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#1
Old 08-21-2008, 11:23 PM
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Most "poetic" rappers....

This kind of goes along with another post I wrote about the best songwriters, where I mentioned rappers, but I want to devote one solely to rappers, as its probably the genre that I've found the fewest examples of flawless songwriting. It's also the genre with which I'm probably the least familiar.

What I'm looking for is not just good rappers. I'm looking for rappers who are really good lyricists. That is, there works could stand alone as works of poetry. Now, I know that's pretty vague, so what I want is for you to explain why you feel this or that rapper fits this category and give examples of his/her lyrics (only about half a dozen lines according to SDMB rules and link to the full piece).

One of the criteria, I think (though others might disagree) that makes a truly talented rapper is one who doesn't sacrifice the quality of what he's writing to the rhyme scheme. Rhyming is so important to rap, so it takes a lot of talent to make a song work without making these sorts of sacrifices.

I'll offer my first examples below:

- Blackalicious. I mean, seriously, who can go from writing stuff like this:
Quote:
"Release "

The heaven-sent benevolent medicine man reverend
Peddling deliverance that resemble amphetamines
to the residents in the meadow of pestilence
Who developed a chemical dependence on pessimism, now
to writing about Chemistry, just to prove that you can do it:
Quote:
"Chemical Calisthenics "

...

Law of de-fi-nite pro-por-tion, gain-ing weight
I'm every element of brown
Lead, gold, tin, iron, platinum, zinc, when I rap you think
Iodine nitrate activate Red geranium, the only difference is I transmit sound Balance was unbalanced then you add a little talent and...
Or Alphabet Aerobics
Quote:
Artificial amateurs, aren't at all amazing
Analytically, I assault, animate things
Broken barriers bounded by the bomb beat
Buildings are broken, basically I'm bombarding
Casually create catastrophes, casualties
Cancelling cats got their canopies collapsing
- Saul Williams. This is a bit of a stretch, since he's probably technically a "poetry jammer" (or whatever its called), but the poem that's on the first Blackalicious poems is one of the most beautiful poems I've ever heard:
Quote:
I can think of nothing heavier than an airplane
I can think of no greater conglomerate of steel and metal
I can think of nothing less likely to fly
There are no wings more weighted
I too have felt a heaviness
The stare of man guessing at my being
- The Roots.
Quote:
"Something in the Way of Things "
Riding on top of the car
peering through the windshield for his cue
Something entirely fictitious and true
That creeps across your path hallowing your evil ways
Like they were yourself passing yourself not smiling
- K'Naan is another one, but I can't find a site for any of his lyrics.
#2
Old 08-24-2008, 08:45 AM
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Soooo......again, nothing?
#3
Old 08-24-2008, 09:47 AM
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I can think of a few, but I don't feel like hunting down lyrics right now: Rakim, El-P, Boots (The Coup), MF Doom, Jay Electronica, Nas
#4
Old 08-24-2008, 12:10 PM
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J-Live, Atmosphere, Tupac
#5
Old 08-24-2008, 12:28 PM
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Aesop Rock is one of the few rappers whose lyrics I actually concentrate on. I love "No Regrets" and "9 to 5-ers Anthem."
#6
Old 08-24-2008, 10:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidw
I can think of a few, but I don't feel like hunting down lyrics right now: Rakim, El-P, Boots (The Coup), MF Doom, Jay Electronica, Nas
Whoa! If you had mentioned KRS One, I would have thought we were the same person.

But the OP makes me think of a different kind of poetry feel. I nominate a single line from an old LL Cool J song; "Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag... Being crushed by buildings."
#7
Old 08-24-2008, 11:06 PM
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Pick up some Sage Francis. He's a Rhode Island slam poet gone battle-rapper gone recording artist. He's a pudgy white feminist vegan that doesn't drink, smoke or use. This isn't exactly a recipe for your usual hip hop fare, but it works.

Absolutely fantastic wordplay and most often has something of relevance, or at least self-aware, to say. The only time he talks about hoes and bling is to make fun of the current state of hip hop.

