Hip-Hop's Bards

Kerri Shadid reviews In The Heart of the Beat: The Poetry of Rap by Alexs Pate and takes issue with Pate’s assertion that rap is “the most vibrant element in the landscape of African American literature.”

[T]hese lines of the “poem” “For Women” by Talib Kweli do have a lyrical, and stirring, quality: “She swears the next baby she’ll have will breathe a free breath/and get milk from a free breast,/And love being alive,/otherwise they’ll have to give up being themselves to survive.”

But most of Pate’s best examples come from a bygone era of 1990s rap, which was more socially conscious than the Top 40 hip hop of today. It seems to me hard to deny the artistry and creativity present in an early innovator of hip hop such as Kweli, but where is the poetry in lines such as “Watch me Crank Dat Soulja Boy/Then Super Man Dat Hoe?” To me, the failure to address the vapidness of modern hip hop/rap is a scholarly oversight, and the fact that it is impossible to analyze modern mainstream “artists” seems a failure of the hip hop genre.

(Hat tip: Harriet)