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Hip hop has influenced a generation of poets coming to prominence, poets I call “The Inheritors of Hip Hop.” Signaling how the music serves as a shared experience and inspiration, they mention performers and songs as well as anecdotes from the genre’s development and the artists’ lives, while epigraphs and titles quote songs. The influence of hip hop can be heard in the work of many poets including (but certainly not limited to): Kevin Coval, Erica Dawson, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Matthew Dickman, Major Jackson, Terrance Hayes, Dorothea Lasky, John Murillo, Eugene Ostashevsky, D.A. Powell, Roger Reeves, and Michael Robbins.
In no particular order, here are my five favorite hip hop references in poetry:
(1) Kevin Young, “Expecting”
To capture the experience of first hearing his child’s heartbeat during a sonogram exam, Young develops a wildly inventive simile followed by metaphors borrowed from hip hop:
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further
away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing
hip-hop for the first time–power
hijacked from the lamppost–all promise.
You couldn’t sound better, break-
dancer, my favorite song bumping
from a passing car. You’ve snuck
into the club underage and stayed!
(2) Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “Mappa Mundi”
Describing his hometown of the Bronx, Phillips combines Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon’s verse in “Triumph,” “Aiyyo, that’s amazing gun-in-your-mouth talk,” and Samuel Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” “the redbreast sit and sing”:
Whether red birds sit and sing from rooftops
Or rappers cypher deep into the night,
The gun-in-your-mouth talk of a ransomed
God, nature is a lapse in city life.
(3) Harryette Mullen, “Dim Lady”
Hip hop is nearly everywhere in Mullen’s earlier collection, Muse and Drudge, but my single favorite reference in her work to hip hop appears in “Dim Lady,” collected in Sleeping with the Dictionary. The prose poem rewrites and updates Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. In the place of Shakespeare’s lines,
“I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound,”
“I love to hear her rap, yet I’m aware that Muzak has a hipper beat.”
(The poem’s ending always makes me laugh, “And yet, by gosh, my scrumptious Twinkie has as much sex appeal for me as any lanky model or platinum movie idol who’s hyped beyond belief.”
(4) A. Van Jordan, “R&B”
A subgenre of poems about hip hop criticizes the music. A rare exception to the ignorance such work typically show (see, for instance, Tony Hoagland’s “Rap Music”), “R & B” offers a well-informed, thoughtful critique. “Listen long enough to the radio, and you’ll think / maybe C. Dolores Tucker was right,” the poem opens and an endnote reminds readers of Tucker’s significant contributions to the black civil rights movement.
(5) Michael Cirelli, “Dead Ass”
“I am not afraid of dope lyrics,” Michael Cirelli writes in “Dead Ass.” Several poems in Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard retell moments from hip hop history. To describe teens grooving to the music, “Dead Ass” borrows from Oakland slang, “hyphy,” meaning “crazy” in a good sense, “hyphy / music makes their bodies dip up and down / like oil drills.” (My favorite line in the book, though, describes eighties pop, not hip hop, “We danced incestuously to Michael and Janet that night.”)
(6) Adrien Matejka, “Wheels of Steel”
“I got me two songs instead of eyes,” the poem opens then swaggering quotes five songs in twenty-seven lines.
How you’ve lived saying nothing
save the same words each day
is a kind of freedom or beauty.
Please, tell me I’m not lying to us.
David Caplan is Charles M. Weis Chair in English and Associate Director of Creative Writing at Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the author of Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture. His previous books include Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form and the poetry collection In the World He Created According to His Will.
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Image credit: turntable spinning. Photo by Tengilorg, 2005. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Dirty South hip hop refers to a gritty rap culture first developed in the southern United States during the 1980s and the 1990s. Goodie Mob, an eccentric quartet from Atlanta, Georgia, titled a 1995 single “Dirty South” in order to shed light on myriad societal ills in the former Confederacy, where ethnic prejudice and racism seemed to be perennial sicknesses. Today the term is used to describe not only everyday life in Dixieland, but also an array of risqué artists, lyrics, clothes, and other fashion items that originated there. And even though some might say that dirty South hip hop, as a synthesis of global rap influences and aesthetics, lacks distinction, the emergence of Atlanta and other major Southern cities as recognized headquarters of urban popular culture has compelled many critics and fans to describe the phenomenon as unique. The following playlist, courtesy of Oxford African American Studies Center contributor Bertis English (Alabama State University), provides a wide-ranging selection of the most significant artists working in the genre.
