The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Question of the Day: Lyrics vs Poems

As someone who is very interested in Hip-Hop culture, and lyricism, I knew that when I started this project I would have to ask today’s question. I was able to receive quite a bit of feedback and response from emcees and lyricists of whom I have the utmost respect: Sage Francis, Saul Williams, Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane, Aesop Rock, Lord Jamar, and several others. It’s an ongoing battle to decide whether or not rap lyrics, or any lyrics for that matter, are poems. Pigeon John, another lyricist whom I respect, even went as far as to say that 2chainz is akin to Bob Dylan. There has to be a line somewhere, but where is it, and when do we know?

I believe that lyrics definitely have their place in the world of poetry, but I’m not ready to call 2chainz, or YG, or Drake the new Blake, Whitman, or Plath. They may be honest voices of a newer generation, but that does not make them poets. There are those who i feel deserve the poet title, such as a 2pac, Biggie, KRS-One, Common, Kweli, and even Jay-Z, Kanye, and 50 Cent. But, that being said, you have to be fairly selective about which if their songs would make the poetry cut. Kanye’s “Workout Plan” wouldn’t, but his “Bittersweet” would definitely be in consideration.

So, I bring you today’s question:

Are rap lyrics to be considered poetry? Why? Why not? And if so, who would you consider to be among the poets of hip-hop?

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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This entry was posted on April 26, 2013 by in Question of the Day and tagged , , , , , , .

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