Sunday, 3 November 2013

Rap or Shakespeare?

Rapper and poet Akala is the self-proclaimed 'Black Shakespeare'. His belief, which he has taken around schools in the UK, is that Shakespeare's verse is not at all dissimilar to modern rap and hip hop lyrics.

He, therefore, encourages students to look at The Bard's work not as some untouchable, incomprehensible old poetry, but as the edgy, "spit on the riddem" of its day.

To prove his point to young urban kids, who (on the whole) think Shakespeare has nothing to offer them, Akala likes to play a little game of 'Rap or Shakespeare?'

This seems like a fun idea. So, I've picked out a few hip hop lyrics, and some Shakespeare quotes, and listed them below. Think you could tell modern rap from the words of William Shakespeare?

Was Shakespeare the Eminem of
his generation?

1) "My Crown is in my heart, not on my head..."

2) "Time flies, dreams die, people lose faith..."


3) "Be a king? Think not. Why be a king when you can be a God?"

4) "Trapped on a planet of pain and perpetrators..."

5) "Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs..."

6) "The mind is a terrible thing to waste."

7) "To all the seeds that follow me, Protect your essence."

Bill Shakespeare droppin' beats

8) "...her pale fire she snatches from the sun."

9) "...sleep is the cousin of death."

10) "This is the third time, I hope good luck lies in odd numbers."


1, Shakespeare, Henry VI Part Three

2, Xzibit 'Legends Never Die'

3, Eminem 'Rap God'

4, MF Grimm 'Emotions'

5, Shakespeare, Richard II

6, Guru 'Peace of Mine'

7, 2Pac 'Smile'

8, Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

9, Nas 'New York State of Mind'

10, Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor

How did you do? Were you surprised by the similarity between very modern lyrics and Shakespeare's Early Modern verse? 

If you'd like to get a better grasp on Shakespeare's language, check out What's It All About, Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon.

If you can think of any other rap or hip hop lyrics that sound like they could have been written by Shakespeare, why not share them in the comments below?

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