Rap Vs Poetry
"When I first started rapping, me and a couple brothers would all sit around my place freestyling while someone beat boxed. I even used to tell all the girls that I was a poet. They seemed to find it a little more touching than a rapper" (Prince Paul, The Source 16) The lyrics of rappers are very similar to the words of Black poets. It is argued as to wether or not rap is a viable form of poetry. Both discuss similar subjects, write in the same style and use the same type of language in their writings. When looking at a poem or reading rap lyrics, distinguishing between the two can be difficult, if not impossible.
Both Black rappers and Black poets write about the same subjects. For example the rap group NWA, and the poet Alice Walker, both cover the topic of being from a minority race. Alice Walker states in one of her poems that "there is no planet stranger than the one im from" (Walker, "Note Passed To Superman" 18-19). What Alice is saying is that the world is strange because people judge others by their skin color. The approach NWA takes is a more presumptuous one. In the song "Fuck Tha Police", NWA says " Young nigga got it bad cuz im brown / And not the other color so police think / They have the authority to kill a minority" (NWA "Fuck Tha Police" 3-5). Another common subect between Black poets and rappers is "ghetto life". Nikki Giovani's poem called "For Saundra" is about how she is going to write a poem about trees and blue skies. Then she realized that she was living in a "concrete jungle".
i wanted to write / a poem / that rhymes / but revolution doesnt lend / itself to bebopping / then my neighbor / who thinks i hate / asked -do u ever write / tree poems- i like trees / so i thought / i'll write a beautiful geen tree poem / peeked from my window / to check the image / noticed the school yard was covered / with asphalt / no green - no trees grow / in Manhattan / then, well, i thought the sky / ill do a big blue sky poem / but all the clouds have winged / low since no-Dick was elected / so i thought again / and it occurred to me / maybe i shouldn't write / at all / but clean my gun / and check my kerosene supply (Giovanni "For Saundra")
What all this is about is simply the reality of the urban ghettos. Gangstarr also writes lyrics pertaining to ghetto life. In the song "In Memory Of", Gangstarr talks about life on the streets and how it is always a hard time for a black man trying to get by in society. "If we don't build we'll be destroyed / Thats the challenge we face in this race of poor and unemployed" (Gangstarr "In Memory Of" 11-12). Love and even more specifically, sex, are yet another subject shared by both rappers and Black poets. The lyrics in the song "Brown Skin Woman" by KRS-1, are discussing the love for the "brown woman" and also sex with the "brown woman". Haki Madhubuti also writes his poems about love and sex. In the poem "My Brothers", Haki is sending a message to the other black males about how they should start to love and respect the females of the black race. "My brothers i will not tell you who to love or not love i will only say to you that Black women have not been loved enough" (Madhubuti "My Brothers" 1-6). Wether it be about sex, racism or life in the ghettos, Black poets and Black rappers share the same views and write about the same subjects.
The language used by Black rappers and Black poets is a strong, short, to the point language. Maya Angelou demonstrates this in her poem "Aint That Bad". In the poem Maya uses a lot of repetition to get her point across. "Now ain't they bad? / Now ain't they black?" (Angelou "Aint That Bad?" 17-18). Theses lines are