My 11-year-old daughter gave me an assignment last week: “write a poem about something you care about,” and it had to be handwritten. After a couple extensions on the deadline (phew), I finally turned it in. I don’t usually write poems with verses that rhyme, but she often does, so I thought I would try a poem in her style. I think I got full credit (even though it was late). And the typed version is below in case, like her, you can’t read my writing.
Perhaps the easiest one
is to go left or to go right
Or maybe to stand up or sit tight
And then there’s going red
or green or brown
Put it right side up
or upside down
And of course you can go slow
or you can go fast
Take it right up to the line
or go past
You can rock or you can roll
You can sleep or stay awake
Keep your eyes wide open
for as much as you can take
You can listen or go deaf
and pretend it’s not there
Choose right or choose wrong
or call the whole thing unfair
There are no strings attached
or someone else writing your part
No one else controls your thoughts
or pumps blood through your heart
We’d like to give credit or
blame others for the view
But in the end it’s a choice
and only you control you.
Kate Tempest is a poet/MC with some heady, heavy rhymes. Her style is very much spoken word and in this video, works well with KwAke Bass’s disjunct, electronic beats. She covers some very sombre and sobering topics and her delivery is a little mesmerizing. Even though the content wasn’t happy per se, I found myself really enjoying how nimbly she wove her phrases together, floating above the beat at times then locking right into it with powerful repetition.
You certainly are not a poem that rhymes,
yet, my son, you are poetry in motion.
Your regal stroll and stately stare
have certainly won my life-long devotion.
As a young lad you were adorable and dangerous,
irresistible, unstable, unpredictable, but sweet.
We would spend hours chasing and pouncing,
or napping just blocks from the sea, you at my feet.
But time extends as it always does,
your spots and stripes grew more gray,
I, of course, married and had kids,
which you tolerated with just the slightest dismay.
We do a lot less chasing and pouncing now,
and we rarely, together, enjoy a nap.
Our life is just a different crazy,
yet you still spend a little time in my lap.
Fourteen years is a lifetime and nothing at all,
fourteen years a proud father to a son.
You’ve been the most magnificent, unapologetic companion,
to which none can compare, not one.
I see you drive by, at the corner of Palm and Shields, sir
Your blue pickup, lowered, daughter in the front passenger
Trailer of yard tools in tow
And I couldn’t help but notice your unapologetic mullet
It’s clear you two have been together for some time
And I wonder…
What’s up with that?
Are you an original rocker or is it something new?
Was the sensibility of its design too good to pass up
And keep, for that matter?
When you hear “Business up front, party in the back” how do you feel?
I have so many questions, sir
Is it past the point of no return?
Have you endured years of ridicule,
Hardened by vanity or shear defiance,
To the point that,
There’s just no way you’re cutting that thing now?
Or are you just so secure in your image that
Everyone else can just eat it?
As I sit here and write, it’s clear
I envy you
And maybe even your mullet
But what you and your hair represent is
Kind of beautiful
So to you, sir, I raise a proverbial glass
May you and your short-long live on in glory
In your lowered blue pickup or
What if we could change the backdrop of our life’s stage just by pulling a cord?
Would that change the quality of our lives or bring us that much closer to being content?
Would the ease of changing just the scenery be enough?
Assuming all else stayed the same and we only had the power to change our setting, would we sleep better at night or wake happier?
Or would the sight of so many cords dangling from the catwalk above overwhelm us to the point of indecision?
Sure, we could just choose any of them, randomly maybe, but what if it wasn’t quite right?
There are many great MCs out there with not only poignant rhymes, but great rhythm and delivery of their lyrics. I’ve been a fan of Aesop Rock for a while, but here’s a newer track I just found today that embodies some of the things I love about hip-hop and his style. Here’s an excerpt from ZZZ Top off of Skelethon (check out all the verses):
Somebody in a cultivated moment of distrust, composed themselves enough to magic-marker “Zulu” on these chucks, they was tryin to do the buckle font from ‘renegades of funk’, in a 3d frame of exploding brick, and whiz-lines for the locally motion sick, beyond gross but evoked a host of “oh dip” where a social neurosis owned the whole strip, heart of a cat with a lark in his mouth in the marrow of waiting his guardians out, flashlight, chisel tips, milked venom, pistol grip, images relocated from milled vellum to scissor kick, silent agreement at hand, king of the hill for a queen of the damned, she in the doorway seething began “that clean white pair had a 3-year plan!”, oops, capital “zed”, radical “u” in the cut, truly to beautiful “l”oser it up, “u” and he done, collateral damage a future alum, that key to Shambala, planet rocking, Bambaatta, sample chop, churning out a cancer for the vandal squad, analog, and he finds, animated colors on a page, like synthesized cultures on a stage
And here’s the track for your listening pleasure. The words and the way he flows them together are not to be missed: