I wrote this for a church historical musical. The children loved it as much as the adults. My purpose was a history and heritage lesson. It was not meant to be critical of the music the kids enjoy, but to serve as an entertaining teaching too. It's from 2002 so pardon the reference to some rappers who are no longer as in vogue as they were then.
Now I'm gonna tell you what I'm to do
If you think that rap is so brand new.
You hear P-Diddy and Li'l Romeo
But many came first, a long time ago.
Have been poetic and very free
And artistic with words long before
Rap music came knockin' on anybody's door.
"Playin' the dozens" came from when
Young men had to be strong and not give in.
So they'd have a friendly banter with insulting chat
And the stronger one knew where it was at.
No one would get angry or fight his brother,
Even if the "signifier" spoke of his mother;
'Cause being strong to each in the end
Meant the two walk along home as friends.
About two-hundred years before Bow Wow,
Philis Wheatley was taken from Senegal.
She lived in the seventeen-zero-zeros
And wrote beautiful poetry we still read now.
"Li'l brown baby wit' spahklin' eyes..."
Came from a man who was small and wise.
Paul Lawrence Dunbar was his name
And Black dialect was his claim to fame.
Although he wanted to write in style so plain
The "establishment" drove him rather insane.
So his poems inclided "dem", "dat" and "dose."
Doe we's don't all talk like dat, ya know!
Now Marcus Garvey wanted a special song
"Cause America was treatin' Black folk wrong.
So he organized a trip back home
To the Mother Land, where he said we belonged.
Thus he had a flag made--red, black and green
And a whole lotta folks thought he was mean.
For a new Black country, he wanted a theme'
So James Weldon Johnson was brought on the scene
To write a song for the new nation to sing
With beautiful words that sang what they mean.
Beautiful words Mr. johnson did write.
His brother put music that fit just right!
Page four-fifty-seven (Baptist Hymnal) you should know
Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing it just so.
Later, my children, there was Langston Hughes
Who wrote about dreams as well as the blues.
Claude McKay wrote "If we must die..."
Both of these men were filled with much pride.
Gwen Brooks, Sonya Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni
Let ev'ryone know what a woman can be.
Now I hope you've learned and I hope youi'll read
And expand your mind 'cause--yes, indeed--
Black Americans have always been on time
With arts and words and beats and rhymes.
Now I've only mentioned a few.
Crack open a book and learn of them, too.
Excuse my English--it's just for fun--
But rap ain't nothin' that ain't already been done.
The beat ain't nothin' to bring you down
It's just the words that can make me frown
'Cause young'uns you gotta be on guard
If the words don't glorify the Lord.