February Book Review: Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by: Adam Bradley

3481629_origBook of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by: Adam Bradley

This book is great for anyone that enjoys poetry or writing in general. If you wanted to add this to your English or Literature class curriculum this book would be a great addition. This book is for all the critics that refuse to accept that Rap music is grounded in poetics. Focusing on rhythm, melody, and other linguistic properties Bradley pinpoints clear examples in lyrics that demonstrate his point. Wu-Tang Clan, Q-tip, and Kanye West are just a few of the artists mentioned in the book. The author goes on to remind readers that Rap is popular poetry. Not a lot of people are interested in poetry but Rap music has the attention of people all over the globe. There is also a lesson on Hip Hop history which continues to prove that Rap music is just as infectious as traditional poetry.

Stanzas depicting the views of artists such Public Enemy are critically analyzed word by word. This book is a great study guide that can be utilized by high school students across the country. Describing the style of Busta Rhymes on ‘Gimmie Some More’ with the manipulation of syllables. The masterful Big Daddy Kane is discussed as the influence to most mainstream Rappers because of his patterns and rhyme structure. That’s what makes a great emcee! Eminem and Jay Z often spark debate around their collaboration ‘Renegade’ but here Em’s verse is full of alliteration which is a large part of his style. Now don’t think that you have to go out and brush up on your English skills because the book provides enough examples and explains in basic terms so that anyone can understand.

The author goes on to discuss wordplay within Rap music and how some words are harmful to impressionable ears. He shares a personal story where he was asked to defend his reasons for liking Rap music after listening to Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Ready to Die’ album. We know now that Biggie was a lyrical force to reckon with. Bradley describes the need for profanity in some lyrics for emphasis and communication purposes. Rap music is recognized as giving a voice to the voiceless. James Baldwin’s editorial ‘If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?’ is compared to words from Chef Raekwon about how to use Rap in conversation and the creativity it takes to actually Rap. The book goes on to discuss style, storytelling, and signifying.

If you don’t know what signifying is I suggest you look it up and once you do a lightbulb will go off in your head. Signifying is the beginning of Rap. Cyphers, jonesing, and the dozens are all forms of signifying. The book mentions the ancient Greeks as signifiers but we know where the Greeks got their ‘way of life’. LL’s ‘Rock the Bells’ is full of braggadocios lyrics that will put any opponent to shame. Gil-Scott Heron, The Last Poets, and Muhammad Ali all started Rapping through signifying. H. Rap Brown’s famous ‘Rap’s Poem’ is dissected and brings the reader back to the beginning with ‘Rapper’s Delight’. This book is a great addition to your Hip Hop literary library. The author, Adam Bradley is the same author from last month’s book review of ‘The Anthology of Rap’.

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