Slam Poetry: Is it More Than Rap?

Slam poetry has risen to unbelievable heights in the last decade. Part of the reason for this mercurial rise in popularity undoubtedly must be attributed to the commonplace acceptance of hip hop and rap music. Like any musical phenomenon, rap has many supporters and many detractors. However, slam poetry has broken new ground in the area of widespread acceptance.

Rap has sometimes struggled to garner a new fan base, especially outside the usual audience of young people, especially males. Slam poetry, or spoken word, has tapped into a part of that rap and hip hop may never have reached. Academics, professionals and generally older people tend to see the power, talent and beauty that slam poetry exudes. These people, not necessarily all of them, probably had never been predisposed to this type of content, especially in rap music. Slam poetry has provided the medium between the music genre of rap and the literary side of poetry.

The questions still looms. Is slam poetry just a more acceptable facsimile of rap? Well, the answer is yes – and no. Slam poetry is very similar to rap music. It provides the poet an opportunity to vent, celebrate or simply talk about nothing in a poetic fashion. Rap music provides the rapper the opportunity to accomplish these same goals, only with a slightly different format.

But slam poetry isn’t rap. Slam poetry does not allow music, unless it is provided by other team members’ voices – nothing else. The lack of music is not the most prevalent reason for slam poetry not qualifying as rap music. Slam poetry is vastly different from rap mainly because it reaches an audience that rap never would have reached, no matter how talented the rapper. It is evident that rap is very poetic, but because of the presentation, and the commercial portrayal of the rapper, the poetic facet of rap music is usually overshadowed. Because of this, the casual music fan will not be interested in rap because they simply aren’t sure how to appreciate it. Slam poetry, on the other hand, combines the poetic artistry that rap already possesses and combines it with an undeniable human element – emotion.

So is rap slam poetry? Is slam poetry rap? The truth is a bit more muddled and pragmatic than originally thought. Both areas of art have many talented people working to further the cause. It is up to the listener to make his own judgment based on his own opinions. Widespread acceptance may not be the ultimate goal of slam poetry or rap music. But if the artists and poets continue to come up with original and entertaining material, the sky is the limit for both slam poetry and rap music.

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