The conventional “wisdom” of hip-hop-haters is that the lyricism of its MCs is so devoid of artistic integrity that “anyone can rap.” Literary scholar/rap aficionado Adam Bradley rejects such notions in his work, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, in which he argues that rap has become the most revolutionary innovation in contemporary poetry.
BradleyNs book offers an in-depth analysis of the rhymes that drive hip-hopNs poetic pulse, breaking down what an MC says and how he says it from yesteryearNs Sugar Hill Gang to todayNs most polished wordsmiths such as Immortal Technique.
The fundamental concept Bradley sets forth is the “dual rhythmic relationship” of rap that allows for creative variations in an MCNs delivery. In this, the consistency of hip-hopNs 4/4 beats allows for a rapperNs verbalizing to become a dynamic instrument. At times obscured in the lexicon of academia, Bradley nevertheless conveys how an MC uses slant rhymes, enjambments and stressed syllables in a manner akin to how a guitarist employs bends and amplifier feedback.
Book of Rhymes also succeeds in conceptualizing rapNs art of storytelling. Similes, metaphors and wordplay are key components of hip-hop. The genre offers more stories than any other form of music; however, as Bradley notes, the message is subservient to the poetic skill with which it is delivered.
Coming at a time when the commercialization of hip-hop has led to the monotony of auto-tune atrocities and the thematic usurpation of clubbing over the streetNs sociology, Book of Rhymes helps cultivate an understanding of hip-hopNs rightful place as an art form. As Bradley succinctly writes, “For those who care to look, rap rewards the effort with the beats and rhymes of new life.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!