There’s no denying that rap is an art form, but [Zadie] Smith was onto something important [in her novel On Beauty] when she made her rapper character resist identifying it as poetry. The reservation does not come from any doubt about the skill of the writing; when it comes to verse technique, rap is considerably more artful than most American poetry written in the same period covered by the anthology, 1978–2010. Technique has declined in importance in poetry over these years, while a premium has been placed on conceptual innovation — on the idea behind a work rather than its execution. Whether it is a result or a cause of this focus, or both, people who become poets today are less interested in verse, and less naturally gifted at it, than poets in previous eras.
In rap, on the other hand, verse technique—rhyme, rhythm, assonance, and witty simile, all of which constitute a rapper’s “flow”—is valued above everything. The result is that people who are poetically gifted are drawn to the form, and their competitive efforts raise its level of sophistication higher and higher.
- Adam Kirsch, in his review of The Anthology of Rap entitled "How Ya Like Me Now" in the February 2011 issue of Poetry Magazine.