English 51 - Spring, 2023

Hot Bars, Supreme Lyrics, & Rhymes for Days: Hip Hop as Poetry

Class Information

Instructor: Solomon, Jeff
CRN: 62107
Time: MWF 10:00-10:50am
Location: 100 Hunt
GE Areas: American Cultures, Governance, and History Domestic Diversity


This course considers hip hop as a source of some of the greatest innovators of poetry, from Afrika Bambaataa to Rakim in the 1970s-1980s, Nas and Lauryn Hill in the 1990s-2000s, Kendrick Lamar and Noname in the 2010s-2020s...among others. We will examine the artistry of MCing, the technical composition and performance or rap lyrics, the presentation of albums as literary texts, and the historical development of the four pillars of hip hop: turntablism, graffiti, b-boying, and knowledge. Specific attention will be paid to the cultural influence of the genre, but students will also learn to recognize song progressions employed in significant albums and how to identify the rhetorical figures used in rap lyrics. By the end of the course, students will be able to discuss the historical evolution of the form, noting the important innovators, and attending to the way that performance of rap lyrics brings attention to poetic structures upon which audience pleasure depends.

The course playlist along with transcriptions of the song lyrics will be available on Canvas.


Reading Quizzes: 30%
Weekly Track Reviews: 50%
Final exam: 20%


Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, Adam Bradley