The Ultimate Rap Battle: Is Rap Considered Poetry? By: Lily Crager/ December, 2017/ Source: Motivation Via People

A silhouette stands in a striking pose on a floating platform that is blurred by a frenzy of stage effects. A steady rhythm makes the whole venue bounce. Flashing Lights. As the stage effects fade the silhouette is more recognizable. Kanye West in baggy clothes holding a hot mic starts to spit out his verse.

Next to a burning fire place a man sits crossed-legged, concentrated. His pencil breaks under the pressure of his rapid writing. A notebook full of lines, some smudged, others written in script. The environment is welcoming, the man is surrounded by the warmth of writing. His face can be recognized over the glow of the fire. Walt Whitman in sharp glasses stares thoughtfully at his paper formulating the right words for his verse. The ultimate rap battle: Kanye vs. Whitman, Rap vs. Poetry. Kanye and Whitman come from two distinct places. One amongst the loud shouts of a crowded theatre the other in a quiet space of his own. Despite these notable differences, the core of their art is the same. Creative expression can be seen in many ways. Poetry, rap, painting, picture, dance or digitally. The binding element that weaves the vast spectrum of art together is original idea, it all starts in the mind. What format that idea takes may change from rapper to poet, from painter to photographer, from dancer to designer, but at the heart of all art is the creative mind. The minds of rappers and poets are especially interesting to examine. The two have completely varying stereotypes. A hard-core, swagged-out gangsta doesn’t exactly align with the stereotype of an aspiring writer, who is usually seen as sensitive and dorky. But what the stereotypes don’t show are the common threads of creativity that cross-over between these two seemingly polar opposite groups. “Rap is poetry. It’s thought-provoking; there’s thought behind it,” he said. “There’s great writing in rap as well,” said famous rapper Jay-Z in an article about his recently released album. Jay-Z is speaking to the creative mind that is expressed in both rap and poetry. The thought behind lyrics is what makes words matter. This goes for lyrics of rap and of poetry. No matter if their is music behind it or if they are placed on a paper, no matter who is speaking them or how they are said. Poetry and rap both have “thought behind it”, they both stem for the same source: the mind.
But why then are rap and poetry seen in two different lights? And should people see them as two separate categories? The answer has to do with the modernization of many traditional practices. Written poetry has seen a dramatic decrease because societies focus has shifted. Writing poetry used to make someone a worthy scholar, someone who commands respect. Now, one can education is more accessible and being seen as a scholar isn’t enough to command respect. Instead, our society attaches monetary values to positions, and written expression is no exception to this. Poetry doesn’t pay well, but rap sure does, hence the decrease of poetry and increase of rap. In Dana Gioia’s essay “Disappearing Ink”, she assess this dynamic. Gioia argues that poetry and rap are traditionally seen as different things, but are actually just the renovation of the old and the emergence of the new. According to her, rap is the “new oral poetry”. “While the revival of form and narrative among young literary poets could be dismissed by critical tastemakers as benighted antiquarianism, and intellectual pretension,” Gioia said, “its universal adoption as prosody-of-choice by disenfranchised urban blacks is impossible to dismiss in such simplistic ideological terms” One can’t just dismiss the notion rap is modern poetry based on the traditional label of what poetry is believed to be. Instead, it is important to recognize rap as a form of poetry. To put it in modern terms, rap is to poetry as Shakespeare’s plays are to Netflix. The modernized version of a traditional art. And although the comparison may anger some literary enthusiasts, the connection is valid when one examines the creative process and product that result in both forms of expression. “ I really wanted to lay this [Jay-Z’s rap album] out in a clear and concise way that people could look at it and say, OK, if there’s thought and there’s intelligence and there’s reason and logic behind it, then maybe you have to deal with everything like that,” said Jay-Z of his rap album. Maybe you have to deal with it like poetry.
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