Make It Funky III—Professor Adam Bradley

[By Kenton Rambsy]

I tend to take for granted that I am not an expert on rap music in its entirety. I play the music daily, attend concerts regularly, and read nearly every hip-hop blogs, but, often times, I neglect to fully comprehend that what I understand hip-hop to be in its current state is actually the product of years-and-years of artistic and cultural movements. Professor Adam Bradley’s scholarship has provided me with a foundation to build upon as I interrogate issues of language and how its bearing on rap music has relevance to my literary studies.

My continued engagement with Bradley’s scholarship on rap music has increased my running bibliography of scholars such as Tricia Rose, Cheryl Keyes, and Jelani Cobb that hip-hop as an extension of black cultural traditions. Bradley served as co-editor of The Anthology of Rap which offers an exploration of how specific artists, lyrics, and musical-styles influenced the development of the musical genre. His work provides an opportunity to explore black inventiveness in terms of language. With increased attention to language and delivery techniques, hip-hop fans and English scholars can situate rap music in a larger literary continuum.

Bradley’s discussion shed light on how figures of speech are often times modified by rap music. For instance, consider the similarities between hashtag (#Hashtag) rhymes and similes. A simile is a figure of speech that typically uses the words “like” or “as” to express the resemblance of one thing to another of a different category. Hashtag rhymes simply leave out the words, with an implied understanding that there is a comparison present.

For instance, take lyrics from Drake’s song “Over.” He raps, “I could teach you how to speak my language. #Rosetta Stone.” Or, Nicki Minaj’s verse on my “My Chick Bad,” where she spits, “Running down the court and dunking on em’. #LisaLeslie.” It follows logically from these examples that the #hashtag rhyme is the literary offspring of the simile. Bradley’s work should serves as a blueprint for thinking about possible ways to integrate the study of rap music into English, American, and African-American studies departments.

Below, view the video where I was able to get Bradley’s thoughts on his visit to KU.

Video Design Credit: Brandon Hill—University Kansas Student of Film and Media Studies