Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stolen from Hip Hop

OK, so I'd been going into schools and, in trying to get my students, to apply critical minds to poetry, I'd taken in song lyrics, hip hop lyrics - you name it. But they kept making distinctions. So what I came up with, eventually, was a series of poems (one of which I have pasted below) which borrowed heavily from lyrics. I then asked them what they thought of these 'constructions' and they said, 'yeah, nice poems, but more intricate than lyrics.' Then I said, 'well most of the lines here are taken from or inspired by song lyrics so your homework is - guess who wrote what'. Now I'm sharing with you guys... The game here is - if you're a hip hop fan - to guess the origins of the lines in the poem and add them as a comment. To make it easier the lines are numbered - enjoy!

Miss H in the City
by Nii Ayikwei Parkes with props to the original lyricists who inspired the collage


  1. I arrive in the city at dawn, just before sunrise, step
  2. onto shore with hope bright in my eyes. This is
  3. a new start; new dreams away from the hearts I broke;
  4. excitement’s got my heart racing like a hummingbird
  5. pacing. I try to be cool and patient, but it’s harder than
  6. the calculus of quantum leaping. See I’m a small city
  7. boy with big city dreams, I’ve dreamt of this existence
  8. amidst the harbour lights; ships coming and going
  9. like ghosts, dropping – like flies – new dreamers
  10. who prayed for wings. Now I take it all in; its five
  11. dimensions, its six senses. I feel the seven firmaments’
  12. force and hold myself back from screaming. I sit
  13. outside myself, observe from a bird’s eye view, a boy
  14. descending into this fantastic beautiful mess. I wrestle
  15. with words and heartbeats seeking the phrase to express
  16. the moment, but the usual is no longer suitable. So
  17. I rest my eyes on a purple bud bursting into a high-five
  18. flower, its reflection shimmering on tranquil waters
  19. like something greater than depth, something eternal.


  1. And soon there is a girl; filled with magic
  2. and strife and scaled just right. A smile
  3. like a spear, on point and timed to perfection.
  4. I lose myself in it, hear a distant bass ride
  5. out like an ancient mating call. The duration’s
  6. infinite – enough time for me to ponder sugar,
  7. spice, and other things she might be made of.
  8. I feel my flesh burn, my cell walls disintegrate
  9. to allow me to absorb her essence. Her head is
  10. wrapped but her aura peeks out at the back.
  11. The big city’s first riddle and I have no answers.
  12. It’s too loud to think; maybe my dreams are
  13. larger than my hands can grasp. I realise now
  14. the streets are too shrill to ever hear freedom
  15. sing, too crammed for love to grow wings.
  16. A new moon rides high in the metro’s fading
  17. crown; across the way the ancient is manifest
  18. in knife fights. I take a deep city breath, watch
  19. my broken dreams fly to where waters fall
  20. as she walks away – a devil in a blue dress,
  21. a beast in a blue Chrysler, karma coming back
  22. hard. My chest heaves against the evening’s
  23. flesh. I sigh, watch the city lights throb
  24. against a purple flower’s reflection, hope
  25. that from this night a sweet dawn will come.


Qué? said...

Hmmmm... is the second one Blackstar? I'm probably way off...

Anonymous said...

Do you mean section I line 2 or just section II. They are actually each from at least three songs/artists.

Unknown said...

I got right to the end, disappointed in myself that I could not recognise a single line. And then, 2 line 25. My heart racing, I knew, that's Lauryn Hill, not one of the LOST ONES but one that I have found. That base twanging though my head I pulled out my phone to hear it for real...only to find that I am still lost.

But I know that even when you're gone you can still be reborn
And, from the night can arrive the sweet dawn...you might win some but I just lost one.

Anonymous said...

@ Ngozi, you're absolutely right L Boogie's Lost Ones - third verse. There's actually another line that's inspired/derived from that song - maybe you spotted that too? It's sitting close to a line from Nas :)

Unknown said...

Contributions from the famous Musa Okwonga on my facebook note:

Poem !, lines 10-11: that's from "Mathematics" by Mos Def!

"five dimensions...six senses...seven firmaments’"


Poem 1, lines 4-5: Mos Def, “Miss Fat Booty”
Poem 2, lines 4-5: the hook from “Respiration”
Poem 2, line 16: Mos Def, “Respiration”

and he's SO right! :)