This Spring sees the publication of my first academic chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop. The Companion, edited by Justin A. Williams, features a wide selection of Hip-Hop oriented essays from an array of contributors including Anthony Kwame Harrison, Adam Haupt, and Chris Tabron. I feel rather honoured to be a part of the collection, and also excited to see my work published in a book for the first time. My chapter “MC origins: rap and spoken word poetry” explores the shared history and facets of spoken word poetry and rap forms, with special case studies into the Black Arts Movement and the Good Life Cafe/Project Blowed.
I met Justin A. Williams in 2011 while interning at the old Mixcloud offices on Featherstone Street, back when Mixcloud shared office-space with Drum&Bass Arena. Williams visited the then HQ to conduct fieldwork and speak to Mixcloud co-founder Nico Perez. After being introduced, we began chatting about academia and geeking out about Hip-Hop…
As I had researched spoken word poetry and music in depth for my undergraduate dissertation, and was building up a portfolio of hip-hop interviews, Williams commissioned me to write a chapter on spoken word poetry and rap for his next project: The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop.
Over the following months I began incorporating research for my chapter into my writing projects, sneaking in questions about poetry and rap during many of my interviews. In reflection, I appreciate how many memorable experiences and ideas I have been fortunate enough to encounter and enjoy through working on this project. I can so clearly remember sitting outside on a sunny day in Oakland talking to Bay Area poet D. Scot Miller about the transcendental merits of Camp Lo and Q Tip, partying with Freestyle Fellowship in Hollywood, afternoons in various libraries across London and San Francisco with a mountain of books by my side, and all the times that listening to poetry and rap made me feel inspired and excited to be alive. I believe that expansion of the mind is a very beautiful thing, and feel fortunate to have spent time developing my understanding of art and expression relating to some of my very favourite music. In sharing my work, I hope that it can stir some thoughts and feelings, and that readers can ultimately take something from the chapter.
To all those who have have been generous with their time, allowing me to pester them with questions and abstract musings I am eternally grateful. In no particularly order I would like to thank: Justin A. Williams, David J. Pugilist, Amiri Baraka, D. Scot Miller, Freestyle Fellowship, SlimKid3, Abstract Rude, Robert Glasper, and of course all the musicians and poets who have made my world richer through discovering their work.
You can find the Companion here .