Celebrating ‘the vibrancy of English’

London: Hip hop artist Akala, who claims rappers are modern day Shakespeares, is helping to launch a new exhibition charting the evolution of the English language at the British Library.

The younger brother of Ms Dynamite, who founded the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, has claimed the social commentary of the Bard is mirrored by the urban performers of today.

"Contrary to popular belief, the best rappers use a huge range of the English language, the Sky News quoted him as saying.

"They`re inventive with words and, of course, the themes: politics, sex, murder, betrayal, love - the full gauntlet of the reality of human society," he said.

Agreeing, poet Saul Williams said, "In his day, Shakespeare wrote for the groundlings - he found it important to keep it real for the streets, which is the same thing many hip hop artists feel is important as well."

Whether it is a far-fetched comparison, it is all part of the vibrancy of the English language - which is something celebrated in Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices at the British Library.

The exhibition charts English`s 1,500-year development from a language first spoken on a small island to a global language now used by 1.8 billion people.

Even the Duchess of Cornwall is no stranger to using slang with hip hop origins - she referred to the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton as "wicked".

"You hear President Obama describing an opponent ``dissing`` him and we see ``wassup``, ``yo`` and ``chillin`` in all these advertisements,” Professor MK Asante, a hip hop author and filmmaker, said.

"But when you see presidents using hip hop language or royals, usually the hip hop community has already moved on to different words," he said.

On show are the crown jewels of the English language, from Recuyell Of The Historyes Of Troye - the first book to be printed in English by William Caxton - to Victorian poetry containing the modern-sounding phrase "I wrote 2 U B4".


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