Is Rap Poetry?
In an earlier post I argued--not altogether convincingly even to myself--that songwriters should not be considered "poets." Basically, I said it is an apples to oranges comparison--each genre's aims and tools are so different as to be nearly unrelated.
A Glaring Omission: Though no one felt the need to comment. I'm sure that many of you noticed I didn't mention rap in the discussion. Despite the lack of outcry, I've been feeling guilty about not addressing the genre.
By way of explanation for the omission, my exposure to rap is limited to the Disney-fied stuff my daughter occasionally listens to, and the jagged shards of it I hear at stoplights pumped out of refrigerator-sized woofers at kidney-jellying decibels. This is, I concede, a meager and probably skewed sample and not representative of the diversity of styles out there, but as regular readers know I rarely let ignorance of a subject slow me down much.
My musical tastes were pretty well formed, if not fossilized, by the time rap as we know it came along. As a result, it continues to sound vaguely foreign to me, the way that Gregorian chants and Ragas, sound foreign to me. It is as if it were a different language. I perceive the patterns and get whisps of its beauty, but it just doesn't get in my blood the way three chords and a cloud of dust do.
I will try to avoid the usual hand-wringing, head-clutching hysterics that rap seems to engender in some, and which to my mind are only variations on those aimed against every expression of youth culture in history from the foxtrot to zoot suits to Beatle haircuts. The fact that misogynism and glorification of violence is present in rap cannot be denied, but I will not pretend rap is the only form of expression that exhibits these traits. The heaping helpings of self-aggrandizing, chest-thumping that is a hallmark of the genre and which I find a bit boring is a venerable tradition (see Beowulf and the "Child of Calamity" passage from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), and when done with wit, it is wildly invigorating.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
Because of rap's spoken delivery and it's rhyme-heavy focus, many will take it as given that rap is a form of popular poetry, though I'm not sure it is as simple as that, but I would like your opinion on the subject. More importantly, I would like your suggestions for the most poetic and innovative rappers. If Harris County Public Library has them in its collection, I will link them to the catalog. If not, your opinions and suggestions will be read by countless thousands...okay, countless tens of readers.
Below are two interesting items from HCPL's collection. Please, send your opinions and suggestions using the comment feature. Thanks.
Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on Broadway: The Choice Collection / edited by Danny Simmons
Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam / edited by Tony Medina and Louis Reyes Rivera.
Photo Credit: Vintage Typewriter by House of Sims/Brandi Sims