Rapper Lil B is a Twitter maestro, but he’s getting a very unique Tumblr treatment. Tumblr intern and coder Mehan Jayasuriya developed a program to turn Lil B’s lyrics into poems called “Based Poetry,” a play off the rapper’s nickname “Based God,” and the result is an odd hodgepodge of boasts and bad words arranged in familiar lines.
At first glance, it looks like the most profane poetry you’ve ever seen – so profane, we can’t quote it here. But the vulgar, bombastic vocabulary arranged as five-line poems are fun because they’re so incongruous-looking. Is it simply silly or a pointed project poking at our expectations of what poems should look like?
Digital Trends caught up with Jayasuriya and asked what inspired him to created Based Poetry. “First off, I’m a huge fan of the Based God, so there’s that. I did find that the sort of surreal, impressionistic slant to his lyrics plays really well with this kind of recontextualizing – pretty much all of the randomly-generated poems feel like they ‘work’ in a way, which is satisfying. And then there’s the word ‘based,’ which is so malleable that it can mean just about anything–that’s the glue that really holds these poems together, I think.”
A poetry professor could parse the poems and find a number of classic poetic elements, that’s for sure – there’s repetition, alliteration, and allusion in nearly every short poem. It’s just a little unusual since many of the repeated words wouldn’t be printed in a Norton’s Anthology.
Are poetry bots the Next Big Meme? In April, we covered the New York Times’ haiku bot, a program built by Jacob Harris that chisels the Grey Lady’s journalism into perfectly structured haiku. The results for that project were a little closer to what we expect poetry to be – which isn’t surprising, since Lil B and New York Times journalists don’t really write in the same register.
And in addition to the Haiku bot, there’s plenty more algorithm-culled poetry on the Internet. The Pentametron 2013 scans Twitter and re-tweets text written in iambic pentameter, highlighting how close the banal and the beautiful can be.
If you love Based Poetry, there may be more rap-inspired poetry bots around the corner. Jayasuriya said he tried the algorithm with Kanye West and Rick Ross lyrics, and talked about the wide range of possibilities for poetry bots. “I would definitely love to do a few more of these if I can find the right source material. All of the code for this is open-source and available on GitHub, so I’m hoping that other folks will take this idea and run with it as well. I’d love to see someone use this framework to make poetry bots that draw from other artists’ lyrics, political speeches, technical documents or whatever.”