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Hip-Hop and rap are experiencing a strong resurgence of late (don’t call it a comeback!). After years of indie rock and pop ruling the airwaves, young people are looking for a new sound to call their own, branching out into electronic and... Read the rest of this post
TUPAC RISES FROM THE DEAD TO PERFORM WITH DR. DRE AND SNOOP DOG!
Ok, so it was only a hologram of the late (and much missed) rapper, who died almost 16 years ago, but seriously? How cool is that? I miss Tupac. One of the best hip hop artists ever, in my humble opinion. I loved how the image is so realistic.
Wouldn't it be funny if, one day, communication among other things, went to holographic images. Like, instead of Skyping on the computer, we'd Skype with an image...making it feel like the person you're skyping with were really there with you. I wouldn't be surprised at all. It's coming. Mark my words...
English has two great rhyming slanguages, cockney rhyming slang and the dozens, the African American insult game. We’ll leave the parsing of cockney phrases for now and examine the dirty, bawdy, and wonderful world of verbal street duels. While its origins lie in “yo’ mama” jokes, this was language meant for music, as rap and hip-hop today can attest. Here’s a taste with an excerpt from Elijah Wald’s The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama.
Gilda Gray, a Polish dancer and singer known as the “Queen of the Shimmy,” had set Broadway on fire that year with her blues singing, and when she was interviewed by the New York Herald she quoted the chorus of “The Dirty Dozen” as an example of the numbers she was featuring in her show. She explained that it had “a wayward sound” and added a comment that, if accurate, suggests a secondary meaning of the title: “I don’t suppose there’d be room enough to give all twelve verses.”
The Herald reporter described the song’s lyrics as “incomprehensible,” and wrote that “the singer fairly froze an atmosphere of red lights.” Indeed, Gray’s whole performance was limned in terms that accentuated its primitive sensuality. Her songs were “a form of art new to Broadway… for as the carvings of Dahomey and the totem poles of Alaska are art, crude, even repulsive tho it is at times, so the ‘blues’ are a form of art, an expression of the moods of a certain class of individuals.” The New York Sun’s Walter Kingsley similarly typed Gray’s blues as “the little songs of the wayward, the impenitent sinners, of the men and women who have lost their way in the world… the outlaws of society.”
Despite such knowing commentary, neither Gray nor the reporters seem to have been aware that “The Dirty Dozen” was connected with an insult game or referred to anything but a large, poor family. The ﬁrst evidence of our kind of dozens crossing over to Euro-American pop culture is from 1921, when the pianist and composer Chris Smith published “Don’t Slip Me in the Dozen, Please” under the imprimatur of his own Smith & Morgan company. Born in 1879, Smith was touring in African American musical shows by the turn of the century and had a major national hit in 1913 with “Ballin’ the Jack,” a song based on the dance whose “vulgar contortions” the Indianapolis Freeman critic attacked. His dozens song began with a scene-setting verse that included the ﬁrst printed explanation of the title phrase:
Brownie slipped Jonesie in the dozen last night
Jonesie didn’t think it was exactly right
Slipping you in the dozen means to talk about your fam’ly folks
And talkin’ ’bout your parents aren’t jokes.
Jonesie said to Brownie “Really I am surprised
If you were a man you would apologize,
If you refuse to do what I’m telling you to do
I’ll swear out a warrant for you:
It makes no diff’rence who you are
Please don’t talk about my Ma and Pa
Talk about my sister, my brother and my cousin
But please don’t slip me in the dozen.
Talk about my past or my future life
Talk about my ﬁrst or my second wife,
I’m beggin’ ev’ry human on my bended knees
Don’t slip me in the dozen, please.”
