'Verses versus verse': examining segmentivity in rap & contemporary American poetry
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:23 by Jeremy Page
In the past decade a number of scholars have claimed that rap music is a modern form of poetry, yet few have discussed the reasons why we might consider it so. In order to answer the question of whether we can (or should) consider music—and particularly rap music—poetry, a number of other questions come into play. What is the nature and significance of definition in literary studies? Can one legitimately invoke a relationship between two art forms consumed in entirely different mediums? And what philosophical, literary and political implications may be involved in considering the relationship between rap and other forms of (printed) poetry? This thesis adapts and expands on a definition of poetry offered by Rachel Blau DuPlessis—that of segmentivity—in order to construct a framework within which the claim that rap is poetry might be empirically assessed. I analyse segmentivity in the work of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, alongside poetry by Tina Chang, Thomas Sayers Ellis and David Tomas Martinez. I then draw on Heideggerian phenomenology to defend a conception of poetry as embodied experience. Finally, I discuss the issue of cultural appropriation, arguing that considering rap poetry is justified not only on literary and philosophical, but also political grounds.