Review by Choice Review
Caplan (English and creative writing, Ohio Wesleyan Univ.) identifies a striking truth, namely that hip-hop lyricists adore rhyme, whereas contemporary print-based poets largely avoid it. Using strong close readings and rich literary contextualization, he argues that rap artists leveraged a rapidly expanding English language to champion rhyming, a poetic technique that had fallen victim to changing creative tastes. The author explores doggerel, insult, and seduction verse, showing that by echoing these traditional categories hip-hop emcees yoked vintage forms and cutting-edge consciousness to discover new aesthetic possibilities. In the penultimate section, Caplan suggests that a cohort of 21st-century poets is exploiting these discoveries. But though his deftness in ranging from Shakespeare to Jay-Z commands applause, Caplan's treatments sometimes strain for coherence. He does not explain the logic of his structural focuses; thus, for example, the question arises as to why he ignored a genre like elegy. Of greater concern is his neglect of artists like Maya Angelou and Gil Scott Heron and critics like Aldon Nielson and Meta Jones: these omissions rob his conclusions of nuance. Such quibbling notwithstanding, Caplan's efforts herald important new options for analyzing rap. --Michael D. Hill, University of Iowa
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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