Hip hop as poetry (in schools) (1 Viewer)


Well-Known Member
Nov 8, 2004
I'm a long way off a person who understands poetry. I'm a dickhead generally speaking, and a coder after that. Dyslexic autistic after that.

But I've realised that despite my pointed ignorance, there's a lot to be said for poetry.

I endured the same poetry as every other Irish child did in school, and it annoyed me that there was clearly something going on in the whole poetry buzz, even though I didn't understand it.

I was able to understand certain things, when you filed the bit of metal it smoothed out a bit, but seeing as I'd not done a fucking degree in The Classics when I was 14, Yeats with his perne in a gyre whilst he was SAILING TO BYZANTIUM rang a bit of a dead chord.

I'm not criticizing Yeats. I'm sure he was sound. (I'm not at all sure he was sound, and I suspect he was a cunt.)

But what my point is that hip hop is very clearly poetry, and it's accessible.

So, seeing as I know fuck all about poetry, and fuck all about the arts in general, never so much as looked at an arts degree, I've decided I'm the man to revamp the poetry syllabus in Ireland. And that revamp is going to include Biggie Smalls.

My proposal is to rip out about 90% of the current poetry out of the Leaving Cert English, and replace it with the likes of Biggie Small's Niggas Bleed.

Let's go over this.

"Today's agenda: get the suitcase up in the Centra
Go to room 112, tell 'em Blaco sent you
Feel the strangness? if no money exchanges?
I got these kids in Ranges, to leave them niggas brainless."

Alright. Poetry, to me, is about building pictures with as few words as possible. Let's have a look at what happened here.

They are planning a hit. They are wanting to get the suitcase (read cash) that's been left in the Centra (?) I dunno, why not I suppose.

Go to this place, and things are going to be fucked, so just use the name Blaco. You'll be OK. If things go wrong, you get TF out. Don't worry, I'll deal with the inevitable shitstorm. Get out.

"All they tote is stainless, you just remain as calm as possible, make the deal go through.
If not, here's 12 shots, we know how you do.
Please make your killings clean, slugs up in between their eyes, like True Lies, kill 'em and flee the scene"

OK. So we're back onto logistics. And we're not fucking around. But the rhyming scheme is split(? see lack of arts degree above), now we're rhyming over verses (??). Basically we've broken the rhyming scheme. But we're still rhyming.

"Just bring back the coke or the cream
Or else, your life is on the shelf, we mean this Frank
Them cats we fucking with put bombs in yo' moms gas tank"

This is amazing. Frank has zoned out a bit, and it staring out the window. He's not focusing. So we need to get him back paying attention. Also Cash Rules Everything Around you.

"Let's get this money baby, they shady? we get shady"

Once again. We mean business.

"Dress up like ladies and burn 'em with dirty 380's
Then they come to kill our babies, that's all out"

HOW IS THIS NOT A PICTURE?? This, those line, create an amazing image. It's filled with danger, possibly a perfect outcome but in reality you know it's doomed somehow. It just goes on from there.

All of this is to me what poetry should be. If there's anything that needs to be dangerous in school, it should be poetry. And possibly Irish. I'll fix the Irish curriculum in another post.

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which begs the question though, which Centra?

remember that time Kim Kardashian was in Ireland on her honeymoon and was spotted in a Centra in Portlaoise getting a breakfast roll?

Biggie Smalls musta done something similar.

Good idea though. Engage the kids. Talk about them in terms they'll understand. Isn't Bob Dylan on the syllabus somewhere?

I never got poetry. Never understood it. Not a jot. The only poem I'd say I actually like is the ballad of reading gaol by Oscar Wilde but, lets face it, thats more of a novel. Canterbury tales styley.

Though I was deadly at English in school. B in honours. I remember the teacher saying that if you follow a few simple rules, you'd do well.

- have a beginning, middle and end
- introduce your argument, and be able to back up your argument, even if your argument is bollox
- have a conclusion, summarizing the bollox you wrote in the middle

surely applies to rap.

which Centra though?
I see no reason to degrade hip-hop and call it poetry.

How about we revamp the poetry syllabus to make it all insane opium-filled french symbolist drug-nonsense that the kids will enjoy (we can keep Yeats but we're only allowed teach his later works), get rid of some STEM coding bullshit that's going to be automated anyway and replace that with a hip-hop syllabus?
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Meh. You not understanding poetry is a piss poor reason to take some other shit and pretend that is poetry.

Biggie Smalls storytelling, while effective, is a rather different class of thing to this:
by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel
, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
I will not let your example of one school get in the way of my well thought out thesis.
By (c) Pat Ingoldsby

When the Catholics have killed all the Protestants
and the Protestants have killed all the Catholics
and the Jews have killed all the Arabs
and the Arabs have killed all the Jews
and the Muslims have killed all the Christians
and the Christians have killed all the Muslims
and all the graveyards are full
and all the crematoria are burned out
and only one person is left living on this Earth
I hope to fuck they enjoy the peace.
Meh. You not understanding poetry is a piss poor reason to take some other shit and pretend that is poetry.

I'm not saying that you replace all poetry with Biggie Smalls. I'm saying... well, I fucking loathed the English curriculum in school, and at the top of that loathing was Poetry.

I'm saying that one of the English curriculum's job is to introduce people to poetry, the curriculum gets it wrong, and it's easy to get it right.

The reality is I love very condensed stories, and I'd define them as poems. I love poetry. (I mean, at least my shitty low level not very fancy ones.) And I'm fucking 40. I've been repelled so much by "poetry" as defined by Leaving Cert English that I didn't realise I'm actually a fan.

That's my point, forcing the likes of Yeats and whatever other cunts were listed off to learn instills PTSD levels of hatred in people like me, who are closet poetry likers.
I don't think they were even teaching Yeats by the time I was doing English in school. I remember briefly reading Lake Isle of Innisfree, which is a bit Village Green Preservation Society/ Brexit I guess.

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Brigid Mae Power
25 Wexford St, Portobello, Dublin, D02 H527, Ireland

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