By the time this song appeared, Smith had formed a partnership with the singer Henry Troy, another show business veteran who had toured England in 1905, formed an act with the composer and pianist Will Marion Cook in 1907, and in 1909 became a sideman to the most famous African American performer of that era, the musical comedian Bert Williams. It is not clear when Smith and Troy teamed up, but by the late teens they had crossed over to white vaudeville, and an ad from 1923 described them as “perhaps the best known and most popular Colored artists on the Keith circuit today.” Given the earlier mention of dirty dozens routines in black theaters, the explanatory lines in their song were presumably intended for Euro-American fans, and the sheet music was speciﬁcally targeted at that audience, showing a white singer and pianist on its cover. Smith and Troy recorded “Don’t Slip Me in the Dozen” for the Ajax record label in 1923, with Troy reciting the lyric in a mournful style reminiscent of Williams’s comic masterpiece “Nobody.” After the final chorus, he murmured: “I just can’t stand it. It’s my cup. It’s my bucket. It’s my little red wagon,” and the duo went into a skit that briefly illustrated their theme:
TROY : Look-a-here: Didn’t you say last night that my father was stung by horseﬂies?
SMITH : Yes, I said that, yes. What about it?
TROY : Well, I suppose you know what a horseﬂy is, don’t you?
SMITH : Oh, I know what a horseﬂy is.
TROY : What’s a horseﬂy?
SMITH : Why, a horseﬂy ain’t nothing but one of them old dirty ﬂies what hangs ’round the stables and skips over the horses and bites the jackasses.
TROY : Hey, wait a minute! Do you mean to insinuate that my father was a jackass?
SMITH : No, no, no, no! Course I know your old man. Know him good. He’s a blacksmith. But you know, it’s kind of hard to fool them horseﬂies.
We are a long way from Jelly Roll Morton’s Chicago dives, and Smith and Troy’s whitewashed “Dirty Dozen” is typical of the way African American traditions have regularly been reshaped to suit mainstream commercial needs. Within a half dozen years, another “Dirty Dozen” song would make the phrase more popular than ever, but the bowdlerizing had already begun.
For this Ypulse Toolbox, I'm focusing on 10 youth activism sites to give you a broad brush of what's happening in this space. I know there are many, many more amazing youth activism oriented communities, Facebook applications/groups and... Read the rest of this post
I love when I find good poetry that speaks to kids. Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni really is that kind of book. It is a collection of poems and song lyrics including poems by the author Nikki Giovanni a well known poet, writer, activist. It also includes an companion CD. Sometimes it is hard for people to think of anything but "Rap" when they hear the words "Hip Hop." Hip Hop is so much more than that. It has rhythm, soul, and poetry. Not only that, but it is poetry kids relate to today. As I picked a few poems to read aloud to my class, I thought about topics that are close to their hearts right now. I found so much that fit! Poems such as "Why Some People Be Mad At Me Sometimes" by Lucille Clifton, "Books" by Eloise Greenfield, and "For Words" by Bejamin Zephaniah. But best of all was when I could read "From Principal's Office" by Young MC and tell the class that it was a rap song when I was in Junior High. When they didn't believe me, I could whip out the CD that accompanies the book and play the song for them! Oh, they thought that was great! What a better way to interest students in poetry than by showing them that their own favorite artists were originally inspired by poetry. And I guess I just realized this, but Nikki Giovanni grew up in Cincinnati, OH. Just down the road from us! How cool is that?
Poetry and lyrics are presented with brightly colored, vibrant, and sometimes haunting illustrations. Many of the selections are also on the enclosed CD; some with music. Most are read by the person who wrote them.
Giovanni's introduction reads like poetry: "When humans were beginning to develop our own language, separate from the growls and howls, separate from the buzz and the bird songs, we used rhythm: A sound and a silence. With no silence, the sound is cacophonous. With no sound, the silence is a lonely owl flapping her wings against the midnight sun seeking a careless mouse."
The poets in this book, I knew. But the musicians, not so much. I'm just not a music person. My brother-in-law, on the other hand loves music, especially Hip Hop and Rap. When he saw this on my table, he hounded me until I had finished reading it, listening to the CD, and writing this review.
He wanted it. He wanted to use it to help explain Hip Hop to his daughter and son. And just as I went "ooh ahh" over the index of authors who are poets, he nodded with familiarity at Mos Def (who I knew only as an actor) and Common.
