It was US National Poetry Day a few weeks ago. Forgive my short memory, but since I am not in the US, I am forgiven if the date slipped my mind.
The word poetry has a bitter sting for me. I am an absolute poetry slacker – I never read, let alone write any. There have been a few epiphany moments when I’ve been spellbound by a verse; and still fewer times when I have crafted a couple of lines out of pure inspiration. In general, Poetry Days fly by me like the 5 pm express.
Yet I feel somewhat redeemed, if we agree to substitute poetry for song lyrics, like some real deep ol’school hip hop. I am talking Tupac, guys, can’t say no to that! Aye?
So on US National Poetry Day I was listening to the gold school while flipping pancakes (absolute game changer) and a Tupac song came on. I had not heard it before, so I paid attention. This bit drilled into my brain as I was splattering away:
“Had to change my whole lifestyle, married my baby’s momma
Made her my wife now, I’m tryin hard y’all
Maybe in time I’ll be a better man
Watchin the older couples, handle it like veterans
Show me the meaning of forever and together we rise
If it would help our child grow, then together we’d die”
Now, we don’t hear much of this in modern hip hop, do we? First of all – not in so many words. Second – I don’t think so. Yes, the trope of the man, who struggles to get on his feet and conquer his fate is not entirely forsaken, but what about his motivation? Have you even heard the phrase ‘better man’ in that context recently? Maybe you have and I am entirely wrong, but all I’ve been hearing these few years is gold watches, butterfly doors and bitches, bitches, a whole lotta bitches.
Our society has never been so aware and so awake to the problems of equality between the sexes and at the same time sleek movie-like music videos have pumped up the objectification of women to an incomparable degree. Yeah, I have been seen singing along and shaking it to, say, Big Sean’s A**, but that’s just me being a good sport.
So that day I almost dropped a pancake, realizing I was listening to a song about a man who wanted to be better and to try harder, and to do forever, like them old couples.
It’s not just hip hop or just music. It’s literature, too – just think about Fifty shades; it’s movies, too! How often do you see a blockbuster movie with an actual plot (as in the literary device, not semblance of a story line)? It happened three times to me this year, and one of those was an indie.
Poetry is good, literature is good, meaningful songs are good, but if they are not in vogue, what then? If we are all numbed out by mediocre pop culture… what are we doing here?
UPDATED: ‘Rap lyrics sure ain’t what they used to be’ – Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA speaks about the lost art of lyricism in modern mass hip hop. It’s worth the read.
“When I was in Wu-Tang, and even before that, it’s always been about being lyrical — who can craft the wittiest, the most intellectual, the smartest and the cleverest rhymes. It’s always been that for us as MCs from Day One. It’s the same for me now. It’s all about the story.”
Has anything lately made you resent modern culture? Any deep-seeded angst? Please, do vent in the comments below, I’d love to read and discuss 😉