Friday, May 11, 2012

Final Project: Rapping Whitman

Getting right to it... I took Poem 9 out of the Calamus poems by Walt Whitman, and made it into a rap song. In the poem, the speaker reflects on the hours since his companion has been gone, basically whining in agony about how much he misses him. In shifting the poetry form into song form, I changed the "he" to "she," added lyrics and sentiments not found in the poem (to beef it up into 2 traditional 16-bar verses), and took some creative liberties in transforming Whitman's poetry into a song verse. It ends up as a love song; a love, lost... which is what I got from the poem as well.

I made the instrumental months ago, and entitled it "I Need You." With the addition of the the lyrics/my vocals, I call this song "The Hours."
Here is a link to listen to the song:
I think it would be best to open it up in a new tab, then come back to this tab and follow along with the lyrics. You might need to turn the speakers up since the audio file isn't too loud, but of course, at it is music, laptop speakers suck, and headphones or good computer speakers are gonna be the ideal manner in which to listen. Btw, my "artist" name isn't "GrassHop" anymore, the SoundCloud page is just old...

MY lyrics are on the left, in bold. WHITMAN's original poem is on the right side. I post the original Whitman poetry first, on the right, then follow it with the lyrics I created/stole/modified from the Whitman source material on the left, in bold. I divided the poetry and verses up so you can see clearly exactly how my lyrics came from Whitman's words.
*I wrote some "Production Notes" at the end of the blog post, after the lyrics, if you are interested.*

HOURS continuing long, sore and heavy hearted,
Hours, continuing long, sore, and heavy-hearted,
The space between the meeting of myself and the departed.
Hours of dusk, when I withdraw to a lonesome
and unfrequented spot, seating myself, leaning
my face in my hands;
Hours of dusk, clinging to my lonesome fate,
Face in my hands from circumstance as I sit and wait.
Hours sleepless, deep in the night, when I go forth,
speeding swiftly the country roads, or through
the city streets, or pacing miles and miles,
Hours, sleepless, deep in the night,
Pacing roads and city streets just for one more sight- of you.
stif-fling plaintive cries;
Hours discouraged, distracted- for the one I cannot
content myself without, soon I saw him content
himself without me;
It's you- The one I can't live without, 
Like the desert without rain in this perpetual drought. 
Shouts of sorrow traced the wind when I saw you content
Without me, so now I see the world as twisted and bent,
Hours when I am forgotten, (O weeks and months are
passing, but I believe I am never to forget!)
And now the hours I'm forgotten turn to weeks and months, 
While you remained on the brain, not even leavin once,
Sullen and suffering hours! (I am ashamed- but it
is useless- I am what I am;)
Just like a dunce, sittin in shame, the corner of my room, 
Am I naive to have believed that our flower would bloom?
How can I help but feel lost without direction of you, 
And so I write to map out the road to get to what's true, (I'm tellin you...)

In the hours of the night, I fight it, but (I need you) 
Through the hours in the day, I'm sayin that (I love you)
Every moment you're away... (I need you)
I'm just wishin you would stay, cuz...


Hours of my torment- I wonder if other men ever
have the like, out of the like feelings?
Hours, stuck in this torment and so I wonder,
If others have been sucked by this torrent that brings me under.
Is there even one other like me- distracted- his
friend, his lover, lost to him?
A friend, a lover, that beauty of mine is missing.
Do you feel me? Do you know what it's like to be left wishing?
Is he too as I am now? Does he still rise in the morn-
ing, dejected, thinking who is lost to him? and
at night, awaking, think who is lost?
Do you wake up at night, just to mourn what is lost?
And in the morning only wake up to find her at any cost?
 Does he too harbor his friendship silent and endless?
So I continue to hold onto this friendship, silent and endless, 
Like a dream I need to wake from, if only so I can end this.
harbor his angush and passion?
The anguish and the passion pull the heart from side to side.
I languish and refuse to pass this spot where I reside.
From time to time my pride will give me reason to move on,
Knowing your touch hasn't been felt by my touch in so so long,
Does some stray reminder, or the casual mention of a
name, bring the fit back upon him, taciturn and
But the memories are enemies that breath at every moment,
Attempting to forget as I exhale in my atonement.
Does he see himself reflected in me? In these hours,
does he see the face of his hours reflected?
Breath in and fill my lungs with your image that I lack,
Breathing out... giving life to these hours I can't get back, (it's just a fact that, um-)

[variant from chorus 1:] I just wish you could've stayed, cuz...

Production Notes:

Rapping isn't a passion of mine (though I do like writing poetry). My passion is making sample-based hip-hop instrumentals. If anyone reading is interested in how I created the instrumental, and don't know much about sample-based music in general, I made this short 30-second audio clip where I play back all the individual samples you hear in the song, in their raw form, before I put them all together, added effects, and sequenced them to make the instrumental I rapped over. THIS is what I LOVE to do :)

Some of my favorite rappers do more than just rhyme the last words of every line, so I tried to throw a few internal rhymes and stuff in my verses. My favorite genre is hip-hop, but I'm pretty damn picky with the hip-hop I do listen to. That being said, I tried to not shame my favorite music genre with the lyrics that I wrote, and I'm pretty happy with how they came out.

I recorded this at my friend's home studio. Some of the volume levels on the vocals fluctuate... Sorry, we're both amateurs.

Here is the instrumental, with no vocals, "I Need You", because seriously, I loved this instrumental, and we didn't mix the vocals in too well, so the music kinda got muddled in the vocal version:

And there it is.

 My vinyl, where I get my samples from. Because I'm old school like that.


  1. MIGUEL!!!!!! iona told me you were doing this for your project so i had to check it out!!! dude. its fucking awesome!!!! no seriously. im a huge hip hop fan and im definitely into this. your beat is hella good too! kinda reminds me be de la soul. great job!

    1. I was trying to keep this project on the down-low, but I guess I should have expected Iona to put me on blast.

      Seriously though, thank you very much, and if it reminds you of De La Soul, that's a compliment much appreciated :)

  2. You are so modest it just KILLS me, Miguel.

    So I finally had time to sit and listen to your composition... Andreana is right, man. This was just on another level.

    There just aren't enough plus signs.

  3. OMG . . .you are rocking like a hurricane (despite your lack of reverence for that ultra-canonical masterpiece and its linguistically-challenged, brilliant authors)! You may not dig rapping that much . . but rapping digs you. Fantastic!