Textual Analysis 2

Motherf***ers better realize,
now is the time to self-actualize

We have found evidence
that hip hop’s standard 85 rpm

when increased by a number
at least half the rate of its standard

or decreased at ¾ of its speed
may be a determining factor in heightening consciousness

-Saul Williams, “Coded Language”*

For most of our semester we’ve been touching base with artists and thinkers very deeply influenced by musical traditions, especially hip-hop: Saul Williams, Gil Scott Heron, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Breakbeat Poets follows the tendencies of Coates’s autobiography: they draw language directly from the hip-hop tradition to rethink the role of poetry in our lives and in our classrooms. This assignment invites you to look at hip-hop directly, treating it as a potential influence for a poem taken from our anthology.


  1. Select one  text from The Breakbeat Poets that we haven’t read in class. Identify its original period of publication.
  2. Select a work of hip-hop that resonates with the poem you’ve chosen. This work’s release should predate your poem.
  3. Write a comparative analysis of the two texts.


Consider the questions below as you engage in your analysis.

  • What does hip-hop do that makes it so appealing to our poets?
  • How does your poet borrow, use, or revise elements of hip-hop in the poem you’ve chosen?
  • Are there ways poetry functions differently from hip-hop?
  • Why, ultimately, might your poet have chosen poetry over musical performance for this piece?

Use close reading to support your analysis!

  • look at language use, code switches, the range of registers, cultural or historical references, etc. to help you understand the works you’re reading.
  • Remember that performance and print can function differently; attend to the unique strengths of each.

Submission details:

  • Final analyses are due November 14th before class.
  • Your papers should use MLA format for the document and the bibliography. Most of you will only have two sources in your bibliography, though in some cases you may chose to use outside or critical sources to support your reading.
  • Final papers should be roughly 1500 words.
  • Submit your final assignment to Blackboard under “Assignments.”

*I took out the swears for you guys.