Friday, January 28th, 2011
‘Rap is the poetry of hip hop’ according to a new anthology that analyses its lyrics using the conventions of literary analysis. Chuck D from Public Enemy says it’s a landmark text as it provides the tools to make meaning of those lyrics in relation to one another, to think about rap both in terms of particular rhymes, but also in terms of an art form, a people and a movement.
The editors are at pains to stress it’s not a collection of rap’s greatest hits. It’s an exploration of lyrical virtuosity from rap’s early days coming out of South Bronx in the 1970s to its gangsta period of bling and booty to the phenomenal rise of Jay-Z as an international celebrity.
The idea to put an anthology together came about through the editors’ love of basketball and poetry. Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois would play basketball after poetry classes with Helen Vendler (who’s been on the Book Show a couple of times here and here). During basketball they would share their love of rap and they decided to apply what they’d learnt about poetry to what they knew about the lyrics of rap and The Anthology of Rap is the result, 10 years later. Both have since also incorporated rap into teaching their own poetry classes.
And whose ‘rap as poetry’ do the editors return to? Jay Z’s music is an exponent of what Adam Bradley regards as lyrical excellence. Andrew DuBois’s favourite lyrics are from Milli Pulled a Pistol on Santa, by De La Soul.
The editors join Ramona on the Book Show this Wednesday 2 February 2011.