Jay-Z Explains Why Rap Should Be Considered Poetry

Hov explains that there's more to hip-hop music than what's on the surface.

With the release of his latest book Decoded, Jay-Z hopes that readers will glean some lessons from reading his lyrics. In a previously unreleased interview, Hov explains that there’s more to rap than what’s on the surface and that if listeners took the time to decipher lyrics, they would appreciate it more.

“I hope readers take away from this book that rap is poetry. It’s thought-provoking; there’s thought behind it,” he said. “There’s great writing in rap as well. You never hear rappers being compared for like the greatest rap writers of all time. You hear Bob Dylan. So is Biggie Smalls in a Hitchcock way. Some of the things that Biggie wrote... Rakim, I mean, listen to some of the things he wrote, if you take those lyrics and you pull them away from the music and put ‘em up on the wall somewhere and someone had to look at them, they would say, ‘This is genius! This is genius work!’ I want people to take that away.”

He also explained that listeners tend to make quick judgments about hip-hop and hopes that the book will eradicate snap decisions.

“I want people to also take away the quick judgments. Listen to the song, listen to its intent. Try to figure out why a song like ‘Big Pimpin’ can exist. The same way that you try to figure out a song why ‘Meet the Parents’ exists. It’s clearly obvious that it has different meaning, but this, on the surface, is just fun and party music but there’s reasons behind that as well,” he continued. “I really wanted to lay this out in a clear and concise way that people could look at it and say, OK, if there’s thought and there’s intelligence and there’s reason and logic behind it, then maybe you have to deal with everything like that.”

RELATED: Dream Hampton Talks Transforming Jay-Z's "Decoded"


  • r

    You are an dumb racist ass. If you dont like it, then why you even come here. I bet you havent even heard much rap in your life time. Only ape is you stupid white trash fuckin neantardaline mutant. Real hip hop is all about poetry.

  • nimo

    you're an idiot and obviously dont learn shit in english. Its idiots like you that no one needs. take your incorrect, retarded negativity else where

  • saint

    Yeah I have to agree with Jigga. Good MC's are poets to me. And what people be saying here about wack rappers hiding behind a beat, that is bullshit! to me the quality of the mc is more important than the beat. that's why madlib ruins the champion sound album with his wack ass rhyme style. and people say Jay-Z aint got lyrics???? c'mon, not everybody has to canibus or on some abstract shit, jay'z great at what he does, he's funny, even redman said hov's a asshole, but in a good way, you kno. and to anonymous below me: fuck joe budden, he ain't a fucking poet. AND HE AIN'T GOT SHIT ON JAY-Z. "I never take shots at legends." - Game on if he dissed Jigga on his song.

  • Anonymous

    Nas, Cormega, Shad, Joe Budden and Killah Priest are some of raps greatest poets. Jay, it's hard to admit, but you aren't one of them and these glasses don't make the say shit you say more profound.

    • Anonymous

      True....to be considered an legend you have to produce more than one good album.Although Jay z's only good album was reasonable doubt and I think most people can rhyme well within one album.

  • Junior

    Anyone who takes anything this man says seriously is an ass.

    • Anonymous

      I can see what you mean he has admitted to watering his lyrics down. But cmon son, songs like jay z 22 two's show exactly why hes not really considered as a shit rapper.

  • JG3

    I agree with everything Jay-Z had to say. People don't listen to music anymore.

  • Amir

    The differnce is that Rap lyrics can hide behind a beat, its a double edged sword, cus the beat almost throws a veil over lyrics, good and bad, but poetry does not have anything to hide behind, if you write horrible poetry you just wont find a publisher to publish that shit for you, the book cover wont make it look good enough to hid the shit that inside, but thats what beats do. But i also think that Rap is a hybrid of poetry, and music, but in most cases has not figured out merge the to, one is almost overpowering the other, most Artist have yet to figure out how to balance them to where they are both presented in a clear articulate way that truly complements each other and not conflict, contradict each other.

    • Anonymous

      A wack mc can never hide behind a beat, they say "I'm not a lyrical mc" or "I'm not a rapper I'm a gangster" this excuse became more and more accepted and valid, ideal for corporates to dumb down an artform

  • Anonymous

    Canibus - Poet Laureate II, that is all.

  • insoanto

    As much as I am a hip-hop fan I have to disagree.Some rhymes (even though admittedly good ones) don't equal poetry.Poems have reached a lyrical and structural complexity and treats various philosophical topics, that range from love and human emotions to the purpose of humans in this world.A rap song rarely requires a deep study to fully understand its message the same way a poem does.