"Personal Journals" is an almost flawless album, but "A Healthy Distrust" is what I usually give friends to start with because it's a touch more accessible. The last half of his newest “Human the Death Dance” is among his best work.

Check out "Makeshift Patriot" for a good sampling of writing style. It's not as musically strong as much of his work but it was written and released quickly so it's a bit unpolished. This was written the week after 9/11 and released on 10/11. Some fantastic insight.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=RtNMly0aDUk

By the way, not his video.
#8
Old 08-24-2008, 11:29 PM
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Honestly, Eminem is pretty damn solid in the lyrics department. He's the only rapper that can consistently make me laugh.
#9
Old 08-25-2008, 12:14 AM
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Saul Williams, all day, every day.

If rap is still around in twenty years, it will sound like Saul Williams.
#10
Old 08-25-2008, 01:40 AM
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If there was more focus on rap as a poetic medium, then I'd agree. It isn't so.

Mainstream music, including rap, is forgettable junk by and large.

I need to click on some of these links to get my learn on, but most of this stuff from the group names I've read is pretty under the radar.
#11
Old 08-25-2008, 02:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoieGrasIsEvil
If there was more focus on rap as a poetic medium, then I'd agree. It isn't so.

Mainstream music, including rap, is forgettable junk by and large.

I need to click on some of these links to get my learn on, but most of this stuff from the group names I've read is pretty under the radar.
I never said it has to be mainstream. Most of the rap I'm familiar with that is mainstream, in my opinion, doesn't fit the standards I posted above. For instance, while there are songs by both Nas and Eminen that I like, I wouldn't call the lyrics (that I'm familiar with) works of poetry, which is why I wanted people to give examples of why said persons' lyrics are particularly poetic.

SuntanTigerTamer, I agree. I've listened to a lot of Saul Williams' stuff, and it's brilliant.
#12
Old 08-25-2008, 02:20 AM
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If you don't want to post lyrics, I'd appreciate if you'd at least post the name of a song that exemplifies why you think a certain rappers fits in this category....thanks
#13
Old 08-25-2008, 02:28 AM
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I'm really liking this Sage Francis....
#14
Old 08-25-2008, 02:43 AM
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I'm glad to hear it. He's one of about 5 or 6 musicians I can listen to consistantly without getting sick of it. Here's a couple more noteworthy songs.

My favorite called "Runaways". Pretty great writing, but then again I'm a social worker. The lyrics are posted here too.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=XxFGI6ZkFDk

This one features a verse with Saul Williams and chorus by my favorite songwriter of all time, Will Oldham.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=BffumeEaYOI
#15
Old 08-25-2008, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nzinga, Seated
Whoa! If you had mentioned KRS One, I would have thought we were the same person.
Well, KRS One is one of my hip hop heroes, and I can recite at least half a dozen of his songs from memory.
#16
Old 08-25-2008, 08:00 PM
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Okay, let's see:

Rakim,Follow the Leader

Quote:
So follow me and were ya thinkin' you were first?
Let's travel at magnificent speeds around the Universe
What could ya say as the Earth gets further and further away
Planets are small as balls of clay
Astray into the Milky Way - world's outasight
Far as the eye can see - not even a satellite
Now stop and turn around and look
As ya stare in the darkness, ya knowledge is took!
So keep starin soon ya suddenly see a star
You better follow it cause it's the R
El-P, Patriotism

Quote:
I'm America!! This is where the pain grows like poppies
in a Field of Dreams I paid for, I'll burn it down if operated sloppily
COPY? My economic sanction rhyme style got your syllables
scraping for rice and riding in a pre-1960 jalopy
My favorite flavour of gas is mustard
I'm fuckin a blind hermaphrodite icon and convincin you that it's justice!
The Coup, Me & Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Nite

