Monday, April 6, 2015

Kanye West - "Graduation"

Kanye West has had an extremely long career for a hip-hop artist, spanning over the course of 3 decades an producing over 109 singles. On of my personal favorites is Homecoming, which appears on his album Graduation. Homecoming draws from stories of Kanye's childhood to illustrate his connection with his home town of Chicago. While Kanye is no longer living in Chicago, Homecoming is meant as an homage to the city and describes the aspects that Kanye misses from his old home.

The most prominent poetic language used throughout the song is an extended metaphor. Kanye opens his first verse with the lines:
I met this girl when I was 3 years old
And what I loved most she had so much soul
She said "Excuse me lil homey, I know you don't know me
But, my name is Windy and I like to blow trees"
On the surface, Kanye is writing a love ballad to a girl he met when he was young, but this really isnt the case. Windy is a play of off Chicago's nick name "The Windy City" and Kanye moved to Chicago when he was 3. This metaphor continues throughout the song and adds depth to the relationship between Kanye and Chicago. By describing his love as the love between two people, Kanye lets the audience feel the great amount of intimacy that join him with Chicago.

In almost every single line, Kanye continues to develop the seperate stories of his romance with a girl and his romance with Chicago. In one of the most vivid lines, Kanye says:
In the nighttime her face lit up, so astounding  
On one level, this is just talking about a girls face brightened by all the city lights. However, it gets much more interesting when you view it as a personification and inspect it next to the underlying theme of Chicago. While Chicago doesn't have an actual face, its lights do turn on at night and the whole city shines. Though this line is simple in sentence and word choice, it does a good job of representing the goal of the song, which is the development of two stories. What I think is remarkable about this is how naturally Kanye is able to use this personification to weave the two stories together.

In one of the last lines of the second verse, Kanye says:
Reach for the stars so if you fall, you land on a cloud
This is a perfect example of an idiom that feels completly at home in the song. Kanye developed the plot of the song from his childhood to his rap career and uses this figurative language to explain that he is trying to make it to the top of the rap industry. The use of the words stars and clouds helps build on the previous language used to describe Chicago as a big, bright city.

Over the span of 3 minutes and 24 seconds, Kanye is able to build a love story in a cityscape, a love story to that cityscape, and connect them both back to his rap career through the use of his poetic language.

Kendrick Lamar - "Money Trees"

Kendrick Lamar is a rapper that grew up in Compton, California who began to gain major recognition in 2010. In October 2012 he released an album called good kid m.A.A.d city. In this album, the fifth song is called "Money Trees." Kendrick expresses this song as a way of talking about how money changes people and he assesses his situation in his home town of Compton, where he reflects on the immortalization of his uncle after he was shot. There are many ways in which this song could be considered poetry. There are many striking and clever lines that Kendrick uses to make his point.

         Money trees is the perfect place for shade and that's just how I feel
         A silver spoon I know you come from, ya bish
         And that's a lifestyle that we never knew
         Go at a reverend for the revenue

By saying this I believe that he is trying to express the fact that a person in his old situation is never really safe unless he has money to protect himself. In Compton there is a lot of poverty and it is a place known for its violence. A person living in that kind of environment seems to be in danger a lot of the time and Kendrick knows that first hand. He says this because the only way to get out of that dangerous situation is to make a lot of money so you can move away from that terrible place. The silver spoon is a lifestyle that many people in Compton do not have the luxury of receiving in their lives. These lines reflect how Kendrick felt as he was growing up.

         Dreams of living life like rappers do
         Back to reality we poor, ya bish
         Another casualty at war, ya bish
         Two bullets in my uncle tony head

In these lines we see that even though he dreamt of "living life like rappers do," he still had to realize that was an unlikely wish. He references to when his uncle was shot. Just "Another casualty at war" because that was such a normal thing around there. I feel like he is speaking to the general public about his experiences. He wants people to see that someone being shot is not really a huge deal around there. Life is a war in that situation and he accepts the fact that lives will be lost in the fight.

I believe that this song is a true representation of what poetry can be. This song has many lines in it that make you think about where he came from and the situation of these people living in that place. Kendrick Lamar uses many clever words and phrases to speak to the audience in a way that they can tell what he is feeling while he is speaking those lines. I think that is what poetry is all about, is being able to read something or listen to something and experience a feeling of what the author was trying to convey. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Music Is Poetry: Passenger's "The One You Love"

I consider music to be poetry because my definition of poetry is quite broad and loose. I define poetry as a release of emotions or ideas through words. “The One You Love,” a really beautiful song by Passenger from their album Flight of the Crow, is a great piece of poetry. While I don’t agree that poetry has to include specific “poetic devices” to be poetry, this song does include poetic devices. The song is, quite simply, about finding The One and figuring out how to tell when you've found The One. At the heart of the song is the idea that The One is the person you are the most comfortable with and the safest with.

In the first verse the use of repetition in the lines, "we’re all looking/ that’s what she said/ for someone to share our thoughts/ for someone to share our beds" helps with the idea of knowing when you've found The One. When you've found someone you can connect with mentally and emotionally- "our thoughts"- and connect with physically- "our beds"- then you know you've found your person. The chorus uses repetition to show signs of The One saying that "if you find someone that doesn’t try to change you/ if you find someone that doesn’t have to blame you/ if you find someone you don’t need to explain to" then you've found The One. Repeating the line "if you find someone" makes it clear that there are many signs for telling whether someone is your person to spend the rest of your life with. I love the imagery they use when they say that we're searching "for someone to keep us warm/ when the rain soaks through our clothes." I always imagine two people running through a thunderstorm holding hands and laughing and then huddling together and dancing close to each other. It paints a picture of how things are when you find The One.

And now since I've proved that this song fits the standard description of poetry and includes poetic devices I can say that I don't think these things are what makes this song poetry. It's poetry purely because someone had a strong emotion of love, or loss of love, or hope for love and needed music to pour out that emotion. Writing music is an emotional outlet and to me that's the only requirement for poetry.

Drake - "Company"

Company (listen) by Drake was featured on his latest mixtape release, If you're reading this it's too late. The central focus of this song is a struggle of being who Drake is, and relationship issues, primarily trouble with finding a woman who is right for him. It states what he wants from a woman he would have a relationship. He forgets his ego when he says "I don't deserve her at all", but the things he expects from a woman are very sexist, confining his women to traditional sex roles. "I need a girl who gon' love me, I need a girl who gon' trust me, someone to fuck me, Someone to make me feel lucky..." This is one of the main focuses of the song, and Drake really confines women to specific sex roles in his expectations. He implies that what all men need is a woman he will love him, trust him, and please him sexually, objectifying women as is typical of rap artists. "She on some 9AM already cookin' in the kitchen shit". Another highly stereotypical expectation of women, which further adds to Drake's apparent purpose of describing the sex roles of women and actually believing them. "I need you to take my mind off being in my prime". And finally Drake finishes his portion of the song by expressing his desire for a woman who will relax him because of all the stress that he has from work.