Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Analyzing the poetry/lyrics of high school students on RapGenius

Jalib rapping with Wu Tang's GZA, one of the contest judges, listening

I usually devote much of my time analyzing poems by the works of established writers, almost all of whom happen to be considerably older than I am. But after the Final Battle for the Science Genius contest last Friday, I've spent an unusual amount of energies checking out the pieces by a couple of high school students.

I enjoyed all of the contestants in the competition, but I decided to focus in a little more on the lyrics by a student who goes by the stage name Jalib and another one who goes by Yung Merk. Jalib ended up winning the overall contest; however, I was also impressed with Yung Merk. After the live performances in fact, I thought Yung Merk was best, but after closer inspection of the lyrics and then after more consideration of the actual performances, I tend to agree with the judges that Jalib may have won.

Jalib rapped about physics and focused especially on kinetic energy throughout his rap and kept returning to the idea of work represented by W = FD. At one point, he raps, "FD=W the rule / and the unit measurement for the product is called joules, Cool. / I did the work I’ma try to let it flow / [cause] the more people I know kinetic energy grows so." Through his piece, he references "friction" as a threat to his movement and work: "Your only rival is friction don’t get caught up in the drag."

Jalib reminded me of those backpacker-like rappers, with a cool, conscious, lighthearted vibe. Yung Merk had more of a tough-guy feel in part because of his demeanor, and also because of the kind of instrumental under his rhymes. Although the contest took place in New York, he had that Southern-bounce and trap music going, or maybe even drill music

Yung Merk opened mentioning "rocks," a term that almost always refers to crack cocaine in street discourse, but instead of going in that direction, this young lyricist turned to an exploration of geology. Check out the chorus of his rap:
If we talkin' rocks then let's talk metallic
Metamorphic, cementation, and compaction
If we talkin rocks then let's talk organic
Sandstone, coal, and that inorganic
Bioclast, foliation, and that granite
I can tell you something bout an aphinatic
It's very rare plus i heard it's so volcanic
To tell the truth, i've never been a rock fanatic
Yoooooo....what the? Hey, I've been listening to hip hop on the regular for over 20 years now. I felt like I've heard and seen a lot, but I was certainly caught off guard to hear this 16-year-old youngster talking earth minerals, foliation, compaction, and geological textures.

Jalib and Yung Merk both seemed really comfortable on stage. Jalib probably had an even more energetic approach to spitting his lyrics, but that's perhaps in part due to the kind of rap-style persona he adopted as opposed to the one Yung Merk exuded.  

A Notebook on RapGenius

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