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When Words Collide

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Sunday 27 January 2013

Are hip-hop and poetry worlds apart? Or are the lines between these two celebrated art forms starting to blur? Nihal investigates the relationship between hip-hop and poetry, hearing from some of the finest rappers and spoken word artists around - including Chuck D, KRS-One and Scroobius Pip.

Along the way, we head to a bar in East London where five rappers and five poets are battling it out across three rounds to decide which form of expression is the best. The results may surprise you...

In Round 1 of Poets vs Rappers, the two teams do what they do best. We find out the shared history of the two art forms, and learn that the connection between hip-hop and poetry might go further back than we think - from the vibrant rap and poetry nights in New York in the 90s, to the legendary 'godfathers of hip-hop' such as Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets, to American recordings of the 1920s. Could the romantic poets and Shakespeare even be connected? Spoken word artist Kate Tempest and hip-hop artist Akala tell us how.

Round 2 sees our competing poets and rappers taken out of their comfort zones, where poets have to do their thing to music, and rappers have to do their thing without a beat. Nihal speaks to some of today's finest spoken word artists who started off as rappers, including Kate Tempest, Polar Bear, The Ruby Kid and Scroobius Pip. We also hear from established rappers who have taken themselves out of their comfort zones and strutted their stuff at spoken word nights. UK rappers TY and Mystro tell us why so many rappers are crossing over in to spoken word today. Finally before we find out how our own rappers and poets got on, we meet poet Mark Grist and MC Mixy, otherwise known as The Dead Poets, who tell us about their unique theatre show about learning each other's art forms.

Then, in our final round of Poets vs Rappers, it's an out and out battle of words as our rappers and poets clash - but this isn't the first time a rapper and a poet have gone head to head. At the beginning of 2012, teacher-turned-poet Mark Grist battled MC Blizzard as part of Don't Flop, the UK's largest rap battle league. We find out how this battle became an online sensation, and hear from other spoken word artists who have tried their hands at battle rap.

In hip-hop, a rap battle is one of the best places to show off your lyrical skill. We head to Shake The Dust, the UK's biggest ever youth, poetry slam, where a new generation of lyricists are embracing poetry. We hear from those competing about their love of words and how they draw influence from both poetry and hip-hop.

But where are these new poets and rappers coming from? Nihal finds out how both poetry and hip-hop are being used in education, from the many brilliant poetry and rap workshops, to the growing 'HipHopEd' movement, which aims to bring hip-hop culture in to the classroom and prove that it can sit comfortably next to classical poetry.

Finally we return to Poets vs Rappers, to hear what happened when our competitors clashed and find out the winner.

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