hip hop music

April 30, 2003

Hip-Hop's First References to Poetry

A while ago the esteemed okayplayer drapetomaniac asked me to identify Hip-Hop's earliest allusions to poetry.

Nautrally the BDP classic "Poetry" came to mind immediately, from possibly the greatest hip-hop album ever "Criminal Minded". But surely someone before KRS must have made the obvious connection between emceeing and poetry? I'm almost certain an earlier reference must exist, but so far I haven't been able to remember it or google it.

Around the same time as "Poetry" we heard Rakim declare himself a "melody arranger, poet, etc." on "Check Out My Melody", and soon after that he coined his oft-quoted definition of rap as "rhythm and poetry" on "Follow the Leader". Also in 1987, LL told us he was a "poetry technician" on the less than memorable (yes, I googled this one) "Clap Ya Hands", from his third album "Walking With a Panther". Then there's always Guru's "a poet like Langston Hughes and can't lose" on DWYCK.

And who could forget the late 80's appearance of a rapper named MC Poet, a Juice Crew affiliate who joined in their ongoing feud with Boogie Down Productions by dropping two anti-KRS anthems, "Beat You Down" and "Takin You Out". KRS then effectively derailed MC Poet's career with his brutal response on the Numero Uno remix of "I'm Still Number 1" (which was also notable as one of the first hip-hop records to incorporate a salsa sample, in the form of the Symphony Sid Theme). Poet made a brief comeback in the 90's as part of a group named PHD, then resurfaced once again as a member of Screwball. But much like Frederic Weis will forever be inextricably linked to Vince Carter, Poet will always be best known as guy who got dunked on by KRS.

But all this just leaves us back where we started, at BDP's "Poetry". Is this possible? There were so many rhymes spit by so many old school crews: Cold Crush, the Crash Crew, The Treacherous 3, the various Fours (Funky and Fearless), the numerous Fives (Furious and Fantastic-Romantic)... surely somewhere in these early days there must be a reference to poetry? But I can't think of it. Maybe somebody can help me out.

Posted by jsmooth995 at April 30, 2003 5:35 PM

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