Revolution of Poetry to Rap

The world has witnessed great poets from William Wordsworth to Robert Lee Frost, from Mir Taqi Mir to Ghalib, from Iqbal to Rahat Indori. Poems were popular during 20th century across the globe, they were recited, enjoyed and used to educate as well as express dissent.

Many great poets were born in India who used to write in various languages including Persian, Urdu, Hindi etc. Poets played a crucial role in revolution against the autocracy in Europe and poems were one of the major factors for generating nationalist sentiments. India had some states where the poetic culture was amazing, places like Lucknow, Agra, Delhi, Meerut etc, but unfortunately an article was published on Washington Post by Christopher Ingraham {April 24, 2015} , he showed a survey from Survey Of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). This survey reported that, in 1992: 17% American had read a work of poetry at least once in a year. 20 years later that number had fallen by more than half, to 6.7%. since 2002, the shore of poetry readers has contracted by 45% resulting in decline in the participation in the literary genre.

Just like in sports when one player slumps the other rises. In this case the other player is ‘Rap.’ A form of popular music that grew out of hip hop culture, DJ Kool Herc is widely credited with creating what we call “Rap music”. Formed in NYC in the late 70s, the Sugarhill Gang is one of the open up acts of Rap. Their 1979 “Rappers Delight” was the first song to be played on  radio and was the first single to become a Top 40 chart hit and Billboard Hot 100.

How is rap similar to poetry and how has rap, revolutionized poetry? When we study these two, one might come across many similarities: application of poetic devices such as metaphor, simile, imagery, personification, rhyme, alliteration and onomatopoeia—But when we look at Rap, these are essential features. Without poetic devices rappers are not respected as much. One technical similarity is application of meter- it is the beat or the style on which poem is read and the rhyme scheme is the rhyming structure at the end of each line. In rap, the exact concept is used when it comes to a well written rap song. The meter here is known as ‘flow’. Flow is very important to a rapper’s style. It is the way in which they deliver rhymes, and the way they say words and syllables to compliment music. Eminem, Big L, Biggie, J Cole, Logic, etc., are known for their incredible flow. Till now we have witnessed the technical and content similarities. Many influential rappers were amazing poets too. Tupac Shakur, one of the greatest rappers had released a book of his poems called “The Rose that grew from the concrete.” His raps had an elegant eloquence; examples:  ‘Keep your heads up’ and ‘Dear Mama.’

The most important similarity between poetry and rap is the concept of conveying a particular message to the audience. Message could be anything ranging from motivating an individual to political criticism or a clarion call against police brutality. In 2020 Rap was ranked at 1st place in most popular music style.  Today teenagers are hardly interested in poetry, but when they hear about rap, you can see a glow on their face. In India and Pakistan, desi rap is very popular . There is almost no hate between citizens of both countries when it comes to rappers and their raps. I don’t think there would be many critics  of Iqbal and Ghalib in both of these countries, and in the same way in rapping industry, there will be no critic of Bohemia and Young Stunners. Today, Rap music encompasses Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and many other languages; with each of these languages binding communities in the flow of rhythm, meter and the desire to express.

Wasiq Malik

Class X

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