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Rap Vs Poetry at The Arcola Theatre

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by Amelia Jane (subscribe)
Freelance mermaid living in Peckham. It's far from the sea. Love finding free and exciting one-off events around London and telling the world! See my blog
Rap Vs Poetry? A battle of wits and words
With a season dictated by tennis matches, it was as refreshing as a beaker of Pimms to view another kind of match, and thank the lord there wasn't a pair of white shorts in sight. Perhaps, this is what the clever people at Fat Gold Chain and Hammer and Tongue were waiting for; after all, who needs to give the people of London another excuse to stay in on the Sabbath?

So, with Andy Murray celebrating off court with a delicious non-alcoholic beverage, the good people of London were free to come to the second annual Rap Vs Poetry event at The Arcola Theatre as part of the Dalston People's Festival. And come they did.


With the sun and the word-keen streaming through all thoroughfares, the Arcola bar was soon packed. And whilst the atmosphere was as warm and close as a the Rotherhithe Tunnel, there was a definite feel of competition in the air. In the blue corner sat the poets, scribbling away with quills and ink, their floppy fringes sticking to their tensed foreheads, whilst the rappers huddled in the red corner, spitting lyrics behind their sweaty fists.

Ah, if only.

With a short introduction from H&T's Angry Sam and FGT's Benny Diction, a quick warm up round by Poet Curious, Apple Juice, Cipher Solo and Zena Edwards, who were all waiting in the wings to give the audience a little taste of what was to come, the beat was on.

This was the deal: five rappers, five poets, three rounds in which each team would perform in their representative medium (rappers over beats, poets delivering an unaccompanied poem), swap and do it the other way around before finally performing a piece in which they put forward why they were the true winners of the competition. Each round would be be decided by the audience who would make as much noise as they thought was deserved.

With little directed at each other before the final round, it was less of a battle and more about trying to get the audience on side through wordplay, humour, comments on society and clever lyrical content. Rob Auton used deadpan wit in his poem "Yellow", read from the Yellow Pages in a yellow anorak, whilst Sensei C presented the juxtaposition of a homeless person and banker on the 25 bus. Kimba warmed the crowd with nostalgic reminiscence of how hip hop used to be, whilst Kat Francois used shock and realism to break the wall between audience and performer.

rap, hip hop, poetry, dalston, hammer and tongue, fat gold chain, arcola theatre, rob auton

Whilst it was a fantastic display of talent on both sides, there could only be one winner. And after both teams winning a round each, there was even more tension by the third round. But alas, there could only be one winner and in this case, 'twas the poets.

Now, some cynics may call it a popularity contest, whoever brings the most friends indeed receives the loudest cheer. Some say the poetry was simply more audible and therefore easier to understand and some say it just wasn't fair. However, who are we to judge a competition where rap and poetry would look similar to the point of the same, were it written down, apart from the difference in font?

rap, hip hop, poetry, dalston, hammer and tongue, fat gold chain, arcola theatre, kimba

When all is said and done, with the amount of talent in the Arcola Theatre on that sticky evening, the words spoke louder than, well words, and all of those words were very good.

Happy days.

For more information see Hammer & Tongue, Fat Gold Chain and more about the event and artists involved.
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Why? The UK's premier True School Hip Hop Night.
Where: 24 Ashwin St London E8 3DL, United Kingdom
Cost: 5
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