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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…

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