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HD: Why Eminem is one of the most impressive lyricists ever
Posted: 19 February 2013 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Let no one say rap isn’t a form of poetry.

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Posted: 19 February 2013 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I like rap.  That having been said, I don’t think it means rap artists are necessarily the best of lyricists because the essence of many good lyrics is that emotions are distilled, in much the same way as great modern artists have encapsulated moments in time in a few masterly brushstrokes.

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Posted: 19 February 2013 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t think they are “necessarily” the best either. There’s bad rap, just like any form of poetry can be bad. The point of the video is that rhyme in rap can be very sophisticated.
(He also makes the point that rhyme in rap has become increasingly sophisticated. I’d need more evidence to completely buy that though. I’ll bet if you go back to the early 80s, you’ll find rappers as sophisticated as Eminem.)

I like the video not so much for the claim about rap having a sophisticated prosody, which I agree with, but that it is a very succinct lesson in how rhyme is used in poetry. I just wish my classroom had wi-fi so I could show it to my students.

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Posted: 19 February 2013 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve thought rap was poetry ever since I first heard and came to appreciate it circa 1981.  I had always pooh-poohed the “rock lyrics are poetry! Bob Dylan is the new Keats!” hyperventilation, but as soon as I heard Grandmaster Flash and LL Cool J and the rest, I knew immediately it was real poetry.  Not necessarily great poetry, obviously, or even good poetry—as with everything else, Sturgeon’s Law applies—but it was poetry in a way normal song lyrics aren’t.  I don’t know if I could intellectually explain that reaction, but there it is.

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Posted: 19 February 2013 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There are a number of free apps and browser add-ons that let you record streaming video so you can play it back later, even if you have no Web connection “later”. I do this whenever I want to use an online video in class, since I don’t trust the campus network to be working (and fast enough for video) when I want to show it.

I use Sothink, an add-on for Firefox, and it works pretty well.  I haven’t made an exhaustive comparison of the alternatives.

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Posted: 19 February 2013 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I first read about The Dozens in Peter Farb’s Word Play: What Happens When People Talk (1973). The first rap I remember was in Blondie’s Rapture in 1980 who were white though clearly they knew more about it than I did on my isolated island. I’m not a fan of rap partly because of the, er, vocal stylings and the repetitive musical backgrounds. And never start a line with a drawled “yeah...” or I turn the radio off.

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Posted: 19 February 2013 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks, Dr. T. I’ll look for some iPad apps that do that. (I generally use that to project slides; it’s much lighter than a laptop.)

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Posted: 19 February 2013 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Elvis Costello will always be my favorite rocker-poet and I always liked a few rap songs here and there, but Eminem hooked me with the line “There’s vomit on his sweater already/Mom’s spaghetti” in Lose Yourself about a nervous kid entering a rap competition.

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Posted: 22 February 2013 09:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I am so glad to see this here. I am forty-something and something like 75% of the music I listen to is rap, and it is not all that common to find people of my age who respect the genre. I’ve kind of held off on posting here actually because I feared that I would desposit a 10000 word piece of rap-evangelism with copious examples of my favourite work.. I was in my teens when Public Enemy first became big and since then things progressed through NWA and the invention of gangsta rap, and the early beginnings of lyrical complexity with Wu Tang Clan and Rakim in the early 1990s, the giants of Tupac and Biggie Smalls, and then genuine consistent hardworkers such as Big L, Eminem and Jay-Z.
Tupac and Biggie had clever flashes but they were also content to put songs on their records that were ordinary, and even their best tracks had stretches of ordinariness.

The best rappers put out tracks that are nothing but polysyllabic rhyme and word play from start to finish. I can’t even imagine how much work albums such as The Eminem Show, Nas’s Illmatic or Jay-Z’s The Blueprint require. I probably could not do it in a lifetime.

