Latest Issue

Rap’s last tape

Sapped of verbal vitality and ghetto pride, hip hop's profanities are little more than a soundtrack to greed

By Nick Crowe   March 2004

When the poet laureate Andrew Motion penned a birthday rap to Prince William last year, the reaction was a mixture of surprise and embarrassment. Motion’s verses were declared unworthy of the genre. They also remained firmly on the printed page. Unlike literary poetry, rapping is an oral discipline which lives or dies by the microphone. By definition, this wasn’t a rap at all. More curious, though, was the incredulity with which Motion’s choice of prosody was received. After all, hip hop is a mainstream phenomenon which has dominated the charts and high street fashion for as long as most teenagers…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect