Spoken Word and Rap

I have a friend I consider the biggest supporter of my blog, and in fact encouraged me to go ahead and start this blog. We often have conversations about music that ended with me explaining a slang word, history of a song or artist. After these conversations she’d end it with, “see, you could write about that.”

In one of these conversation she revealed to me that she doesn’t really understand what’s being said in most rap songs. I needed to understand why. I was wondering if it was comprehension, was it too fast, was it context, I had to know. I played her a few songs to try to get the answer and it became obvious that she just couldn’t understand the words, period. She said she thought maybe their voices were too deep, or low, or the music was too overpowering.

I thought I should point her to the lyrics or maybe play her vocals only, but then I decided to stretch it further. I’ve heard a few of my elders (not old old, but old enough) say that they don’t get “the hippity-hop” and that it’s all noise, but I know this is coming from the generation who taught me about poetry. The fact that mentors that introduced me to Gil Scott-Heron, Amiri Baraka and The Last Poets, can’t see the connection or understand the connection to rap baffles me. So In doing this post I hope to make the evolution of poetry to spoken word to hip hop. It is poetry as performance art.

I’ve posted spoken word performances from a few of my favorite artist, followed by the songs that came from the poems recited.  This is just the tip of the iceberg though, I’ll delve into the subject further later.


“Black Stacey” – Saul Williams from Boulder Theatre,  2004


“Self Conscious”- Kanye West from Season 3 Def Poetry Jam, 2004


“Fans, Friends, Artist Must Meet” – Erykah Badu from Season 2 Def Poetry,  2003


“Hell”- Talib Kweli from Season 6 Def Poetry Jam, 2007





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