Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Rapping Lyrical

Mark Grist, one half of the Dead Poet's, recently shot to fame thanks to an astounding performance in a rap poetry slam battle.  The video went viral, and if you've been hiding under a rock that doesn't have a wifi connection, you can find it here. The novelty was in seeing an teacher in a battle with a student; old v young, suit and tie v baseball cap and trousers that hung below the arse. 

For me, the novelty wasn't the only reason to stick around. The lyrics were impeccable- both MC Blizzard and Grist delivered masterfully crafted lines, never stumbling or losing rhythm, inventive insults which dripped with wit and intelligence. It's high time spoken word poetry was appreciated as an art form, an entertainment form. This unlikely duo have done the trick.

Grist's performance was brilliant. Witty and cutting, the only thing that made it taste sweeter was that it was directed at a cocky pupil- everyone has always kind of hoped to hear what their teachers thought of them, and here it is. In a much purer and honest form than your school report ever could have been. 

On a side note, I want to praise Blizzard. “The honest truth is Bradley, I’ve been served better whilst in Costa”, while the lyric is perfectly put together, and I think Grist would agree with me on this, it’s not entirely honest.  In all the excitement to congratulate Mark Grist on his (well-deserved) win, many have wrongly demoted Blizzard's skill as sub-par. His extraordinary ability to properly produce amazing lyrics at a speed most professional rappers can only try to emulate, not only demonstrates his quick-tongue and skill, but also his forward thinking imagination. Lines such as "But hold up Mixy, I'm taking the mick, see, you could mix E in my drink and still could never lick me", while remain a tongue twister for anyone else (genuinely struggled even typing it out...) are simply fluid for the young battler. Three dimensional insults (personal favourite, "then you'll know what it's like to be on the wrong side of a glass ceiling"), and intelligent ("I'm gonna get rid of Mark like when Germany brought the euro in") against almost any other performance poet would bring them crashing down. 

But not against Grist. With words as sharp as his suit, he effortlessly tore into his opponent, stumping the audiences and causing thousands of YouTube viewers to burst out in laughter; "This blizzard lizard's got no fire it's just hot air he's breathing, when all's said and done, as the years drag on, you'll look even more like Deborah Meaden”. Not needing to resort to tired lines, he brings creativity and originality to traditional jokes- the standard “your mum” joke reaches new levels of profanity and hilarity, and is a highlight of the entire slam. The Pokemon line (around 8 minutes into the video) is simply put, genius.

Using Blizzard’s real name, playing on his previous occupation, yet still slipping in youth culture references, ultimately, this was a battle Grist couldn’t lose. His skill and cool were at a level that almost guaranteed winning- and a perfect triumph that the video has well over 1.7 million views. It’s a war of attrition Blizzard didn’t really stand much chance against. I’m not claiming Grist is the best rap battle poet in the world, (his next Don’t Flop, though as lyrically engaging, just doesn’t have the excitement this battle does), I’m asserting that a better platform for a poet such as himself couldn’t have been scripted. You know, unless he’d written it.

Upon the video going viral, Grist’s fame meant his other videos have also seen a surge in popularity. “Really Really Good at Bored Games”  is an admission of how uncool he is, yet comes across as incredibly smooth.

“Girls Who Read” is my personal favourite. A little soppier than the others, it still contains the dry humour and hints of boyishness underneath the more tender feel- and certainly appeals to any romantics who had been so far unconvinced by Grist.

His newfound popularity is doing wonders for spoken word poetry. He has started a little fashion on twitter- #SpokenWordSunday. I’m proud to admit that I was the first to jump on this bandwagon (poetry-wagon?)- and was the first follower he retweeted with my suggestion of Taylor Mali. Mali is also a teacher turned poet, and is definitely worth checking out. Each week, I spend hours scrolling through the suggestions this new twitter trend, fuelled by Grist, offers up. I’m finding poets I never would have reached otherwise, and am now actively searching out live poetry events in my area.

He’s making T.V. appearances, both with and without his Dead Poets Partner “Mixy”, and is being namedropped by national press. Hopefully, for the spoken poetry field, and the rap battle scene, his unlikely fame will increase interest in these art forms. I’d love for this to be the beginning of a new trend of spoken word- and at the moment, Grist is pioneering this new phase of popularity. 

(Originally published in my sister blog)


  1. Scroobius Pip. That is all.

  2. Do you not think he's more of a musical artist? I'm yet to come across any poetry by him. Thou Shalt Always Kill is a brilliant song...

  3. The whole concept was that he was a spoken word poet, dan le sac just puts his words to music, therefore dan le sac vs. Scroobius Pip

  4. Scroobius is spoken word first and foremost. also i'm not sure how much he's involved with the beats now, obviously it was dan le sac doing the earlier stuff but he's got a band now

  5. I'll definitely try to check out some of his earlier stuff. He was in York not long ago, was gutted I couldn't make his show :/