Tag Archives: poetry

Art Music

Jay-Z Explains Why Rap Is Poetry

Jay-Z, in an interview about his new book, Decoded, says rap music should be considered poetry.


Beats to teach

Sometimes, hip hop can be a powerful educational tool.  And I’m not just talking about teaching some kids the alphabet or with some kids hip hop.  I mean actually directly incorporating hip hop into the educational curriculum. 

That’s what Nikki Giovanni did.  This isn’t the first time we’ve covered Giovaani’s work, either.  We did one of our earliest posts about her, in fact, and we’re still proud of everything she’s accomplished.

Now, Giovanni’s using hip hop to teach kids about poetry.  This is from the NPR piece about her:

Giovanni’s new book, Hip Hop Speaks to Children, is a celebration of poetry that includes several examples of rhythm and rhyme by artists ranging from Langston Hughes to Queen Latifah.

"Hip-hop is a cultural expression — it’s embracing," Giovanni tells NPR’s Michele Norris. "And we wanted to cast as big a net as possible, so people can see in the house of hip-hip there are many rooms."

The book touches on love poems, blues tunes and jazz — even gospel, including a live session where actress Val Gray Ward reads from The Creation by James Weldon Johnson.

Personally, I like the incongruity of seeing Langston Hughes juxtaposed with Queen Latifah.  Not exactly an everyday comparison. But I do see the value.  It’s not uncommon in many cultures to use rhythm and cadence to pass down wisdom.  Almost every culture’s folk music does this in some way.  And if nothing else, it sounds like Giovanni’s using some decent artists (including A Tribe Called Quest) in her teachings so at least kids will grow up with some new artists to listen to.

Art Cool

B.C. hip-hop artists lend a helping hand

It may not be groundbreaking news, but we have a policy here at 4080 that any time the CBC uses the phrase “fresh rhymes, beats” in an article title, we have have to blog about it. And if you don’t believe this could ever happen, head over to the CBC’s website and prepare to be amazed.

The story itself is actually a pretty positive one.  Thanks to a large government grant the Inuvik Youth Centre in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, brought in four “hip-hop artists” from British Columbia to teach the kids about the creative process.  The grant also allowed them to purchase some fairly heavy duty recording equipment.  

So now kids near the Arctic are learning about making beats and writing rhymes.  Even better, they’re gaining an appreciation of the beauty of art: 

“At first reluctant, students in the English class were reciting their own rhymes by the end of the 80-minute session.

“I heard at the beginning of the class, a few of the girls were like, ‘Aww, I don’t really like poetry. I don’t want to be here.’ And then by the end of that class, watching their performance was really beautiful,” said Emma Tius, another artist and facilitator.”


Art Music

4080Records Presents: D’Mite

D’Mite is a surprisingly talented emcee. A self-professed “poet with a hip hop style” is a huge fan of reading, and does his best to take this message to the masses.

Like so many others in modern day North America, he’s grown pretty sick and tired of hearing the same old tired rap that’s being passed off as hip hop these days. I could rail at length against the coming of tired-ass emcees like Lil’ Jon, but I’ll try not to bore you. I’m not even going to deny that it’s not fun to dance to from time to time. We’re all guilty of that, probably. But there is a world of much, much better hip hop out there. Music that teaches and encourages growth. That incubates creativity and tells tales of moral sensibility and political activism.

D’Mite takes it a step further by putting out a shockingly popular spoof of contemporary hip pop. It hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, with people accusing him of being racist or at least incendiary. The video below may pack a message, but the question is whether or not that message gets lost in a maze of stereotypes and inflammatory rhetoric. I personally don’t think it does, but that’s up to you to decide.

Check out the popular single “Read a Book”, featured on BET


4080Records Presents: Shane Koyczan

Spoken word has long had a pretty strong following. In the artistic sense, it is one of the most difficult art forms to master. It takes genuine skill and lyricism to construct a poem that has the melody and power necessary to sway the crowd.

Shane Koyczan, the Canadian born poet, doesn’t exactly look like your typical artist. That alone is the motivation behind much of his work. A constant critique of society’s concept of beauty and how they decide someones worth runs through many of his poems.

I can’t even begin to tell you how incredible this man is as an artist. Reading his poems on their own (Visiting Hours) can be one of the most moving experiences you will ever have. Seriously, you could write a book on his work. Analyze it in class. Or impress a girl. Read it in the tub. Listen to his work with your boys. Anything. You won’t regret it, that’s for sure.

He won the National Poetry Slam and was apparently the first non-American to win it. Once more I’m not surprised, though it is astonishingly impressive to have managed to pull that off.

As a little sample of his work, check out Visiting Hours. I’ve posted the video below.