On the content: a lot of rap is _about_ rap. Either the experience of being a rapper, outrageous braggadocio on what a good rapper one is, targeted criticism of other rappers, how tough it was when they couldn’t get a gig, how great it is now… this might seem dreary and tiresome but as long as the form is fresh I can put up with the lack of message variety. Sometimes it is like nothing more than a competitive word game. Apart from that, a lot of it is gangsta related or “horrorcore”. Plenty of exceptions of course, there are many rap tracks about relationship issues and politics etc.

Eminem’s own material is divided among diss-tracks, songs about his previous personal problems and his relationship with his family (more recently his recovery from substance abuse and depression), and insane outbursts in character as “Slim Shady”.

Apart from the rich internal rhyme and polysyllabic rhyme, one trick he favours is the so-called “switch pattern” that Rakim was so fond of. “Mom I love you but this trailer’s got to go, I cannot grow old in Salem’s lot.” There are two pairs, an outer pair “Trailer’s got"/"Salem’s lot”, and the inner pair “got to go"/"not grow old”, with one syllable shared between the first elements of the pairs. He’s not averse to ABBA in general, really: “I joke when I say I’m the best/ in the booth/ but a lot of truth/. is said in jest.”

The other typical feature of rap is the use of jocular similes or comparisons based upon homonyms. “I’m harder than me trying to park a Dodge when I’m drunk as fuck, right next to a humungous truck in a two car garage.” Playing on the ambiguity of “hard” (resilient/difficult)

Eminem and Royce da 5’9” reformed Bad Meets Evil in 2011 to put out the Hell: The Sequel EP. It was a great combination, Royce easily matches Em. Welcome 2 Hell is a lovely trace: 1000 words, about two minutes, tricky rhyming and similes from whoa to go, no chorus, utterly unmarketable.

Okay, I’ll stop now…

EDIT:: except to ask how did Royce predict the demise of Kavorkian?  (The song Fast Lane released May 3, 2011, Kavorkian dead June 3, 2011)
My whole goal as a poet’s to be relaxed in orbit
At war with a bottle, as Captain Morgan attacks my organs
My slow flow is euphoric, it’s like I rap endorphins
I made a pact with the Devil that says “I’ll let you take me
You let me take this shovel, dig up the corpse of Jack Kevorkian”
Go ‘back and forth in more beef than you can pack a fork in

Spooky.

EDIT2: Maybe the first line by Eminem that made me take notice of him was the first in a verse in Brain Damage. “Way before ma baby daughter Hailie..” wei bi: fɔ: mə bei bi: dɔ: tə hei li:. How can one not smile?

[ Edited: 22 February 2013 10:11 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 23 February 2013 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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BTW, in that Daniel Kroner expresses doubt that blaow is a real word. It was been used by other rappers as an onomatopoeic representation of an explosion or gunshot. Whether or not this makes it a “real” word, I don’t know.

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Posted: 25 February 2013 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Well, it’s not as if other poets haven’t been doing that. John Betjeman, I suggest, was a master of alliteration, assonance and consonance:

Gaily into Ruislip Gardens
Runs the red electric train
With a thousand ta’s and pardons
Daintily alights Elaine
Hurries down the concrete station
With a frown of concentration,
Out into the outskirt’s edges
Where a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium - rural Middlesex again.

Well-cut Windsmoor flapping lightly,
Jacqmar scarf of mauve and green
Hiding hair which, Friday nightly,
Delicately drowns in Drene;
Fair Elaine the bobby-soxer,
Fresh-complexioned with Innoxa,
Gains the garden – father’s hobby –
Hangs her Windsmoor in the lobby,
Settles down to sandwich supper and the television screen.

Gentle Brent, I used to know you
Wandering Wembley-wards at will,
Now what change your waters show you
In the meadowlands you fill!
Recollect the elm-trees misty
And the footpaths climbing twisty
Under cedar-shaded palings,
Low laburnum-leaned-on railings
Out of Northolt on and upward to the heights of Harrow hill.

