Since its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s, rap music has become an international art form, and evolved through some extreme ups and downs. It has been both much celebrated and much derided. It has seen its stars killed or incarcerated, while others become moguls of extraordinary wealth and celebrity.
A new work of scholarship, “The Anthology of Rap,” recently published by Yale University Press, offers a look at the art form on its own terms: a collection of rap lyrics, offered up like lyric poetry, from the last twenty years.
Adam Bradley and his anthology co-editor, Andrew DuBois, met as graduate students at Harvard studying literature. As they became friends and discussed their mutual love of rap, they realized there were unmistakable similarities between hip hop and the poetry they were studying.
Bradley and DuBois say it offers what poetry always has: rhythm, complex rhyme schemes, allusive and metaphoric language.
Watch the extended interview with co-editors Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois:
They recognize rap can be rough and often profane, but argue that should not deter readers from taking the words seriously, and to remember that a great many accepted works of western canon of literature could be considered violent or obscene.
“We could think of so many poets and dramatists and novelists whose materials by someone, anyone, might be considered utterly profane,” said DuBois.
Common, who came to fame with a string of hit albums in the 90s, argues that this anthology helps a wider audience see beyond the stereotypes associated with rap.
“As hip hop artists, especially coming from the black and Latino cultures, there are a lot of stereotypes that are put upon inner city youth and upon rap culture and hip hop itself,” Common told the NewsHour. “I think when you get to dive into these lyrics, you get to see how much depth is really in what these people are saying.”
Watch the extended interview with Common:
Watch the extended interview with Kurtis Blow:
Friday’s NewsHour segment can be found here.