There is no instrument more compelling than the human voice. And while we are most accustomed to hearing singing/songwriters fill the vocalist role in modern music, a new movement has been slowly swelling in the scene.
Spoken word poetry set to music.
This specific type of poetry caters well to the repetitious beats and predictable metering of many modern genres of music and allows for a new medium of art to be included in the sound.
We recently discovered one group of creators who continue to break new ground in this ever-popular medium. Comprised of minds such as Rashad thePoet, S-Wrap, and a trio of producers known as The Varsity, the crew recently released an album titled The Other Side Too which was recently submitted to the first ever Spoken Word category in this year’s GRAMMY.
We sat down with Rashad and S-Wrap to find out how they put pen to paper and write their amazing verse when they know it will be set to music.
Stream Their Single, ‘A New Day,’ Below:
While I was lucky enough to scope out the album in its entirety, their single ‘A New Day’ was by far my favorite of the lot. Listening to this song, you heard the poet’s, Rashad in this case, mastery of language.
Being able to encapsulate a single feeling and distill it down to its core essence to be expressed through words is truly a work of art or wizardry, and truly exemplifies the power that including the spoken word can bring to your music.
Listen to the piece below a few times over to ensure that the meaning sinks in before diving into the ways we can start bringing the same effect into our own music.
Full Lyrics To ‘A New Day’
This is that new car smell,
a fresh cut straight out the chair,
riding through the park in the summer windows down and music up,
a first kiss from a new crush,
a good dinner, or being the grand prize winner,
that feeling of conquering the world,
it’s like the credits at the end of a dope film,
being around dope people who elevate your life experience,
no worries of yesterday only good visions of tomorrow,
it’s a new day to ease on down the road, no loads on this trip,
just hope that won’t slip like a clutch or a bad disk,
no errors held against you, no errors held against you,
no longer tensing up over things in the past tense,
this is sunshine and dutty wine,
new energy that’s all aligned, morning after and doing more than fine…it’s a new day
What can spoken word poetry add to a song you are producing?
Rashad: Spoken Word is great for levity, it can give a song some extra lift. The beauty of the art is that it doesn’t have to land a certain way, a skilled poet can perform a piece on a track one way, and then turn around and record it a totally different way and it will still deliver.
Spoken Word is a breath of fresh air as well, our ears aren’t really trained to hear it, so when we do and it’s good, it can go a long way to satisfying something that the listener didn’t know they needed.
S-Wrap: Spoken word allows for the artist to deliver concepts and ideas in a way that isn’t constrained by the metering of the music. It adds an element to make the song feel like a journey. The vocals may be in time at certain points, out of time, syncopated, rhyming, not rhyming, etc. There’s more freedom in the approach and yet can still speak to the concept of the song with rich lyricism.
Which themes are best to explore when you know it will be set to music?
Rashad: It reality depends on the vibe that I’m going for, is the music laid back, is it uptempo? All these factors definitely play a part. I love being able to deliver messages no matter if they are big or small. When the song is a party song, I still like to try and drop something in the verse that the listener can gravitate towards.
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S-Wrap: My approach is on a track-by-track basis. I like to listen to music and see how it speaks to me. If it makes me think of love, relaxation, relationships, struggles, and so on then I write about what the music makes me feel. Usually, I start with the music first, and then write lyrics, not the other way around.
How is spoken word poetry set to music different than conventional poetry?
Rashad: Page poetry is meant to be heard, while Spoken Word is meant to be felt. There is this aural quality about it that elicits something totally different. It’s a feeling that you can’t get from just reading a poem to yourself. We want you to feel us, to catch a vibe.
Spoken Word as an artful is powerful at moving people to action, to make them have an emotional recall, to remember, to invoke vivid imagery. There isn’t anything like it on the planet.
S-Wrap: Conventional poetry is usually poetry that is meant to be read. Spoken word is meant to be performed. Voice inflections, dynamics, gestures, dialogue, and so much more contribute to a powerful and compelling spoken-word performance.
Powerful spoken word makes you feel something. It transforms the listener into an empathetic person being able to resonate with the subject matter, even if they don’t have a direct connection to the subject matter.
What do you need to get started writing and recording spoken word poetry?
You just have to trust yourself and allow yourself to be free. Free from songwriting convention, free from your worries, free from whatever is happening in your day-to-day life. Spoken word is about finding your truth and standing on that proudly. There are no rules when telling your truth.
Rashad: All you need is an ability to tell your story, or tell the story that you see. You just have to put yourself out there and start writing, it’s just storytelling. It doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t have to follow any specific meter.
We write from our truth, we write from our pains, our gains, our successes, we write and speak because we have been given the ability to do it, and everybody can write from the perspective of their truth.
When it comes to recording just use your phone to start, or if you’re more familiar with Pro-Tools, logic, etc, dive in and start recording yourself. The key is to not judge yourself, or compare yourself. This is your journey and the only way to do it is to do it like you.
Where do you find inspiration for writing spoken word that’s set to music?
S-Wrap: I find inspiration in the music. I listen to the music and think about what the story is trying to tell.
Then I think about what story or truth do I want to share with the world?
Is there a narrative, or specific imagery associated with this theme? Using literary devices and other writing techniques, how can I best tell this story? For myself, usually, the words find the page and the story unfolds on its own.
Rashad: Usually just like any other songwriter you’ll have an idea for a song or idea for an album, and usually when I write to music the ideas are shaped around those things. Even if you don’t have an idea, I always tell people to write what they know.
If you can write about the birds singing, write it. Your children running around the house write it. Your job stressing you out, write it. Spoken Word is healing, it heals and soothes the soul, but it also uplifts and gives the writer and listener an opportunity to smile and share stories that bring us together.
That was our hope for The Other Side Too, we wanted to make folks feel good and know that they are not alone in their journey…to the other side.