As an MC you will study verbal magic
But watch what you say 'cause you'll attract it
Control the subconscious magnet
From pulling in havoc
“Who am I?”
Categorizing art is as simple as holding a fist full of water. In hip hop, the standard dichotomies (old school vs. new school, commercial vs. underground, etc.) are as hazy as a Harlem August. As the music through which a new generation announced its aesthetic sensibilities, hip hop is tied to a particular point in history, but even then it is divided into sub-generations of its own. The Benetton-swathed, antiseptically white-Adidas-wearing b-boy who came to the Latin Quarter or Union Square in 1986 to catch Rakim or the Ultra Magnetic MCs, had an experience that was distinct from that of the mock-neck sporting old head who had checked the Treacherous Three at the Disco Fever in 1978. Art respects no borders and time frames, but for our own concerns, hip hop can be divided into four overlapping eras: the Old School, 1974-1983, the Golden Age 1984-1992, the Modern Era, 1992-1997, and the Industrial Era, 1998-2005.
Implicit within each is an approach to the verbal arts that differed from that of both its precedent and successor. The casual observer and the closed-eared critic—of which there are many, if not most—misses the increased artistic complexity that characterized each evolving stage of the music. Where rappers began by stringing together relatively simple rhyming phrases, the art progressed to the employment of metaphor, simile, alliteration, internal rhyme—an entire catalog of techniques to assist in getting one's listening audience open.