Posts from the ‘African’ Category

Saxophone

Sleep taunted and kindled the eyelids

Unimaginable thoughts invades the abyss of the mind

Saxophone echoed  the indigenous sounds from Table mountains to Kilimanjaro

The King awaits with throbbing anticipation

She bowed  obediently before the King

Embracing him between his Kingdom, she crowned him with kisses of the Nile

And sucked in from gold to coast

She inhaled and exhaled

Slowly sucking with fierce hunger

He sliped a finger in the kingdom between her legs

And the wetness of her Nile parted and welcomed him home

Taking in the pleasures of  the kingdoms in which they both dwelt…

Hearts pounded like the pounding of fufu

The King met the Queen

And

Love brewed in the African Kingdom….

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Rap: The word that grew from poetry

“If you watch too much MTV you start to synthesize hip-hop with crime. The truth is hip-hop is hip-hop and crime is crime”

From the anonymous rapper who sat behind me on the number 45 bus on my way to Brixton prison.

What is the difference between rhythmic Afro-American poetry and Rap?

The difference is that they both refer to the same thing, but one claims a more artistic value, whilst the other is given an image of violence and ghetto life. The word poem is defined in the Penguin dictionary of literary terms and literary theory as:

“Something made, created. Thus, a work of art. A composition, a work of verse, which may be in rhyme or a composition of the two”

Excuse my French here, I did not intend to bore you with all this literary jargons, I feel the need to clarify some definitions. Now back to the long definition of rap, the point that I am trying to make here is that if we were to refer to rap by it’s long literary definition every time rather than it’s abbreviated form then we’ll get bored, I bet you’re starting to wonder if I am not boring you already. Well me, just like rap could claim some artistic and aesthetic value if we knew our definitions. However, living in this contemporary world where computers have taken over any form of normality, there is no time for long definitions; we just get straight to the point. So I am going to get straight to the point before you ditch my paper and head for the internet.

The question is why do we associate artistic creativity and value with poetry, whilst rap is treated like a stepchild and given all the negative connotations?

Is poetry not an expressive form of oral literature? Well to your surprise and my surprise so is rap. So why do we associate poetry with high culture whilst rap is associated with thugs, drugs and profanities?

The answer is that rap is also poetry, an artistic composition of words which draws the experiences of a particular culture. Rap is a form of black literature, I know it’s shocking to realize that rap is a cousin of poetry. Rap is a tool, a way of signifying black speech. A signifying aid in black culture, wherever black culture exists so does rap be it Africa, America wherever you can find a black person you will find rap. These days rap is used to express the conditions of afro-American ghetto life, by ghetto I mean the part of America where Bush and all his bad boy image would not dare step foot unless his been suffering from anthrax virus that Bin Laden posted to him. However, in Africa rap is used during libation to call onto the ancestors and gods to celebrate weddings and at funerals to mourn and to acknowledge their living presence in our lives. When I say rap I am referring the speed and the rhythmic tone of the speeches, which is delivered during these events.

Rap in America evolved from Afro-American word play such as the toasts, the dozens and what Henry Louis Gates refers to as The Signifying Monkey. For those of you who don’t know the differences between your toasts, dozens and not to mention your signifying monkeys, no insults to your boyfriends or your girlfriends. Let brotha H. Rap Brown define, I mean preach it out to you as I heard him preach it so well to brotha Henry Louis Gates’ church, and I mean book entitled the Signifying Monkey.

“Signifying allowed you a choice- it could either make you feel good or bad”

Before you can signify you got to be able to rap

Now my sistas and brothas in this congregation who think you are so hot about your raps, this is no injury to your pride if you can’t rap.

Preach my brotha.

“If you had destroyed someone or if they were down already, signifying could help them over. Signifying was a way of expressing your own feelings”

Now my brothas and sistas whose pride have been injured by brotha Brown, no need to take it personal, in fact hear it from a brotha who might put into your lingo for you, members of this congregation I introduce you to our very own radical poet I mean preacher brotha Langston Hughes. Now if you don’t know who this brotha is then perhaps and repeat perhaps you are not very familiar with poetry or perhaps you should not be in this congregation.

Preach my brotha.

“And they asked me if my blackness would rub it off?”

Hold it my brothas and sistas before you all start to crucify me for this, I did not say this and I repeat I did not say this

And what did you say to them my brotha?

“I said, ask your mama”

Now I bet you all wondering how such a prolific figure in black literature be cursing people’s mamas? Well when you find answers to that question ask yourself why it is a crime and a taboo when Tupac Shakur say

“All my ghetto motherfuckers be proud to be black”

What is the difference between what Hughes is signifying and what Tupac is raping about? If I were asked to analyze the meaning in the two artist’s words I would say that they are both talking about the same issue, issues of racial identity, and the differences lies in their choice of words and the different generations that they were addressing to.