Quote:
City lights from far way can make you drop yo' jaw
Sparklin' like sequins on a transvestite at Mardi Gras
There's beauty in the cracks of the cement
When I was five I hopped over them wherever we went to prevent
whatever it was that could break my momma's back
Little did I know that it would roll up in a Cadillac
And matta-fact, she couldn't see him like a cataract
And on the track, she went from beautiful to battleaxe
And back at home, she would cry into her pillow
Vomit in the commode, I was six years old
I would crawl onto her lap and we would hug and hold
Never knew how she was sufferin for my food and clothes
MF Doom, The Fine Print

Quote:
Hear ye, hear ye! How dare ye
Go up against the king who do his thing tri-yearly?
They're too carefree with their mouths around here
Off with his head, and display it at Town Square
On top a seven-feet spike, make sure it's on tight
In light of when the peasants throw stones with all their might
Skull get smashed for weeks
'Til vulture beaks eats the last meat off your cheeks
Maybe then they'll know the right words to speak
Out loud, at home, in the world, or in the streets
It's no escape, just in case
All the kings' mens and 'em decides to go apes
The most slick-talking of burly guys
Get caught and boiled in oil like curly fries
Even those that's Mr. Furley's size that earned the fate
Could all get burned at the stake
Send word to his closest kins, that for his sins
We claim his throne, his providence, and its citizens
Nas, NY State of Mind, Part 2

Quote:
Had eight partners growin up, eight turned to seven
Seven turned to six niggaz, got two in heaven
Six of us, holdin it, now it's five rollin thick
The sixth one's parole flipped; five niggaz, went to fo' quick
when he went O.T., college life, converted into gangbangin
Four niggaz still hangin, years passed and slang changin
Three of us now, fourth nigga ain't around
We all thought he was real -- he did the snake shit
Fake shit -- beat his ass down, yo his mouth
could've got us all wasted, what a fuckin clown
All I got left in the end is two of my best friends
And we all goin out, to the death for these ends, WHAT?
Nas Is Like

Quote:
Freedom or jail, clips inserted, a baby's bein born
Same time my man is murdered, the beginning and end
As far as rap go, it's only natural, I explain
My plateau, and also, what defines my name
First it was Nasty, but times have changed
Ask me now, I'm the artist, but hardcore, my science for pain
I spent time in the game, kept my mind on fame
Saw fiends shoot up, and do lines of cocaine
Saw my close friends shot, flatline am I sane?
#17
Old 08-25-2008, 08:39 PM
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Try The Streets- a British guy who did a fantastic rap opera called "A Grand Don't Come For Free[/b] about a few weeks in the life of a lower-class Londoner.
#18
Old 08-25-2008, 09:39 PM
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I'll third Saul Williams, I'm glad to see him getting some attention.

Quote:
Seaweed washed upon the shore.
Severed locks of he who walks the ocean floor.
I drive a yellow Volvo. '86 submarine.
I drove it under water guided by my own high beams.
Nothing's left. Witnessed the demolition of the west.
#19
Old 08-25-2008, 10:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Shroud
Aesop Rock is one of the few rappers whose lyrics I actually concentrate on. I love "No Regrets" and "9 to 5-ers Anthem."
Aesop Rock is bleeding awesome. I came in this thread just to recommend him.

Quote:
I used to have a rope ladder but tattered were the rungs
I strung it from the highest willow, trying to hug the sun
The seventh level buckled and I tumbled from the summit
Now I'm back to re-climb and this time light my cigarette from it
My stitching division to vision warfares
Numb enough to soak suddenly in a bullet bath
And skip stones in the morning as I lie in color
Phantom tantrum explicable, sit and pull the petals off wild flower patches
Magic happens!
Behold, pity the lowlife parish
Doom City barracks left remorse coursed on a horse-drawn carriage by the torch of Polaris
To the Badlands, where every bridge collapse right where the crowd stands,
Where the witches are fireproof and every preacher's a madman....

--from How to Be a Carpenter
Quote:
...And I ain't getting any younger
My knuckles wear their bruises well
I've yet to lose that hunger
But only time can tell
Prodigal Son with a prodigal wish to sew that prodigal stitch
And crucify bigot voodoo doll on two popsicle sticks
See your name is Ambiguity
My name is something hands can't hold
But hearts part ocean scapes just to watch the starlet unfold
It's like sketching a circle in the dirt with a pointed stick
Knowing the wind'll kill it some day, still it calls my burning wits for now...

