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Hip Hop and Shakespeare

Hi all,

In reading the excellent posts in the weeks since our meeting, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we enliven words on a page for our students, and the intersections between the projects our students are going to participate in this year. My first thought was the relationship between language and imagery, or the performance inherent to all these art forms…and then I remembered this Ted Talk from a few years ago and thought I’d share. This is Akala, a British rapper, discussing the similarities between hip hop and Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter–that both are forms which adhere to a rhythmic structure, and that it is this structure as much as the words themselves that create meaning (true of spoken word as well, of course).

He also brings up my favorite fact about iambic pentameter, which is that it’s the rhythm of your heart–that it comes from within, instead of without. Not only is this a great way into Shakespeare, but a great way to talk about the rigor inherent to all art forms, as well as the stigmas that we bring to our own experience of art.


1 Comment »

  1. Chelsea, you are so right! Iambic pentameter is as natural as breathing, speaking, writing…Many students are already very familiar with the pattern, sound, rhythm. But many of those same students often express frustration with their own writing in form, or meter. The secret…there is a slowing of the process in meter, and thinking about rhythm and sound allow for deep thinking about choices in the writing. It’s amazing how the two are connected. When students slow down to think through meter, they learn the stakes become higher in the choices they make in their writing. Meter is a great tradition and tool.

    Also, this video is spot on–the connection between the timing and patterns in the delivery of hip hop lyrics and music is absolutely relevant in the exploration of Shakespeare.

    Thanks for sharing!


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