and distract him from his immoral ways. 

“The stuff I was rapping about, or singing about, was fast-paced as well, so it kind of fit really good," said Wassily. "They were fighting Humbaba.”

Wassily chose to rap about Gilgamesh mourning Enkidu because of the powerful emotions each sentence evokes.

 

"He’s laying him down on a magnificent bed, a bed of honor," Wassily said. "He’s saying the rulers of the underworld will kiss your feet. Like, all of this stuff, just for him.”

Looking ahead, Wassilly said he wants to continue producing music, but it probably won’t be based on ancient poems.

Listen to the full song here:

Here are the full lyrics:

g and enkidu on a quest for glory

 

slayin humbaba is the start of his story

 

our heroes make it to the gate

but before they serve h his fate

 

their knees begin to shake

 

they feel their stomachs ache

 

couple minutes later kidu slashin with his saber

 

the repercussions of this act kidu gonna feel later

 

enkidu lay down before g

 

his tears flow down both his cheeks

 

in his dreams

 

he could see

 

that the underworld is where he will be

 

his side kick

 

12 days sick

 

en ki du will cease to exist

 

accepted by his mother

 

un replaceable by another

 

g left without a brother

 

now his heart is in the gutter

 

no more enkidu g alone now

 

he let everybody know in his home town

 

that he and enkidu separated no more bro now

 

now he walk around like a husk with a bold frown

 

he can't process that he's gone now

 

this is the end of gilgamesh's song now


Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.