In showing the historical and literary origins of Hip Hop, Giovanni has created a sure fire hit for both music lovers and poetry lovers.
So what is Hip Hop? I came away with more knowledge than I had from a brief listen on the radio or seeing musicians at award shows. It is "bold, boastful and brave." I loved the poems; the illustrations; but most of all, I loved the combination with the audio CD, as the words came alive. I have to confess -- the brother-in-law had to wait an extra couple of weeks for the book, because I was listening to the CD over and over during my commute. I opened my iTunes to download some songs, and will be borrowing some of my brother-in-law's CDs.
I liked the inclusion of both well-known poems (Gwendolyn Brooks' We Real Cool) and ones that are less familiar (Langston Hughes' Harlem Night Song:Come/Let us roam the night together/Singing/I love you).
Giovanni's own work is included, with my current favorite:
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad.
This is a must-own, both in libraries and for personal collections of poetry lovers and music lovers. The holidays are coming up; this would make a perfect gift.
Fun bonus feature:
Video clip, by publisher. Nikki Giovanni speaks about the book:
Today's post comes from Gynae Davalos who kicks off our official coverage of the urban youth media and marketing space with a round-up of go to sites for youth marketers looking to keep tabs on hip-hop culture and multicultural youth today. Expect... Read the rest of this post
The tagline of Hip Hop Speaks to Childrendescribes the book perfectly - A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat. Edited by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by a team of five illustrators, this treasury is a feast of color and sound.
An audio CD is enclosed that features a range of poets reading their work from Langston Hughes to Queen Latifah. There are so many excellent poems, it is hard to choose a favorite. Often when you read poetry, you wonder if you are reading exactly what the poet intended. One of my favorites, "Books" by Eloise Greenfield is read by the author in the exact way I imagined it would be.
I've got books on the bunk bed books on the chair books on the couch And every old where But I want more books just can't get enough want more books about All kinds of stuff, like
Jackie's troubles. Raymond's joys Rabbits, kangaroos, Girls and Boys Mountains, valleys, Winter, spring Camp fires, vampires
Every old thing I want to Lie down on my bunk bed!
Lean back in my chair Curl up on the couch And every old where And read more books!
The book and CD culminate in Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech which we've heard much of recently during Barack Obama's election. It had been awhile since I'd heard the speech almost in its entirety. It gave me shivers. It was followed by a wonderful performance piece by Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana and Val Gray Ward based on the same speech.
This is a book that deserves to be pulled off the shelf again and again. The layers of meaning to these poems will unfold as a child grows older and more sophisticated. The book and CD together make a wonderful resource for home, school or library. It is truly one of the best books I've read this year.
iPods. I love music...alot. I listen to anything that makes me move - from Hip Hop to Pop, Gospel to Latin...if the beat is tight, I'm listening. I'm hardly ever in the mood to listen to just one type of music. My iPod playlist reflects that. I'm all about what makes my wanna dance (which is something I love doing). When I listen to my iPod, I usually put it on shuffle and let it play. Like now, I'm listening to 'I'm Gonna Live Til I Die' by Queen Latifah, which has a kind of Broadway feel to it. The next 4 songs are, 'I'd Like To' by Corinne Bailey Rae, 'What About Now' by Daughtry, 'Eres Para Mi' by Julieta Venegas, and 'Right Round' by Flo Rida. See what I'm talking about? Variety...that's what it's all about.
I have the 8GB Nano, which can hold up to 2000 songs. I'm in absolute musical heaven. Has anyone even reached 2000? I know it's possible, but sheesh. 2000 songs! 714. That's how many songs I have and the number is growing. I mean, as long as artists keep coming out with music, I'll have songs to download on my iPod.
Fitness Friday. I didn't lose another pound, but I'm okay with it. I still have one more week to reach my monthly goal...and even if I don't make it, I'll be happy.
