Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop

An excerpt from Adam Bradley's, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop

From the author: In my new book, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, I explore the ways that MCs have transformed the poetic tradition, extending the legacy of William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks. I argue that over the last four decades rap has helped bring about a renaissance of the word, returning rhythm, rhyme and wordplay to our daily lives. What follows is an excerpt from the book in which I describe how I uncovered an important truth about rap’s poetry in an unexpected place: a nearly abandoned beach in Brazil.

Rhythm is rap’s reason for being. I realized this several years ago in an unlikely place, a beach in a small seaside town outside of Rio de Janeiro. Unable to speak Portuguese, I had been making do by resorting to the traveler’s Esperanto of smiles and hand gestures, but I hungered for familiar words. One afternoon as I walked along the beach, I contented myself by idly reciting rap verses that came to mind. I was in the midst of Inspectah Deck’s opening lines from the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Triumph” (“I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies/ and hypotheses can’t define how I be dropping these/ mockeries. .20.”) when I heard the first words uttered by another person that I had clearly understood in days.

“Wu-Tang Clan!”

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