Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Has Rap replaced Poetry? - a debate presented by Kacper Kazaniecki (Upper Sixth Former)

If I were to ask you who’s the current Poet laureate, the people’s poet, I don’t presume many of you would know. I for certain didn’t until pretty much yesterday. However, if I were to ask you who won the latest Grammy award for the best hip-hop album, I presume many more would know. 

The MP Emma Dent Coad has pointed this out in the houses of parliament after the Grenfell Tower disaster. She says:
“At times of national disaster, poet laureates are often called upon to commemorate and reflect upon events. In North Kensington we have our own Ben Johnsons and Alfred Lord Tennysons. 
Our poet laureates are Akala, AJ Tracey, Lowkey, Peaky .. we have Stormzy and Potent Whisper calling out what he calls “Grenfell Britain” in gut-wrenching prose."

Although the two art forms share the same fundamental medium that of rhyme and rhythm, there is a great discrepancy between how the two are perceived within society. If you were to take the average GCSE student, chances are that they wouldn’t have the greatest opinion on poetry. ‘It’s boring’, ‘the language is too confusing, ‘I can’t relate to it’ they might say, views that they wouldn’t necessarily hold of rap music. So, has rap music replaced poetry for (at least) our generation? Or is poetry the eternal art of humanity that is here to stay for millennia to come as it has done in the past. Does one deal with the depths of the human condition, that of: love, eternal truths, and our relation to the world. And does the other cover the superficial and primitive aspects of humanity that of: greed, intoxication and sexual obsession. Or maybe the two aren’t entirely antithetical, as many parallels and influences can be drawn between them.
Before we delve deeper into the analysis of both, here are some sentences either from Shakespeare or from ­popular hip-hop.  Guess which one the line comes from.

“To destroy the beauty from which one came” – Jay z, You Must Love Me
“Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit” – Eminem, Renegade
o Later in the song Eminem says: “See, I'm a poet to some, a regular modern-day Shakespeare”
“Men would rather use their broken records than their bare hands” – Orthello
“I was not born under a rhyming planet” - Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing
“The most benevolent king communicates through your dreams” - Wu-Tang Clan, Impossible
“Socrates, philosophy and hypotheses can’t define me” – Wu-Tang Clan, Triumph

The reason to play this mini-game, isn’t to cherry pick some obscure, unknown tracks just to be able to say ‘look, hip-hop has clever lines as well’. But more so to show that the boundary between the two, once the context has been removed, can be very blurred. The hip-hop bars were chosen from very well-known artists who are or were at the forefront of hip hop. Wu-Tang-Clan for example, had the first hip hop album to reach no.1 in the UK charts. Perhaps the appeal that the British audience found in the album was the resemblance to the more traditional aspect of English literature.

To read the full essay and other latest writings from Canford pupils, please visit www.canford.com/Academic-Blog

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