Observations: From hip-hip to comic poetry

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The Independent Culture

Scroobius Pip, one half of the alternative hip-hop duo with Dan Le Sac, has always been a poet first and rapper second. So it's no surprise that the street versifier has published a book of his writings. Its format, though, could not be more different from Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters; Pip has come out with a comic book of verse.

Pip's text is integrated into the imagery, so "Thou Shalt Always Kill" rolls down the page as a psychedelic screed accompanied by a mass of thumbnail portraits and tangential hieroglyphs.

The Essex-based bard went online to ask artists and illustrators to contribute, a request met with such enthusiasm that major graphic novel imprint Titan, publishers of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Kick-Ass, came on board. Originally, they warned Pip they might need to source their own contributions, but were impressed enough to work with what the lyricist brought in.

Hip-hop and comic scenes enjoy fruitful cross-fertilisation, not just through graffiti art, but through the superhero personas and buzzwords taken on by the likes of Wu Tang Clan.

For Pip, though, the graphics were a way of getting over his suspicion of mainstream verse. "People kept asking me to put out a book of poetry," he explains, "but I never read poetry when I was growing up and even now prefer to see it performed live. So it felt arrogant to then release my own book; "There's nothing worth me reading, but you should read my stuff." As with the records he releases with Dan, Pip has found collaboration suits him best.

'Poetry in (e)motion: the illustrated words of Scroobius Pip' is published by Titan Books