Sunday 21st January 2018,
The Transcript

Shakespeare and Kanye: Comparing hip-hop to poetry

Professor of English David Caplan’s book explores the relationship between hip-hop music and poetry. Caplan uses Jay Z and Kanye West as examples in his newest book.


Jay Z and William Wordsworth. Kanye West and William Shakespeare. Eminem and D.A. Powell.

These unlikely pairings are a few that show up in “Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip-Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture” a new book by OWU English professor David Caplan released Feb. 10 by Oxford University Press.

In the book, Caplan compares the work of rap and hip-hop artists such as West, Jay Z, Lupe  Fiasco and others, to that of classic and contemporary literary poets.

Caplan said he was first inspired when students asked if he considered hip-hop a form of poetry.

He became interested in a key difference between the two.

“Hip-hop differs from contemporary poetry because it uses rhyme, which contemporary poetry does not,” Caplan said.

The book’s main argument is that hip-hop music contains sophisticated rhymes, or what Caplan calls “verbal artistry.”

His book examines three rhymes that hip-hop artists favor: doggerel, insult and seduction.

“Eminem is my favorite rhymer, but I think that Lupe Fiasco has the most creative ideas,” Caplan said.

“Jay Z is the most versatile and Kanye West is the most erratic.”

Caplan, who is also OWU’s associate director of creative writing, has  also published another non-fiction book, “Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form,” as well as a collection of poetry titled, “In the World He Created According to His Will.”

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