Art with No Easel: Jay-Z on poetry

24 Aug

We love Jay-Z’s Decoded. You should have your own copy.

In the Negative Space section of the book, this riff on the connections between poetry making and song making:

“Since rap is poetry, and a good MC is a good poet, you can’t just half-listen to a song once and think you’ve got it. Here’s what I mean: A poet’s mission is to make words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level. For instance, a poet makes words work sonically — as sounds, as music. Hip-hop tracks have traditionally been heavy on the beats, light on melody, but some MCs — Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony, for example — find ways to work melodies into the rapping. Other MCs — thing about Run from Run-DMC — turn words into percussion: cool chief rocka, I don’t drink vodka, but keep a bag of cheeba inside my locka. The words themselves don’t mean much, but he snaps those clipped syllables out like drumbeats, bap bap bapbap. It’s as exciting as watching a middle weight throw a perfect combination. If you listened to that joint and came away thinking it was a simple rhyme about holding weed in a gym locker, you’d be reading it wrong: The point of those bars is to bang out a rhythmic idea, not to impress you with the literal meaning of the words.”

 

 

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