Rappers' Bling. Within the last year or so, I've noticed rappers wearing less blingage. I haven't been blinded by the amount of sparkling jewelry worn on necks, fingers, or teeth (which, IMHO, is very ew worthy). Glad to know I'm not the only one who've noticed. Saw an article on the 'Net and found that rappers are indeed toning down the bling wattage. I am so glad. To me, it's not about the bling, but about the swagger (urbandictionary.com definition: to move with confidence and sophistication...to be cool; to conduct your self in a way that would automatically earn respect). Jay Z's got it. TI's got it. Luda's got it. These men don't need an absurd amount of bling for people to know they got money. Even dressed down, Jay Z is always impeccably dressed (if you don't know by now, Jay Z's my all-time fave Hip Hop artist...the absolute best).
Dancing With The Stars. One of my fave shows. Steve-O's got a lot of fans because he shouldn't been gone before this week. Who do I think will win? That's a hard one. Gilles Marini, Shawn Johnson, Melissa Rycroft, and Lil Kim have been doing well. This week, Lil Kim's dance was awesome. Not sure just yet who I'd want to win...I'm thinking maybe either Shawn Johnson or Lil Kim (but that may change). Guess I'll have to stay tuned.
El RostrodeAnalia. I am not a big fan of soap operas...not at all. The only soap I watched repeatedly was The Young and The Restless...and that was ONLY because Shemar Moore was on there. Other than that, I watched soaps every once in a while. So, it's quite funny to me that my new 'must see' show is a soap. Actually, it's a telenovela, a Spanish soap opera, called El RostrodeAnalia. Now, granted, I only started watching it because of Pedro Moreno, who plays Cristoban (very yummy), but I am officially addicted to it. Like, I can't miss it. It comes on every weekday at 8, which is why I'm late posting this - couldn't miss my show. The time slot presents a problem on Mondays (Heroes), Wednesdays (Criminal Minds), and Thursdays (CSI), but I just flip back and forth. The best thing is, it's helping me with my Spanish. I learn more every time I watch it. I can actually understand what they're saying! Next stop, being able to respond, which will come in handy should I ever meet Pedro Moreno in person, heehee. This is Pedro Moreno:
As many of you may know, Hip, Hop, Catherine Hnatov's hit board book, has been getting rave reviews. Writes Pamela Kramer of Examiner.com, "It's simple and yet elegant. It's eye catching and...just feels right." Says librarian Paula Phillips, "it is the perfect book to read to your baby and toddler." Crowding the Book Truck writes "It's never to early to be reading with children, and this looks like another great board book that will help children learn words, sounds, and letters." Hip, Hop was recently named as one of the Best Books for Babies in 2011 by the Fred Rogers Company. And the good news keeps piling in! Be sure to get your copy today. For more about Hip, Hop, please visit our website to get a sneak peek inside. Hip, Hop is available in English, Portuguese/English, and Spanish/English.
Okay, I'll be the first to admit that the sagging pants trend is not cute...at least to me it isn't. What's so "hot" about a male walking in public with his underwear showing?
Boxers, tighty whities, drawers - whatever you call it - were meant to be worn under the clothes...invisible to the public. Clearly, that's why they're called underwear. Sagging pants don't work for the infamous (and steroetypical) plumber, and it doesn't work for anyone else - regardless of race and gender. Especially since it originated in the prisons...sagging pants was a way to show homosexuality.
Now, with that being said, I will also admit that I'm against the anti-sagging laws. Cities all across the country are working to make this trend against the law. What? I agree it's sloppy and sometimes disrespectful (I mean, come on, you're in a public place with your pants around your knees), but, against the law? The fines, I get - I seriously do not like the sagging pants trend - but did you know in some cities, offenders could get up to 6 months in jail? 6 months in jail?!?! It really isn't that serious.
In my opinion, if these law makers are going to dictate what we wear (and, that is kind of what they're doing), then don't just target one group of people. What about the women who wear skirts and dresses so short that their underwear shows? Or the celebs who wear revealing dresses? Or, how about people who wear clothes so tight, you can see the outline of their private area? Ooh, I have an idea, why don't we make it against the law to wear all black (unless at a funeral) because it's downright depressing for others to look at (hope you didn't miss my sarcasm here).
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Ypulse is actively seeking a new part-time blogger/entrepreneur to help us develop an “urban” channel and possibly an urban Ypulse Mashup event. We are talking to a few qualified folks we know, but I wanted to open up our search by... Read the rest of this post