The Blindingly Obvious, #3: Hip Hop Is Poetry

A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory, 1991

I just saw another one of those articles explaining how, a century ago or so, students were required to memorize poetry, thus internalizing sophisticated word schemes and imagery that could inform their consciousness for the rest of their lives. The implication is that education is too dumbed-down today to require that kind of rigor from students, who are in any case philistines. This is true, sometimes, but it's also true--blindingly obvious, that is--that young (and oldish) people are memorizing massive amounts of complex language all the time in the form of rap, which at its best marries ingenious, often humorous wordplay and intellectual insight with cutting edge rhythms and sample-based soundscapes. In fact, a lot of rap and hip hop is so artsy it's amazing to me that it can be so popular. While I'm write this I'm listening to A Tribe Called Quest. I like that early 90s sound that had a lot of that jazz influence. Here's the YouTube for their song Scenario.


  1. If education is dumbed down and rigorous study a non-requirement, a philistine is the logical outcome. Rap is OK, but I pity the soul denied the beauty of a sonnet. To eschew such learning is one thing, but to never know of its existence is not only a shame, it breeds intellectual insecurity and the potential for hostility toward those of a more scholarly bent. Or at least I think it would.


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