Literature, History, and Rap Battles?

I feel like I need to start here: I’m not the biggest fan of YouTube in general. I mean, I’m glad there’s a place to go when you absolutely, positively must watch cute animal videos, and I can see the usefulness for gamers in general (although, seriously, I will take a text-based walkthrough any day of the week over a video).

But one bit of YouTube ridiculousness that will always suck me in are the Epic Rap Battles of History.

This is nerd comedy gold, guys. Obviously, some pair ups will appeal more than others, depending on personal interests. For example as someone who actively seeks out any representation of Tesla in modern fiction*, I am enamored with the Edison vs. Tesla battle, myself.


Well, today, I went down the YouTube rap battle rabbit hole and discovered a literary spin-off – Princess Rap Battle. Despite the fact that neither Hermione Granger or Katniss Everdeen are actual fictional princesses, they went at each other, rap battle style.

I know, I know, this is probably REALLY old news to anyone who isn’t me. But now I’m going to show you something you probably haven’t seen, after a short tangent, so bear with me.


When I was in my early 20s, I was very much involved with National Poetry Slam. I was never a superstar on the stage, but I’m friends with folks who have been part of winning teams, who have taken home individual titles, and who appear in the movie SlamNation. After coordinating a 90-hour long open mic at NPS2001 in Seattle, I was awarded the first Spirit of the Slam award. From 1999 to 2006, this was a huge part of my life.

Which is why, when watching these YouTube rap battles, I thought of a poem I hadn’t in a very very long time.

On finals stage in Minneapolis in 2002, Jeremy Richards of the Seattle slam team, did a poem called “T.S. Eliot’s Lost Hip Hop Poem”, and I remember thinking that it was so well crafted, such an intelligent mashup of genres. I may have been just a smidgen envious of his craft & performance here.


Is this the earliest blending of a historical figure and the relatively modern stylings of hip-hop ? I don’t know. I just feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this sliver of history when talking about the immensely popular YouTube rap battles videos.


(*) If you haven’t watched “Sanctuary”, you should. It features my absolutely favorite fictional Nikola Tesla, and is just all kinds of brilliant.

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