Poetry and Rap; the Differences and Similarities Within

controversy between rap and poetry, is rap poetry, rap and spoken word

Is rap poetry? Is spoken word a different kind of rap?
If yes, how?
If no, why?

These question has been asked by many people over the years and in this article we hope to shed light on the differences and similarities between this three similar yet distant forms of human expressions and appreciation.

Is Rap Poetry?

To answer this befuddling query, I’ll have to break down each word and action.


Usually on paper, poetry is the release of the emotions of the writer in forms and with instruments that pertains to poetry.

Instruments such as poetic devices, lines and stanzas, forms and so on.


You must have heard it in a lot of rap (hip-hop) movies that rap is just the combination of poetry and rhythm.

Well, that is true. (in some sense)

Original rap (the original hip-hop rap) was as a result of the drive people (youths) had to express themselves. This led to the beats, the rhymes, the poems, the artists – thus Hip Hop!.

Rap is a much more popular musical art that focuses on rhythm, rhymes and musicality.

Spoken Word Poetry

Spoken word is the oral performance of poetry.

It is usually performed in front of an audience or for an audience.

Prominent spoken word artists today include Rudy Fracisco, Andrea Gibson, Prince EA, Dike Chukwuemereji.

What are the differences between poetry, spoken word poetry and rap?

Connection and Differences Between Poetry and Rap

Rap just as poetry seems to have some features in common. Features such as the writing forms. Both works are usually written in verses (stanzas) which can be faceted.

They also both feature the use of rhythm in performances.
Whether you’re reading a poem on a paper or listening or a rap song. If you observe close enough, you’ll be able to note the flow of rhythm in them both.

Poems are read in meters, this is just as beats to rap. They help in organizing and delivering the messages intended by either performer or artist.

One other interesting connection between both is that many raps actually possess poetry in their lyrics.

Take some citing from Tupac’s songs. All were hip-hop rap songs. Yet they all had various elements of poetry in them.

This could’ve been deeply influenced by the reality that Tupac was in fact a poet himself. A well-versed literate.

So another random pick, Eminem.
He is arguably the most popular rapper in the world for the last two decades.

Many of Eminem’s raps includes poetic devices and even listeners can attest to his great use-of-words.

Here are some of his lines from Darkness’’:

It’s Like I’m Loading in Las Vegas — alliteration
The music is so loud that it’s almost as though I don’t hear no sound — antithesis/rhyme

You can also check out the relationship between an aubade (a poem; a song of lovers parting in the morning 6 am)’’ and Ice-T’s 6 ‘N The Mornin’ (a rap music on police and gangsters).

Another interesting rap song with a lot of poetic exuberance is Notorious B.I.G’s Juicy.

The song didn’t achieve its extraordinary success just with the bars and rhymes it had. It did so with the upgrade Christopher (his real name) gave his verses.
In the song, he had poetic devices such as assonance, internal rhyme, allusion and alliteration included.

Take the close of the first verse in the song:

“Born sinner, the opposite of a winner
Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner
Peace to Ron G, Brucey B, Kid Capri
Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starsky”

Juicy by Notorious B.I.G

It comprises of alliteration, end rhyme, antithesis. Just some of the many devices he used in this masterpiece that’d slung his career to the top.

Juxtaposition, stanza breakage and a lot of other poetic devices are included in his rap music.

This proves then that poetry is a great tool for rap as well.

One other relativeness between the two forms is that poets quite find it easy to write rap music; but to perform it? That is another thing entirely.

But doesn’t prove that poetry is rap or that every rapper is a poet, No.

The delivery of both forms makes them separate. Though poetry can be picked up and turned into rap (if it rhymes), most raps are not poetic at all and reading them is such an eye-sore.

Another disparity between both forms is the various forms which one possessed and the oneness of the other.
Poems can be in various forms: kelogbs, haikus, sonnets but rap is, oh well rap.

Connection and Differences Rap and Spoken Word

Often times people have been confused with these two; spoken word poetry and rap.

They even ask …. are spoken word artists rapping or is that some new type of reciting?

While rap focuses more on delivering the right rhythms and rhymes along with the message intended in a song or record, spoken word really is a free outlet to express oneself.

Spoken word is the (almost) lackadaisical form of poetry. Some even choose not to call is a form of poetry because of this.

It is not based on rhymes, although rhyming is possible when performing. One does not lose the message if one doesn’t include rhyme.

The main focus of spoken word is usually the story being told through its rendition and not the amount of figurative expressions included in the performance.

The art form has its own unique finesse which makes both listening and performing spoken word a lovely experience.


Whether or not you see poetry as rap of rap as poetry, I am sure you agree that there are similarities between them just as there are differences.

Believable, their distinctions make them unique but also connected, in a way.

So for me, I may say rap is also poetry and you also may argue that it is not and we both could be right.

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