This is one example of the various workshops offered with True & Livin'.
Lesson: Where I'm From - The Poetics of Place
“Respiration” by Mos Def/Black Star
The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis
Shinin’, like who on top of this?
People was hustlin’, arguin’ and bustlin’
Gangstas of Gotham hardcore hustlin’
I'm wrestling’ with words and ideas
My ears is picky, seekin’ what will transmit
the scribes can apply to transcript, yo
This ain't no time where the usual is suitable
Tonight alive, let's describe the inscrutable
The indisputable, we New York the narcotic
Strength in metal and fiber optics
where mercenaries is paid to trade hot stock tips
for profits, thirsty criminals take pockets
Hard knuckles on the second hands of workin’ class watches
Skyscrapers is colossus,
the cost of living is preposterous,
stay alive, you play or die, no options
No Batman and Robin,
can't tell between the cops and the robbers,
they both partners, they all heartless
With no conscience, back streets stay darkened
Where unbelievers’ hearts stay hardened
My eagle talons stay sharpened, like city lights stay throbbin’
You either make a way or stay sobbin’,
the Shiny Apple is bruised but sweet and if you choose to eat
You could lose your teeth, many crews retreat
Nightly news repeat, who got shot down and locked down
Spotlight the savages, NASDAQ averages
My narrative, rose to explain this existence
Amidst the harbor lights which remain in the distance…
Vernacular – The language of a particular group, profession, region, or country, especially as spoken rather than formally written.
Standard English - The variety of English that is generally acknowledged as the model for the speech and writing of educated speakers.
Repetition – The action of repeating something that has already been said or written.
Word choice – A selection of words as determined by a number of factors, including meaning (both denotative and connotative), specificity, level of diction, and tone.
Imagery – Vivid descriptive language that appeals to the senses.
Compounded Rhyme – Rhymes that contain two or more syllables.
Assonance – A resemblance of sounds in words or in syllables; the repetition of vowel sounds, vowel rhyme.
Alliteration - The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables.
Common Core Standards: 9.1, 9.3 – 12.3 F, 9.4 H, 9.6 – 10.6, 11.6-12.6 A
Mos Def's verse from "Respiration" is the perfect example of a True & Livin' workshop. Growing up, this duo inspired me to create my own music through self-determination and perseverance in a harsh environment. This verse exemplifies that spirit through the use of many literary devices.
For instance, it begins with the opening line, "The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis / Shinin’, like who on top of this?". The new moon is completely dark and unable to be seen in the night sky. For it to make a grand entrance into the sky "in the crown of the metropolis" must mean that it's that time of night when the nightlife is at its peak. It is from this that we can reason that a new moon "shinin'" is a paradox. The moon doesn't actually shine, it only reflects light and while it is in its new phase it is not visible. The "shine" is really darkness covering the entire city. Mos Def has taken the "blackness", the attitude it represents, ("Who on top of this?"), and transformed it into a positive metaphor that represents the resilient spirit of the people of the night.
I appreciate that the opening line uses a compounded rhyme scheme in the phrases "metropolis" and "on top of this". The extra syllables allow for more sensory details to be included about the environment. Enough of my thoughts, though! How do you feel about the verse? What did you like about it? What didn't you like? Can you list any technical aspects, (see key terms), like I did above that impressed you (or otherwise)? Please write your answers below.
If you feel up to the challenge, join me in the Lab forum where we'll take this workshop and create our own pieces about where we live.
In this forum we dissect literary works in various fields to determine themes and learn new vocabulary to add to our repertoire. Music, poetry, and different forms of story telling are our main focus.
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