Parish of enormous hayfields
Perivale stood all alone,
And from Greenford scent of mayfields
Most enticingly was blown
Over market gardens tidy,
Taverns for the bona fide,
Cockney singers, cockney shooters,
Murray Poshes, Lupin Pooters,
Long in Kensal Green and Highgate silent under soot and stone.

“Middlesex”

("Taverns for the bona fide” is a reference to the old rule that you could have a drink on Sundays outside licensing hours, ie in the afternoon, if you were a ‘bona fide’ traveller, ie, IIRC, you had come more than five miles. There’s a scene in Diary of a Nobody where Charles Pooter goes out walking with his friends, and is refused a drink at the pub because he is honest about how far he has come, unlike his friends, and he hasn’t come far enough to qualify. Kensal Green and Highgate, of course, are North London cemeteries.)

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Posted: 25 February 2013 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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You’re making his point for him.  Eminem and Rakim, like Betjeman and other good poets, are masters of alliteration, assonance and consonance.

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Posted: 25 February 2013 06:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Springsteen is the best of the “rocker poets” out there. (But I’m from the Jersey Shore, so I freely admit to bias.)

But since this thread started I’ve been trying to figure out why, with a few exceptions, that traditional song lyrics make bad, or at best indifferent, poetry. And I’m coming to the conclusion that lyrics are fundamentally different in that they aren’t meant to stand alone. The music carries most of the emotional weight, and it’s the interplay between lyric and music, as opposed to sophisticated prosody, that makes a good song.

Rap, while it does have a significant musical component, is much more verbally and prosodic oriented than other musical genres. A good rapper needs to be a good poet, a good songwriter doesn’t.

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Posted: 26 February 2013 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Rakim now raps about almost nothing except how great he is but I can’t help but listen…

Chicks moan just to get next to my throne
And sniff my cologne and get Ra alone
Sexpots at home, I’m testosterone
Caress spots, stress drops, bedrock’s the bone
Hit the floor, it’s hot for two thousand three
Hits galore, who rock a style as wild as me
Rest assured, when I rock dance crowds’ll scream
Bis-Mi-Allah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim
(From R.A.K.I.M.)

A pharaoh in ghetto apparel, stay blinged up
Fort Knox display, a modern day King Tut
Wrapped tight, rap like I’ve been preserved in time
Spit the holy water, then touch it and turn it to wine
Walk on water? Nah, neither did Jesus
It’s a parable to make followers and readers believers
From Egypt to Budapest, Rakim is the truest left
Understand the Scriptures like the minister Louis F.
(From Holy Are You.)

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Posted: 26 February 2013 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Rap rhythms always remind me of the African rhythms in South African black townships but apparently, rap originated in Jamaica. There’s as yet no evidence that “rap” was used as a musical term then.

In the early 60’s, when Jamaican sound-system operators had only a single turntable, they would employ the services of a slick-talking, rhyme-every-time person on the microphone. These slick talkers (also called chanters) would fill in between records so that the dancers would not wander away from the floor. The chanters quickly realized there was more money to be made talking or chanting on a record than talking between records, so they started recording.

The first rap record was the song ‘’Skaiing West,’’ released in 1963 by a group calling itself Sir Lord Comic and the Cowboys. Other rappers, such as King Stitt the Ugly One, Uroy and Big Youth, to name a few, quickly followed. Rapping has been firmly entrenched in Jamaican music since the early 60’s. Black American musicians have practiced rap only since the early 80’s. LAWFORD BAXTER St. Paul, May 31, 1988

Song lyrics often have to adapt to musical composition instead of the other way round, which may be one reason why they’re not as meaningful as poetry.

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Posted: 26 February 2013 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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This thread has forced to me add rap to the list of things that are enjoyed by people I respect, but that I myself just can’t see the attraction of. Other items on this list include most professional sports and Dr. Who.

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