Rap…or Poetry?

From Niall Gibney, Community Development Assistant

What do you think? Is this rap or is this poetry? I’m a young lad who is much more interested in lyrics and music than I am in 300 year old poems. I’m not in the minority when I say that either. Of course ‘gangster rap’, which is the music of choice for most of our country’s urban youth, is not the best as it glamorises western commercialism, violence, a certain attitude towards women and so on and so forth…Realistically though if the mainstream were to replace the meaningless rap which we have today for a different revolutionary style of rap with positive words over a beat which makes the younger (or older) person still feel ‘cool’ and instead of sitting on the back of the bus with their hood up singing the latest Jay Z and Kanye West song’s with lyrics such as:

 “Tears on the mauseoleum floor, Blood stains the coliseum doors, Lies on the lips of a priest, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast, Rollin’ in the Rolls-Royce Corniche, Only the doctors got this, I’m hidin’ from police, Cocaine seats, All white like I got the whole thing bleached, Drug dealer chic”

they could be listening along to lyrics which make them think about their current situation, and how to change it.

When you’re impressionable like that – I’m thinking of me for example when I was 17 or 18, this music, when mixed in with the street life you live which is so different than most of our mainstream society –and it is YOU who are the underclass that gets villainised on the News and in the Media in general, for what? Because you wear Nike trainers? Because you have short hair? Should we change ourselves in the hope we get accepted by a new section of society while turning our backs on what we know? And at the same time our own family and life-long friends? The fact is the way we are is in our culture the same way tossing a caber is in a Scotch man’s culture – But this particular and very new section of our culture could be turned from a negative one in to a positive one. We don’t need to be given pollution to listen to do we? We need jobs! We need a real chance of getting on the property ladder! We need free University level education! Not nine grand a year – who do I know that can afford that? Even if it is a loan, a loan is debt, and debt is slavery. Why do the people at the top want to flood impressionable minds with things which are ultimately bad for us? Now I’m not saying we’re all perfect, we’re not – a lot of young lads from by mine have been up to no good, I’ve done things which I’m not happy about – But if I had been the exact same person brought up in a different environment would I have been anywhere near as bad in my past? I don’t think so, in fact I know this for a fact.

For me, anyone who tries to reach out to the UK’s forgotten youths in the worst areas of the country in my book is a gem. We at The Reader Organisation are trying to reach out to people through our Apprenticeship Programme and also through going to working class areas such as Fazakerley or Toxteth in Liverpool, or Glasgow in Scotland, and trying to change their attitudes towards words, poems and books. The only difference between us and people like the young man in the above video is that we’re reciting other people’s words out loud and he is rapping his own words out loud – not much difference, what matters is the positivity brought about through the use of words. So, SGB, you carry on with your rapping revolution and we’ll carry on with our Reading Revolution.

8 thoughts on “Rap…or Poetry?”

  1. I actually like this , when you actually listen to what he is saying, instead of just looking at him who at first comes over as aggressive but comes over very differently when he smiles

    The words actually comes over better after you have listened to another time which is like anything . The majority of time in a reading group the poetry tends to be old and first reaction is “WOT YUK or something a bit stronger ! , but after a reread tend to go oh yeah get it this is where a group reading together , is good as we all chip in and get a better understanding, language changes all the time and both younger and older generations should accept that .
    I talk to my eldest niece and sometimes have to inteterpt wot she is trying to say , when I tell her this she rolls her eyes heavenward and tells me she cant understand me cause of my accent ! umm call that a draw !!(that is we r equal not art incase you were wondering !

  2. Great post Niall.

    I think an argument can be made that rap is a form of poetry – producing words designed to be spoken following a certain rhythm. There is bad rap in the same way there is bad poetry. I’d encourage people who don’t listen to rap but like poetry to listen to Saul Williams. And for those who like rap but not poetry I’d encourage you to listen to exactly the same person, as he writes his lyrics as poems and then performs thess as hip hop tracks. The words of ‘Talk to Strangers’ pack a heavy punch and flow stunningly well, with lines such as:

    You’re back where you began
    But come this time around, you’ll have someone to hold your hand

    Who prays for you, who is there for you, who sends you love and light
    Exposes you to parts of you that you once tried to fight
    But come this time around, you’ll choose to walk a different path
    You’ll embrace what you turned away and cry at what you laughed

    ‘Cause that’s the only way we’re going to make it through this storm
    Where ignorance is common sense and senselessness the norm
    And flags wave high above the truth and the two never touch
    And stolen goods are overpriced and freedom costs too much

    There’s a whole host of rappers who have as strong a command of the English language as any poet doing the rounds, I just think Saul Williams, especially in his self-titled album is the best around.

  3. Hi Niall,

    What a passionate and persuasive post! You have a way of putting a post together that makes me want to jump on the nearest passing horse Boudica style and ride into battle.

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