--from Battery
Quote:
This is not your ordinary ballad
With a perfect little bow around the middle
And a black man on a white horse
Or a white man on a black horse
It's got all these tired parts where
We don't even sing at random
Princess, raise the drawbridge
We don't serve your kind
It ends where it begins
And the beginning isn't pretty
Can't forget that not-so-perfect
Bow around the middle ('round the middle, 'round the middle...)....

--from Drawbridge
#20
Old 08-26-2008, 06:17 AM
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Illmadic rappers

Fugies, Lauryn hill, Mighty souls of mischief, Hieroglyphics, Tribe called quest, Bush babies("We run things"), Methodmam, Redman, Run Dmc("down with the king"), Slick Rick, Keith Murry("the most bueatyfullest thing in this world"), Mic Geronimo( "I'm so lie, You so Lie"), Big L, Big Pun, Lords of the underground, Bone thugs n harmony... Now these will be hardest to find; Jairu the damager, black moon([anything fr bootcamp click & duck down records]), A Z, Math, 10 theifs, funkdoubis, Madskillz, and, Living ledgends... Sorry ha but ask & all I do is work and download the rap. Hope that helps you. Oh yea Mc Hammer,vanilla ice, And the Fillipino rapper Vanilla rice just kidding on that last ones But I hope that helps (`~`)
#21
Old 08-26-2008, 09:11 AM
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The Disposable Heroes and Michael Franti are a good source for memorable poetry.

Quote:
The first day of school was always the hardest
The first day of school the hallways the darkest
Like a gauntlet
the voices haunted
Walking in with his thin skin lowered chin
He knew the names that they would taunt him with
Faggot sissy punk queen queer
Although he'd never had sex in his 15 years
And when they harassed him it was for a reason
And when they provoked him it became open season
for the fox and the hunter, the sparks and the thunder
that pushed the boy under, then pillage and plunder
It kind of makes you wonder
how one can hurt another
But dehumanizing the victim makes things simpler
It's like breathing with a respirator
It eases the conscience of even the most conscious
and calculating violator
Words can reduce a person to an object,
something more easy to hate
An inanimate entity, completely disposable,
no problem to obliterate
#22
Old 08-26-2008, 01:23 PM
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Grand Master Flash and The Message or White Lines,sheer genius.

Vanilla Ice...who is/(Was) V.V.good.
If its good it lasts over time.

If its just the latest craze but lacks merit then basically its nothing.


Someone mentioned The Streets who IMO are not bad.

But if you really,really want to hear some absoloute,untalented,juvenile tripe with rhymes that would shame a five year old then just listen to any Brit Mobo Rap "Collective",they couldn't even look up talent in a dictionary.............and creativity ?
Just forget the word .

They make me feel ashamed to be British.

Last edited by Lust4Life; 08-26-2008 at 01:25 PM.
#23
Old 08-26-2008, 02:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nzinga, Seated
Whoa! If you had mentioned KRS One, I would have thought we were the same person.

But the OP makes me think of a different kind of poetry feel. I nominate a single line from an old LL Cool J song; "Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag... Being crushed by buildings."
Well, then. If you had only mentioned Kool Keith as well, we would be a proper siamese family here..
#24
Old 08-27-2008, 11:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ivan astikov
The Disposable Heroes and Michael Franti are a good source for memorable poetry.
I like Michael Franti and Spearhead a lot. It's one of the best concerts I've ever been to, so full of energy. Yet, I think that MF's also got some pretty corny, kumbaya lyrics.