Now before you all start to criticize me for condoling the use of profanities in rap music Stop.

Cause I am not.

However, what I am concerned about is the categories that academic scholars would put Hughes and Shakur into. First of all the bald head and all the tattoos on Shakur juxtaposed to Hughes’ 1920s sense of fashion put these two men who were both addressing the same issues in their artistic work be it poetry or rap in a different literary position, that is if literary is would be considered in Tupac’s case.

Tupac is known as a rap artist, but he is more known for the images in his music videos than the poetry behind his lyrics. Now before you all get your pens and papers out to write and complain about me supporting the images of drugs, sex and violence in his videos’ Stop, in fact do yourself a favor. Go out and get yourself a copy of this book “The Rose that grew from Concrete” by Tupac Shakur and compare the words in the poems with his lyrics. Or if you are too lazy and can’t be bothered to read or if you can’t read then this is an option for you, go out and buy yourself a copy of the 25 track CD of the same book. Hear the poems interpreted into songs and speeches by hip hop artists, poets and actors such as Danny Glover each interpreting Tupac’s poetry. There have been numerous books written about Tupac, however, this book of poetry celebrates his artistic creativity. This book to me celebrates the epiphanic moments of the artist’s youth, the poems connotes moments of revelations, moments of being for the writer. I refer to epiphany in relation to these poems because not only do the poems reveal intense moments of his life, but also we can see how these moments made him who he became.

The title of the book alone speaks for itself “A Rose that Grew from concrete”.  If we were to identify Tupac with the rose that grew from concrete, and identify the concrete with the hush injustice American soil which constantly reaps oppressions, then we have Tupac a soul, rap artist, an actor, a revolutionist and a poet emerging out of the hard concrete soil. The poems gives a different perspective on Tupac Shaukur’s status as an artist, they also encourage you to pay more attention to his lyrics. The poems give you a different view to the artist’s facilities with language and the multifaceted ways in which he tried to create imagery and meaning through language.

Now I know I’ve been starving you for a while, so before you start to throw stones at me or put my paper down here is a sneak preview of some of the poems, this one is called:

Life through my eyes

Life through my bloodshot eyes would scare a square 2 death

Poverty, murder, violence

And never a moment 2 rest

Fun and games r few

But treasured like gold 2 me

Cuz I realize that I must return

2 my spot in poverty

but mock my words when I say

my heart will not exist

unless my destiny comes through

and puts an end 2 all of this

 

I would personally put my hands up and confess that I were one of the people who criticized the images in Tupac’s videos instead of paying attention to the messages and the meanings which were being conveyed through the lyrics. It’s hard and difficult not to judge him when you are confronted with all the images, but as the tattoo on his chest said, “only God can judge me”. Only God can judge him.

If you asked me and I know you wouldn’t but hey this is my shot, there is no difference between many of the great black heroes and heroines who have passed through our time. They all tried to educate us, but they were only appreciated once their presence no longer inhabited this earth. In fact when you think about it or look back to history most of the greatest black men who gave great speeches are all dead, except Nelson Mandela, but then they tried to bury him alive but he resurrected in soul and in spirit. What Mandela, Malcolm X, and Luther king all have in common is not just the colour of their skin or their fights for justice and their abilities to raise attention to the injustices in their societies, but through their multifaceted abilities with language. Oratory is a significant aspect of African/black culture, we have renowned pastors who can speak and rap in tongue it can resurrect Christ Jesus out of his grave!

Back to the quote from my anonymous rapper, as I sat on the bus and listened to this man I realized that I stereotyped him when he first entered the bus. Well, I am not perfect I, just like you and everyone else judge a book by its cover, well I judged this man by his physical appearance when he got on the bus. But the difference between you and me is that I gave him the chance to inspire me, I took my pen and paper out of my handbag and began to write down what he was saying. The difference between rap and rhythmic Afro-American poetry is how you perceive it, next time you listen to Tupac Shakur think of him as rap artist, a poet, a soul, and a spirit. A soul, whose short stay on this earth has educated, inspired, encouraged and revolutionized our thinking about rap.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it’s dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

Tupac Shakur

I am the African

I am the African,

Out of the struggle I rise

Out of the shame I rise

Out of the sun I shine

I am the African

Rooted in Odum

Out of the Asante I ascend

The Nile is where I bathe

Kilimanjaro is where I descend

Cultured in the Shea tree

Out of the dirt I shine

I am the African

Out of the cocoa bean I’m treasured

Gold is my coast

I am the African