Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mr. Webb done gone and analyzed some rap for poetic value.

Have you ever needed to work on some homework or something, and you get totally distracted by something that isn't due immediately afterwards, but you don't care because you love the thing you're doing? [SAY YES.]

That just accidentally happened to me. I wasn't prepared for my last class of the day (Sorry, Communications) because I was too busy studying poetry. Rap, specifically.

Check out my favorite song of the day:

Meter Key:
iamb:  u / 
trochee:  / u 
cretic:  / u /  
Ok, here's where I got into trouble: I took Travis McCoy's first rap verse and analyzed it, line-by-line, looking for what poetic tricks he did in it. Here are the lyrics, with the rhymes and the meter:
 u  /     u      /         u   /     u     /    u      /     u        /     u         /   
If I was just another dusty record on the shelf [A]
 u                /         u        /       u       /        u       /       u       /     u    /     u      /   
Would you blow me off and play me like everybody else [A]
 /   u   /        /       u       /            u       /            /            u        /       u        / 
If I ask you to scratch my back, could you manage that [B]
 u            /       u           /         /       u       /   u         /   u        /      u       /   
Like [ICKY] yeah, [ICKY] Travie, I can handle that [B]
 /         u      /          /   u     /  u   /       u     /  u       /    u              /    
Furthermore, I apologize for any skipping tracks [C]
 u                /       u        /      /        u       /             u       /    u    /    u           /   
'Cause this the last girl that played me left a couple cracks [C]
 u   /         u      /       u       /       u      /        u     /          u      /    u     /   
I used to used to used to used to, now I'm over that [D]*
 u               /     u         /       u       /    u      /       u     /     u       /    u    /   
Cause holding grudges over love is ancient artifacts [D]*

 u   /      u        /     u      /     u    /       u       /          u        /    u        /    
If I could only find a note to make you understand [E]
 u        /      u   /     u     /     u         /       u        /         u        /      u        /     
I'd sing it softly in your ear and grab you by the hand [E]
 /            u      /        u    /         u         /           /         u       /     u          /       
Keep it stuck inside your head, like your favorite tune [F]
 u             /          u         /         u  /    u  /       u     /     u        /       u      /       
And know my heart's a stereo that only plays for you [F]
Now here are some thing I'm seeing:
  • The A lines have the same construction and the same length (7 iambs (  u /  ) = 14 beats).
  • The B lines are CRAZY. 
    • They begin with two cretic (  / u /  ) in a row, which I think is pretty rare. (You hear cretic in phrases like "SEE you LAter, ALiGAtor" and "AFter a WHILE, CROcoDILE".) The squeeze 3 syllables into 2 beats, like the poetic equivalent of a musical triplet () .
    • The 2nd B line has two DJ scratches that sound like the word "ICKY," and even though McCoy doesn't say them, for the beat of the rap, they must be included. (Each act as a trochee, or  / u  .)
    • Therefore, even though the two lines are 14 and 13 beats, respectfully, they still match.
  • The C lines are pretty similar to the B lines, with a 14 and a 13, and a cretic beginning the first. The difference is that instead of having some iambs, they go with trochees at the end of each.
  • The D lines have the same construction and the same length (7 iambs (  u /  ) = 14 beats) as eachother, and the same as the A lines. Furthermore, the A and D lines rhyme with eachother, so they could both be labeled the same. (I won't because McCoy didn't intentionally try to match those two sets to eachother.)
  • The E lines have the same construction and the same length (7 iambs (  u /  ) = 14 beats) as eachother, and the same as the A and D lines.
  • The F lines focus on trochees at the beginning, but switch to iambs at the end.
Travis McCoy:
A modern-day Shakespeare?
When you put it all together, it sounds... aesthetically right-on. Again, I'm not telling you that Travis McCoy deliberately writes his raps by saying "SHOULD I BEGIN THIS LINE WITH TWO CRETICS HERE SO SOMEWHERE, OFF IN A FAR AWAY SCHOOL, SOME NERDY ENGLISH TEACHER WILL HAVE SOMETHING TO SPEND 90 MINUTES BLOGGING ABOUT?". He doesn't. But, like when you multiply 5 x 5 in your head, you go through a few different steps within a second, a poet/rapper can just weave together meter and rhymes to create something magically pleasing to your eardrums.

Good luck using this as some further ideas for your sonnets!

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