Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by Adam Bradley

By Adam Bradley

If requested to record the best innovators of contemporary American poetry, few people might imagine to incorporate Jay-Z or Eminem of their quantity. And but hip hop is the resource of a few of the main intriguing advancements in verse this present day. The media uproar in line with its debatable lyrical content material has obscured hip hop’s revolution of poetic craft and event: purely in rap tune can the beat of a track render poetic meter audible, permitting an MC’s wordplay to maneuver a club-full of keen listeners.

Examining rap history’s such a lot memorable lyricists and their inimitable strategies, literary student Adam Bradley argues that we needs to comprehend rap as poetry or pass over the leading edge of poetry at the present time. Book of Rhymes explores America’s least understood poets, unpacking their unusually complicated craft, and in accordance rap poetry the honour it merits.

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That means that while, like Poe, he composes his lines with a regular meter in mind, his lyrics need not carry the burden of representing that meter—the beat of the instrumental track does that for him. On a practical level, this means that the range of Nas’s rhythmic freedom is potentially broader than Poe’s, which must stay closer to his chosen meter so that his reader never loses the beat. This doesn’t 0465003471_bradley 12/5/08 11:08 AM Page 35 Rhythm mean that Nas and rappers like him have complete rhythmic autonomy.

Part of the problem is that the writer has stranded each line from the ones that surround it, meaning that the rhythm screeches to halt no fewer than ten times in the tenline verse. Notice the way the sixth line struggles to match the rhythm of the fifth by cramming in too many syllables. Rhythmic difficulties like this lead to forced rhymes (like “responsibility” and “our agency”) or unimaginative ones (like “’quake” and “break”). With no rhythmic development, no flow at all, it bears no more than a surface relation to the rap it emulates.

No matter how conversational an MC’s lyrics may sound, their rhythm makes them poetry. Rap is what results when MCs take the natural rhythms of everyday speech and reshape them to a beat. The drumbeat is rap’s heartbeat; its metronomic regularity gives rap its driving energy and inspires the lyricist’s creativity. “Music only needs a pulse,” the RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan explains. 5 0465003471_bradley 6 12/5/08 11:08 AM Page 6 BOOK OF RHYMES “Even a hum, with a bass and snare—it’ll force a pulse, a beat.

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