^
Keep Westword Free
4

On rap and poetry: An essay plus Venn diagram

Poetry is the structural rhetoric used to evoke emotional qualities. Rap is, at the etymological root, the chanting of rhymed lyrics in time to a beat. The literary facet of poetry has been around for ages, long before the stories were translated into reading interpretations, while rap was used in many ancient forms of ritual and storytelling. In general terms, both are designed to move the listener or reader to a particular feeling.

Some of the most famed poets of our time, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and others perfected the notions of rhyme, assonance, repetition and verse through well thought out examples of experience. Detailing the revolution of society, they were the witnesses to life's changes in the most beautiful and, sometimes, haunting of terms. Langston Hughes' "Life Ain't No Crystal Stair" is the proverbial foundation for what would later become rap songs like "The Message."

A few of the most eccentric and famed rappers of our time, Raekwon, Ice-T and Eminem represent the onomatopoeia and fast-spoken thoughts that have framed the evolution of rap over time. While many poems can be turned into a rap song, you'd be hard pressed to find Maya Angelou spitting the lyrics to "Cop Killer" a capella at some high society function, which speaks to the sociological separation between rappers and poets.

Artists that overlap this concept, both in theatrics and talent include, folks like the Old Dirty Bastard, who lived the qualifying poetic lifestyle of tragedy and comedy, while others like Mos Def use every breath as a public display of affection for the spoken word. Some could argue that Jay-Z, with his vocal dips, whips, and turns would creatively fare just as well in iambic pentameter as Shakespeare, or some other antiquated wordsmith.

To illustrate this point further, we've created a Venn Diagram showcasing the distinctions in rappers, the poets, and those who blur the lines faster than make-up on Britney Spears. Feel free to use the comments sections as your own poetic paradigm.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.