Rap or romantic?

Read these lines and decide: Rap or Romantic?

• Her untimely exit from her, heavenly body:

romantic (wrong!)

• Five miles meandering with a mazy motion:

rap (wrong!!)

• Victims of worldly ways, memories stays engraved:

romantic (wrong!!!)

• A dead bird flying through a broken sky:

rap (right – at last I got it right)

• Drive my dead thoughts over the universe:

rap (wrong – wrong again!!)

With 4 answers wrong out of 5 I have certainly scored a negative personal record!! But apart from my disappointment I wonder if my failure depends entirely on me and on my poor understanding of poetry genres or if there may be other reasons, for instance the difficulty to draw a line between what is rap and non rap poetry.

Now a bit of research … Key concepts and definitions

Video of a rap poem performed (Ivy, 2007)

Slam and performance poetry, hip hop, rap and grime poetry

A slam is a poetry competition during which poets perform their work individually or in teams and their performance is judged by the audience. It is a form of spoken poetry, as part of an oral tradition, started by construction worker and poet Marc Smith in 1986 in a Chicago jazz club and since then become widespread across the United States (poets.org, 2004).

Rapping is a form of spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics and is distinct from spoken-word poetry in being performed in time to a beat. It spreads across speech, prose, poetry and singing. Today rap and rapping are almost indistinguishable from hip hop. It can be traced back to its African roots as the work songs and spirituals of the African-American community. Many of the rhythmic techniques used in rapping come from percussive techniques and many rappers compare themselves to percussionists. A rapper must also develop vocal presence, enunciation, and breath control. Rappers use the literary techniques of double entendres, alliteration, and other forms of wordplay that are also found in classical poetry. Similes and metaphors are used extensively in rap lyrics (Wikipedia, 2016).

‘Both rap and poetry use literary devices like assonance and alliteration. Both use words. Both are spoken. But rap is a musical-verbal art and poetry is a verbal-musical-typographical one.’ (Mattix, 2014)

‘Grime is not garage
Grime is not jungle
Grime is not hip-hop and Grime is not ragga.
Grime is a mix between all of these with strong, hard hitting lyrics. It’s the inner city music scene of London.
And is also a lot to do with representing the place you live or have grown up in.’ (Thake, 2006).

So, all considered, having wandered through the Internet in search of definitions and basic information on the different forms of spoken word poetry, I now understand that perhaps I had some reason at being at a loss when asked to distinguish between rap and non rap!

From what I understand pre-modernist, modernist and post-modernist poetry have more in common than not: they have common roots and a shared use of beat and rhythm, poetic devices, self expression, importance of theme. And these same elements are to be found also in prose when it is read or is spoken aloud. In times and places themes and subject matters change, styles and genres are born, evolve and die, devices are used differently but the basic elements do seem to remain the same like the notes in music.


Ivy, J. (2007) Never Let Me Down In https://www.youtube.com At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le1kHp5lLmk (Accessed 21.11.16)

Posted May 29, 2004 In https://www.poets.org [online] At:https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/brief-guide-slam-poetry (Accessed 21.11.16)

Wikipedia (2016) ‘Rapping’ article [online] At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapping (Accessed 21.11.16)

Mattix, M. (2014) Is Rap Poetry? In http://www.theamericanconservative.com/ [online] At: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/prufrock/is-rap-poetry/ (Accessed 21.11.16)

Wikipedia (2016) ‘Hip Hop’ article [online] At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop (Accessed 21.11.16)

Thake, O. (2006) ‘Grime’ definition [online] In http://www.urbandictionary.com/ At:  http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=grime (Accessed 21.11.16)


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