Poetry is perhaps one of the oldest forms of literature, created long before the invention of writing itself and it continues to be extremely popular and appreciated today. It is a written art as well as a spoken one, and conveys so much meaning and affection with each piece. Rap, on the other hand, is a music genre that has a shorter history, with the earliest rappers hailing from the late 80s when there was a true music revolution all around the globe. Despite these differences, it could be said that poetry and rap are brother and sister.
The particularity of rap in comparison with other music genres is that all the lyrics have a poetic quality. Unlike pop and rock music where the meaning of the lyrics is pretty straightforward, rap has many under-layers and hidden meanings. Listening to a rap song requires some attention in order to fully understand what the artist is expressing. Both rap and poetry use alliteration and assonance to create an impact on the reader or the listener, but the way they use them is quite different.
One of the main differences between poetry and rap is the beat itself. Poetry leaves a lot of space for personal interpretation in terms of reading out loud and understanding the pace, while rap songs are quite strict about this. In addition, rap needs a musical background, thus listening to a rap song without the beat and the background instruments would diminish its effect. Poetry on the other hand can be left to the subjectivity of the reader in terms of pace and rhythm.
Another difference between these two is the vocabulary. Rap is notorious for introducing new words and terms while poetry can be considered a bit more conservative. Rappers like to play with the meanings of words and they often mix words together or make up new ones. For example, a line in a rap song is referred to as a “bar” while poetry uses more conventional expressions. Poetry makes use of older variations of a word or switches the meanings for a better effect, but there are very few poems in which a language is reinvented.
Are Rappers Poets?
If you ask rappers what they think, the answer is very simple: most of them really consider themselves poets and surely this is not far from the truth. The talent and skill required to compose a good rap song is comparable with the talent of a very skilled writer, with the addition of some musical skill. The bars found in rap songs are very complex and this is why many fans consider rap an alternative form of poetry. In terms of themes approached we have to remember that both of them are areas of art and that the artist has full freedom. Many believe that rap is all about money, drugs or shady businesses but this is a simplistic view. Just like poetry, rap addresses a wide range of subjects and this is why we can consider the two of them close relatives.