  • jae

    i agree rap is poetry its just over a beat,u kno sum ppl look at rap like wer crazy but really wat it is is hard core poetry.lotta ppl put passion in to it,an feelings,to levels that jay z,eminem,nas,wu tang,2pac big pun biggie took hiphop too is crazy,like to use poetry an do wat they did to it is crazy the rappers i jus named i think had the most inpact as in takeing rapping to other levels,lotta rappers jus put their emoitions in to rap , they use their mind an emotions at same time,an their still doing it even being 30 sumthing an getting new fans everyday

  • Supreme Emerpus

    Canibus and Chino XL have been saying hip-hop is poetry for years and even Chino said rap's greatest rhymes are on par with or surpass what Shakespeare has written. But hiphopdx ignored it when they said it?

    • sketch

      They probably ignored them because they're wrong, i love rakim, nas, krs one biggie etc, but to suggest what they wrote is on a par with shakespeare is wrong because 1) its a completely different artform 2) shakespeare was the mozart of literature, chino xl anf bis evidently haven't properly read any shakespeare

  • mpmj385

    NaS > Rakim & BIGGIE

  • Real Hip Hop

    Fuck gay-z gay a$$, listen 2 these niggaz: Nas AZ Immortal Technique 2pac Biggie Eazy-E Slim Shady (Fuck eminem) Jedi Mind Tricks Wu Tang Clan Boogie Down Productions MF Doom Lupe (Fuck Lasers) K-Rino Scarface J. Cole Slaughterhouse Pete Rock DJ Premo Lauryn Hill Canibus Hopsin AOTP if you listen to any rapper that is not listed, you support illuminati. Fuck Led Zeppelin and Beatles illuminati cunts.

    • Rubix Cuban

      Hey! Watch yer mouth. The Led Zeppelin guys are my niggas, other guys I consider some serious poets. (Before rap was big they were doing the whole freestlye thing) The body of your letter was fucked up by your ignorant lead and ignorant ending

    • Jefferson Lee

      proper list but you fucked it up with what you said at the end.

  • Terrence

    Rap shouldnt be considered poetry Hip-Hop is poetry there is a big difference between rap & hip-hop any real person would tell you that

    • Phat Dawg

      dude you got it all wrong...Hip Hop is the culture and Rap is a type of music of and from the culture...

  • mcmastermind

    Jays rapping on Reasonable Doubt was completely amazing and classic. The reason he dumbed down his lyrics is the same thing he is saying up here. People don't look in depth to lyrics. They want a song they can dance too. Real hip hop heads such as I though take in a song and study that shit. I really appreciate what he's saying here because rap is poetry, and it's definitely something that goes unnoticed by most people.

  • Anonymous

    no disrespect on jay cuz i agree with all he has to say. but lets look at this from a different point of view.. not many people think jay is a bad rapper or even on the top ten. in most everybodys minds jay is a legend. BUT if you take lil wayne, drake, kanye, 50, t.i... ETC and they were to say the EXACT same thing that hov did then all yall would hate on em for saying that. like get the fuck outta the gutter and actually listen to what wayne...etc has to say in their rhymes.

  • Big Tiger (remember me?)

    That's right haters.. Jay-Z is a fucking modern day Maya Angelou!

  • Marcus Dislikesmartdumbpeople Eason

    I agree, BUT not EVERYBODY is a poet........

  • Anonymous

    I read this book, so good. I would strongly recommend it to any of you

  • Anonymous

    Kids don'nt talk about who's the nicest like we uesed to when we were young, it's first weak numbers and net worth. You can't possibly pollitic and be fly. It's a crime to be a broke rapper these days even if you "are as wise as soloman and articulate with words.

    • DMAX

      kids are kids then they grow up....There are some kids choosing to abuse something that carries so much weight. Iam young too..... but yet old enough to realize that I don't wanna be an mc because of the weight of becoming one is a 500lbs weight on a 115 lbs kid.

  • DMAX

    I totally agree with jay-z.... and Iam sure his mentor kane would as well as every other credible mc. Jay-z is not a lyrical god but his pretty damn good, what people don't understand is lyrical rappers such as black thought,big pun,nas,rakim,empd,rakim even jay-z himself etc etc apply the same skills and wordplay any credible poet would.

    • anonymous is a dumbass

      hes talking about big daddy kane you dumbass, dont talk shit when youre at an inferior level

    • Anonymous02

      Since when is Kanye considered Jay-Z's mentor? Do you even know the meaning of the word, you dumbass?

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