How the Words Won’t Stop Hip-Hopping in my Head

I have an obsession. It’s something I’ve carried around in my head since my childhood and I carry it with me now. When I’m in class and my thoughts drift, when I’m doing chores around the house, or when I’m alone, bored, and the silence has grown old.

I memorize song lyrics and play them over and over in my mind. I did this before I ever wanted to, or tried to. Particularly though, I memorize hip-hop lyrics. I love hip-hop because it’s been hyper-focused on language for decades. Lyrical acrobatics has always been a fun way of thinking about the way words and ideas get phrased in hip-hop. I’ve always liked poetry because it’s seemed to be the closest thing that I’ve found in academia to writing hip-hop lyrics. However, I’ve witnessed several class discussions about rhyming in poetry workshops and it seems that for the most part, rhyming is somewhat frowned upon. I think this is fair, in a similar way to the semi-joke of the perfect iambic pentameter sentence: the same, the same, the same, the same, the same.

Rhyming can create certain expectations in a poem, which might make the poem begin to sound monotonous. I’ve found myself trying to write poems this semester and only being able to write lines that rhyme. Because I’ve listened to and stored away so many different hip-hop songs, I’ve found it difficult to not imagine the words needing to fit a rhyme scheme, or lead into each other to form new rhyme schemes. It’s a bit odd, and I didn’t really expect anything like this to be a part of my writing process, but I’ve been trying to consider the ways in which it might be beneficial to my poetry.

One Reply to “How the Words Won’t Stop Hip-Hopping in my Head”

  1. I feel like it’s less ‘frowned upon’ and more ‘avoided.’

    I’ve always been tentative to really lean into rhyme in my poems. Generally, I worry that it’ll wind up sounding hokey or contrived.

    What it comes down to is that I think you can’t just rhyme, you have to rhyme well, and often, rhyme in an interesting or unexpected way — and a lot of hip hop does just that. It’s honestly an art form in itself.

    I’ve also been trying out more rhyme recently, but most of it gets dropped from final drafts — it doesn’t come naturally to me, and I reach a point where trying to figure out the rhyme becomes a detriment to developing other ideas in the poem. But, if it’s something you do anyway, I think it’s definitely a good idea to lean into it!

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