Sunday, July 5, 2009

Method Man and Redman, Hipponax, and the choliamb

I'm interested in language as physical, rather than as metaphysical. Also, in the extracommunicative kinetics and physical artifact of language (yuck: that sentence). Frinstance, say i tyt.... type this sensten sentnce sentence withing without using the backspace (I'm a shs shitty typist). That shit. Fiddlings, lisps, drummings on the keyboard while thinking, stutters, stumbles, limps, shibboleths, etc.

Blah blah blah, I don't actually want to get into this too much in this post. It's only supposed to be about something I noticed in a Method Man and Redman song.

Anyway, Hipponax (c. 540 B.C.E.) is a fascinating poet in terms of the physicality of his poetry. He was a Greek lyrical poet who was disfigured (supposedly anyway) and walked with a limp. This limp actually manifests in his poetry with a metrical mode he invented: choliambic meter or the scazon. Also called a "limping meter", he would place a spondee (two long syllables) at the end of an otherwise iambic line creating a sort of stumbling or limping effect.

So, I was listening to Method Man and Redman's first collaboration, Blackout!, and I noticed that the album often features this "limping" effect. Or close anyway, hip hop doesn't really operate within metrical constraints as much these mechanics are just part of its arsenal (in fact, you could say that the words happen over top the rhythm, as opposed to "traditional" metrical poetry that happens within the meter).

So, as far as I know, the vocabulary that constructs our idea of "meter" is not really well equipped to describe all the stress and timing mechanics going on in hip hop (someone who knows more than me, please let me know, meter's not so much my "thing"). However, something at least similar to the choliamb does seem to be going on throughout Blackout!. I had noticed the tendency to end a "line" with two stressed syllables, but wouldn't necessarily have been reminded of Hipponax if it weren't a line in Cereal Killer spat by Redman: "I talk like I walk, with a fucked up pivot".

Listen to the track on youtube (it'll start at verse two, near the line I just quoted)
So, I was entertaining the idea of Redman having heard of Hipponax. I do refuse to believe that it's a coincidence, but I'm leaning more towards there being an intuitive connection between language and other body kinetics. Also, both Hipponax and hip hop in general construct a poetry as a reaction to being "pathologized" by mainstream culture.

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