How Rap Evolved From Poetry
" Damn, that ain't music. It's just fast talking"
- Sharon, My Mom
As far back as I can remember I always was interested in creation. Imagination. Words and describing my environment. I had a sublime connection to expression. In the Arts & Entertainment Macroverse, there is always a connection to another artform that is familiar enough to create genres & sub genres. When talking about the origins of Hip Hop and it's sub genre- Rap... it's only a collection of the various rhyming styles of POETRY. It has been this way before hip hop and before it was even put to music. You can RAP even WITHOUT the presence of MUSIC. In a way, it was a “Poor Man's Poetry.” You didn’t have to know all of the techniques and styles of poetry like similes, metaphors, alliteration, or iambic pentameter to rap. All you had to do was be able to make a rhyme. Even if it is only a simple rhyme or the same kind of rhyme repeated over and over, it was good enough to be considered rap. Over time, more intricate types of rhyming styles were acquired by rappers as it progressed as a new trend.
Rappers then added more & more rhymes in their raps or giving their raps a higher concentration of rhymes leaving fewer words which didn’t rhyme with anything in their works. Now, rappers often have large “rhyming arsenals”. It has gotten to the point now where people who rap like they did in the old days, are considered rappers with less artistic skill than others who may have more rhyming styles in their arsenals. Rap is really an art of expression made up of all of the “rhyming styles of poetry,” and is set apart from poetry because of this. Its only distinguishing rule is to rhyme, hence, a “poor Man’s Poetry.” More specifically, if you want to be a skilled rapper, “rhyme like crazy” or rhyme excessively to achieve a certain type of flow. The emphasis on artistic skill was switched from all of those old elements of poetry to mainly rhyming skill. Before it was a form of art, “rap” was just a slang word that meant to talk and thus people’s random blurts of poetry, which are now known as freestyles or spontaneous poetic expression “off of the top of one's head”, as it is said, was coined rap.
Consequently, when put to music, you were talking as opposed to singing. But, long before hip hop, and even before music, it started with paper and pen or plain recitation - poetry. It was, and still remains, poetry, but a “Poor Man’s Poetry” with a modern day name (rap) because it’s mostly defined by the ability, versatility and excess of the rhymes regardless of whether or not you add in any of the other styles of poetry to it. Other styles include similes, metaphors, alliteration, conflict etc. to further enhance your rap. But rap has evolved over the years since it all began, which sets it apart from its earlier beginnings. Most rappers in the beginning actually wrote poetry style rhymes. When I looked at most of the early rappers, weather they were the ones considered the best in the game or the worst, wrote rhymes that were spread apart by many words that didn’t rhyme with anything. Thus, closely resembling poetry’s approach to rhyming which indiscriminately leaves many non-rhyming words in a composition. Their level of artistic skill was not yet so clearly defined by how tightly their rhymes were put together as well as versatility with the rhyming styles or size of their rhyming arsenals. Nowadays, the level of a rapper’s “artistic skill” is based mainly on his or her ability to rhyme almost every word that comes out their mouth (with the addition of their versatility in rhyming styles). In other words, leaving few or no words that do not rhyme with something and versatility with all of the styles of rhyming.
And it’s only been up until recently where people have been making this distinction between skilled and unskilled rappers or the distinction between rap and poetry. And the difference between rap and poetry is so blatant. It’s this display of versatility with the rhyming styles while at the same time rhyming almost every word which makes rap stand out in detail of what it’s always been known for; the rhyme. In addition, this distinction has come about gradually over the many years since it all started as an outlet for those living in the inner cities. There are rappers now who, like those in the old days, are only expressing poetry, as far as this rhyme distinction is concerned, under the name or TREND of rap. Yet, it is really only poetry that these new-aged rappers are doing because, like poetry, they either have small rhyming arsenals or are leaving in many non-rhyming words or a combination of the two. If you examine any of the old school rappers, you will see that there was usually no difference between what they did and poetry. It passed for something brand new under the name of a fast growing trend. The word rap often covers up a rappers lack of skills (in regards to the rhyming distinction that I made earlier) from people on the outside of the craft and/or who don’t really understand the craft in depth. To the average person and many rap fans, a rhyme is just a rhyme. To them, there is absolutely no difference between a person who makes almost all of the words rhyme and is able to change his/her rhyming styles and patterns up through many different styles and the person who only does one or two rhyme patterns over and over again and then says many words which don’t rhyme with anything at all.
All that MOST rap fans and average people hear is a rhyme. To them, the person with the hit record is the most “skilled” rapper and thus the best. Like in the old days, this assessment that they make is based off of everything except rhyming skills. Furthermore, “flow” (which is basically the ice name on the wrong structure) cannot be achieved without these two things that distinguish rap from poetry or the skilled rapper from the fan’s rapper. By name or trend, there are a lot of people who can rap but cannot FLOW. This is because they don’t have these two abilities, which are the basis of flow. Without them, regardless of what anyone may call it, it is actually just poetry (in regards to the rhyme structure) which the industry, trend, or the unaware fan has labeled rap because the artist was either “from the hood”, speaks slang or some other reason that has absolutely nothing to do with actual rhyming skills. The tectonic plates that is rap music have been shifting for the past decade I would contend. Authenticity is lackluster, the genre is married to the capitalistic nature. Genuine, real artist's are shunted to the junior league. Plastic, mediocre artist's are the go to. They are submissive, easily, to the record company and their contract.
It's clearly showing itself with the landscape of "rappers" today. Those plates will collide and be wiped off the map if fresh air isn't put back into Rap. The collateral damage would be-- the origin. Poetry.
Like I said... Its more than just "all that fast talking"