Monday, February 22, 2010

Poets vs MCs

I'm often asked, what's the difference between a spoken word poet and a rapper? Or, to put it differently, why did you choose to be a rapper instead of a spoken word poet? Well, in January I had a chance to compete in an amazing event in Brighton called "Poets vs MCs" in which the hip-hop community and the spoken word community come out to represent their respective camps and talk some (good-humoured) trash about one another, so I took that opportunity to write a new rap/poem spelling out the difference as I see it. Brighton has an amazingly cohesive hip-hop scene and a parallel but equally cohesive spoken word scene and I don't know another city that could pull of an event like this with so much firepower yet also with such a good rapport on all sides year after year (it was the seventh annual!).

I was representing for the MCs, needless to say, and I got to spark things off in round one, but if you follow the youtube link you can watch the whole thing, round by round, and I have also posted the lyrics of my piece below. This one is dedicated to Shane Koyczan, who got more exposure for spoken word than any poet ever has before when he performed in the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics with more than 3 billion people watching on television worldwide. Long live rap and poetry both, and viva la difference!

Click here to watch the video on youtube.

Poets vs MCs

Rappers are so obnoxious! Even the most incompetent

And most impoverished of us pose like we pimp hoes for profits

It’s simply implicit when we grip our own crotches

So excuse me for exposing the obvious

But poets are fascinated with self-flagellation

With exaggerated emotions and vocal masturbation

With layer after layer of phony fashion statements

Folded into their words – the proper verb is “invagination”

“In•vag•in•a•tion: the folding of a membrane or surface

In on itself to create a pocket or pouch”

But rappers are obsessed with form and function

With the intricate syllable structures of words

And the juxtapositions amongst them

For rappers, rhyme patterns are like sign-language instructions

Like computer hackers programming the crowd to have eruptions

But for poets that’s disgusting, pathetic approval-seeking

Poetry is supposed to be about truth speaking

About exposing your soul and letting go of control like the beats did

At the Nuyorican; it’s not about the response you’re receiving

But for rappers that’s exactly what it’s about

If you’re not in it to win it then get the fuck out

And if the shit that you’ve written isn’t sufficient to uplift the crowd

Then go recite the shit to yourself

But wait, isn’t that just the same old artistic debate

Over whether our creations come from a strange mystical place

That gives them an intrinsic weight that we can separate

From any attempt to measure them in a functionalist way?

Poets indulge in rank mysticism
Rappers recognize the direct connection

Between effort and discipline and getting recognition

Poets want to be exorcists instead of physicians

That’s the essential difference between rappers and poets

We’re all entertainers, but MCs just happen to know it

But, didn't I just re-define a “poet” as an “uncharismatic showman”?

Yes, so now it’s time for a diplomatic moment

When it comes down to battles and gets pushy

I can generalize, like: “rappers are arrogant rookies

They act like dicks, and poets are all just big pussies”

But up close, this definition isn’t so good looking

I mean, how can I speak with so much certainty

When my whole analysis is stolen from Team America World Police?

And why am I so determined to give the third degree

To my brethren who get their bread like me, from the words they speak

Here’s the reason we need poets and rappers to be contrasted

We need to understand our differences if we want to combat them

So here’s a definite to help with your thought patterns:

All rappers are poets, but all poets are not rappers

Rap is a sub-category, a sub-class of poetry

We both have talents with metaphors and allegory

But when it comes to rhyme and rhythm, rappers simply have authority

And as for hip-hop culture?
Well, that’s another story
Life is bigger than hip-hop, and hip-hop is bigger than rap

And rap is bigger than poetry, if you measure it by its impact

But if rap is a
limb of poetry, then poetry’s bigger than that
So pick a branch and swing from it, as long as you get ‘em to clap

But if you can’t get applause in spite of your metaphors

Or if it’s lukewarm instead of uproarious because you hit writer’s block

Or creative menopause, then just get off the stage

In this regard, poetry and hip-hop’s the same

Ninety nine percent of all contenders get washed away

So whether you claim gangster or you’re in the conscious vein

There’s a direct line of descent from Dr. Faustus to Dr. Dre

And there was a time when poets made history, but it’s not today

No comments: