Analysis Of Rhymes : The Poetics Of Hip Hop

Decent Essays
Analysis – Book of Rhymes “Rap is poetry” (xii). To any avid fan of the genre, it is a statement that seems obvious. The words could easily be the musings of a listener first introduced to the art form, not the focal point of an entire work of contemporary criticism. Yet in Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, Adam Bradley’s primary focus is this very point, the recognition of traditional poetic elements within rap music. With the global cultural and economic phenomenon that hip hop has become, it is easy to forget that the style of music is barely thirty years old, that scholarly criticism of it has existed for only half of that time. When viewed within this relatively new arena of scholarship, the importance of Bradley’s text is…show more content…
His analysis of the opening bars to Immortal Technique’s “Industrial Revolution” does a fantastic job of showing the detail and meticulous referential material present in a pristine verse, while noting the immense amount of cultural knowledge required to appreciate such a creation at its fullest. As thorough and rewarding as Bradley’s close reading can be, it is this sole focus that becomes problematic in Book of Rhymes. He stays on the surface, privileging the discussion of linguistic elements over cultural impact. He begins his wordplay chapter with an anecdote about a friend who disapproves of the misogynistic and violent elements of the Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics, a qualm addressed by Bradley in a customary manner: “It’s not what he’s saying, it’s how he’s saying it” (86). Bradley is partially correct; how he’s saying it is the aesthetically appealing aspect of hip hop, the reason millions of people around the world enjoy the music. But what he’s saying is the more compelling aspect. The environment that produced the attitudes reflected in hip hop, the source of Biggie’s misogyny and violent imagery, must be given its proper treatment in order to understand rap music on deeper levels than the beauty and complexity of its poetic structures. This surface treatment becomes more apparent in the second part of the text. The chapter on style largely avoids the problem, aside from a somewhat rushed explanation on the effect
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