I'm not talking about all of his songs though. Songs like "It's a crime to be broke in America "
Quote:
Six percent in college
From livin on the block
Twenty five percent in prison
The school of hard knocks
Fifty percent in poverty
Is livin on the rocks
Five hundred brothas on a death row box

The punishment is capital
For those who lack in capital
Because a public defender
Can't remember the last time
That a brother wasn't treated like an animal.
or "Oh My God "

Quote:
you can make a life longer, but you can't save it
you can make a clone an then you try to enslave it?
stealin' DNA samples from the onborn
and then you comin' after us
'cause we sampled a James Brown horn?
scientists who's God is progress
a four-headed sheep is their latest project
the CIA runnin' like that Jones from Indiana
but they still won't talk about that (Jim) Jones
(People's Temple mass suicide) in Guyana
This ain't no cartoon
no one slips on bananas
do you really think that that car killed Diana
hell I shot Ronald Reagan, I shot JFK,
I slept with Marilyn (Monroe) she sung me happy birthday
singin'
are great.

I'm not familiar with Disposable Heroes though.
#25
Old 08-27-2008, 11:51 PM
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Another I'd like to through in there that I haven't yet is Zach de la Rocha. I mentioned him in the other thread about songwriters, but not here about rappers. He's the former* frontman of Rage Against the Machine (or "fuck"man as my parents would probably call him). As I get older, I don't like Rage's earlier stuff because, even to me, it seems a little too heavy on the "go fuck yourself" style. But as the band matured, Zach became truly poetic.

Without a Face
Quote:
Uh! Got no card so I got not soul
Life is prison, no parole, no control
Tha jura got my number on a wire tap
'Cause I jack for similac, fuck a cadillac
Survive one motive no hope
'Cause every sidewalk I walk is like a tightrope
Yes I know my deadline sire, when my life expires
I'm sendin' paper south under tha barbed wire
Tha mother of my child will lose her mind at my grave
It's my life for their life so call it a free trade
Sleep Now in the Fire
Quote:
The world is my expense
The cost of my desire
Jesus blessed me with its future
And I protect it with fire
So raise your fists and march around
Dont dare take what you need
I'll jail and bury those committed
And smother the rest in greed
Crawl with me into tomorrow
Or i'll drag you to your grave
I'm deep inside your children
They'll betray you in my name
He has a new project with the drummer from The Mars Volta called One Day as a Lion, and I'm liking it so far.

* I say "former" but I think RATM is actually touring right now....
#26
Old 08-28-2008, 12:22 AM
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Nas, Lucas, Sage Francis, Lauren Hill
#27
Old 08-28-2008, 12:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
Nas, Lucas, Sage Francis, Lauren Hill
Dang, that was without reading the thread. I gotta add Michael Franti to this list.
#28
Old 08-28-2008, 02:01 AM
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This Aesop Rocks stuff is baddass!
#29
Old 08-28-2008, 02:45 AM
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Has Seattle hip-hop started to get much attention outside the local scene?

For example, I'm fond of Joe Metro by the Blue Scholars.
#30
Old 08-28-2008, 03:34 AM
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gallows fodder quoted two songs from Nas's "I Am..." album. I cannot be too emphatic: DO NOT PURCHASE THIS ALBUM. Nas has put out quite a few albums over the years; none of them, besides "Illmatic," deserve your money.

Also, my vote goes to Biggie Smalls. Listen to "Ready to Die."
#31
Old 08-28-2008, 09:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mshar253
gallows fodder quoted two songs from Nas's "I Am..." album. I cannot be too emphatic: DO NOT PURCHASE THIS ALBUM. Nas has put out quite a few albums over the years; none of them, besides "Illmatic," deserve your money.
"God's Son" is worth buying. And "The Lost Tapes."

Last edited by davidw; 08-28-2008 at 09:21 AM.
#32
Old 08-28-2008, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mshar253
gallows fodder quoted two songs from Nas's "I Am..." album. I cannot be too emphatic: DO NOT PURCHASE THIS ALBUM. Nas has put out quite a few albums over the years; none of them, besides "Illmatic," deserve your money.

Also, my vote goes to Biggie Smalls. Listen to "Ready to Die."
All the songs I quoted were from Aesop Rock, unless he's done covers or something.
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