Is Rap Poetry?

In an earlier post I argued--not altogether convincingly even to myself--that songwriters should not beVintage Typewriter by House of Sims / Brandi Sims 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 Cover Art: The Zoot-Suit Riots: The Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation by Mauricio Mazonyouth 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.

Cover Art: Bum Rush the PageLet 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
 

Comments

Ok Dave here's who I believe

Ok Dave here's who I believe are poets and songwrtiers: Exene, Chrissie Hynde, John Lennon, Lucinda Williams, John Hyatt, Bob Dylan. Their words are what has moved me, not so much the notes!

there are good songs and bad

there are good songs and bad songs, good poetry bad poetry songs from the mind, songs from the heart, same with poetry cool blog check out this mockery (celebration) of poetry www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX-bUHEEVo4

Thanks for the comments and

Thanks for the comments and the link. I enjoyed it a lot. I hope you stay in touch and keep reading.

Thanks for the comment, Deb.

Thanks for the comment, Deb. I plum forgot about Chrissie Hynde. Still not sure one can separate the notes from the words.

"The hip hop the hippy to the

"The hip hop the hippy to the hippy to the hip hop hippity hey." I think that was Byron. Poets v. Rappers: This brings up many interesting questions. Question the first: If a POET is from the hood, then as a poet from the hood, is he too also always hard? i.e. "The boyz in the hood are always hard / come talkin' that trash and we'll pull your card." Question deux: LL Cool J--As a rapper, he never dug deeper into the Freudian issues that allowed his mother to compel him to violence. Wouldn't a poet have dug deeper? (I think so.) Question numero 3: Re: the current state of poetry in America--it's not quite as popular as rap. If John Ashbery were to write poems about Gin and Juice, could Ashbery be a chart topper like Kanye? Gin & Juice--Daffy Duck in Hollywood by John Ashbery (as imagined by RD) Daffy Duck was cruisin' cruisin' sippin' on gin & juice Laid back with his mind on his money and we don't mind Or notice any more that the sky is green, a 3.0 GTO Disingenuous, intrigued, inviting more, Always invoking the echo, a summer's day. Yeah, the boys in the hood are always hard. As for what we have at HCPL, check out Tupac's tome The Rose that Grew from Concrete.

Look at Richard go old school

Look at Richard go old school on us, quoting Eazy E.

Good points and a splendid MC Ashbery.

Thanks for the comments.