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Poetry Guide: Scrypt

Scrypt (also known as script but mostly referred to as text) is a style of (or, the study or discussion of the style of) contemporary poetry popular on several hip-hop-oriented Internet message boards. It is inspired from the lyrics to underground rap music and differs from traditional poetry in that it heavily incorporates complex and structured rhyme and rhyme scheme, dialect, implied rhythm and visual wordplay, into a form of prose poetry. Also, scrypt is unique in its ability to be used effectively as a narrative tool. Scrypt pieces can be written to include plots, characterization, dialogue, and most often are used to make a moral or social statement.


The Use of Rhymes

Despite the apparent disdain Robert Frost had for "free verse," (describing it as playing tennis with the net down) most modern forms of poetry have ignored the discipline and structure that accompany rhyming poetry. Among literary circles, rhyming poetry is often seen as the work of a novice. If any rhyme is used it is sparse and inconsequential. Scrypt generally depends heavily on the use of rhyme, which makes it unique and, arguably, more challenging to master.

Writers pain-stakingly search -- and at times, even manipulate -- the English language to complete disciplined structures. Writers sometimes heavily weave rhymes throughout their pieces to the point of abstract incoherence. This apparent "rhyme obsession" of scrypt is partly due to the fact that, unlike rapping, scrypt artists are not confined by a beat or musical meter. As a result, writers are allowed the artistic freedom to explore rhymes.

Complex Rhyme Structures

Heavily influenced by underground hip-hop lyricists, scrypt has always required a greater emphasis on complex rhyme schemes as a sign of skill and ability. These rhyme patterns include:

As a result of the rigor involved in maintaining rhyme patterns, scrypt artists sometimes forego using exact rhymes. Often, when supported by strong rhyme schemes, half rhymes may be employed. Writers often use regional dialects to make distant words with similar sounds appear to rhyme, such as rhyming "black" with "cat", or rhyming "mail" with "cell", which sound more similar in certain dialects, while in others sound completely different.

Flow & Rhythm

Unlike traditional poets, scrypt writers typically don't consider meter very heavily, although it is very prevalent. As a result, it becomes the writer's burden to create a rhythm that can be translated from the writer's sub-conscious to the reader.

Writers who are capable of using even, methodical rhythm created by connecting rhymes into a recognizeable scheme, line length and structure are considered to be using good ---flow--- (a term common in poetry). When lines drag along, separate from each other, or do not seem to be complimentary, the writer is seen as having a "stretched", or often simple "bad" flow. Some writers educated in classic poetry may use forms such as iambic pentameter.

Visual Wordplay

Another unique aspect of scrypt is its use of visual wordplay, often puns. Visual wordplay is a poetic tool confined for scrypt art and is written to be read, as opposed to being read aloud.

In scrypt, there are three most commonly used types of visual wordplay.

While some writers like to sprinkle their pieces with occasional wordplay, others have built entire styles and works around wordplay, creating complex and intricate lyrical puzzles. The usage of visual wordplay is also what separates scrypt from the audio performance of hip-hop rapping and spoken word poetry.


The practice of KiStyling, or key styling (a play of freestyling), evolved from a text version of battle rap and battle writers' need to ensure the authenticity of their opponents' text. Online there is no real way to make sure another writer isn't simply taking someone's work to use in a battle, (called biting in hip-hop circles), so the spontaneous creation of rhymes and concepts from given cues (such as writers trading several words to use in their verses) developed.

This practice spread to all other aspects of scrypt and soon the idea of KiStyling became a staple for writers as a way of impressing upon readers their skill and mental abilities.

The concept of spontaneous creation is not new to poetry. The philosopher Plato argued that true poetry cannot be planned, but instead follows immediately upon inspiration. Similarly, English romantic poet William Wordsworth agreed saying that "All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." It is in that same vein, that most scrypt writers believe their best work comes when they write everything down in one sitting. Some writers choose to edit their material once written, others choose to present their work as is; mistakes, typos and all included.

Speed also varies depending on the writer. Some artists are able to complete a line per minute, and can create a 50 to 60 line story in under an hour, others may take considerably longer. For many, the key is to simply finish the piece in the one sitting.

KiStyling is not to be confused with freestyling, which is confined to rapping. KiStylists, i.e writer's who choose to limit their method of writing soley to spontaneous creation, are allowed considerably more time than rappers. As a result, "Ki'd" pieces are sometimes held to higher artistic standards.


Scrypt has been known to exist since the mid-1990s, however the term "Scrypt" or as it is used in this article was not coined until 2005, on the (currently defunct) hip-hop Web site The term "text" is the most common and oldest term for this form of poetry. It was started by young hip-hop enthusiasts who began using the Internet as a means of networking with others involved in their local scenes. Many of the original writers were young people attempting to start career's in hip-hop music, but lacked the time, money, equipment, or opportunity. For these individuals, the Internet offered them a medium to practice writing and get feedback on their poetry. Others, who had been able to broker themselves small recording deals, or who were shopping demos, joined the communities as a way of promoting themselves. It was from this artistic melting pot that text evolved. Several writers have even been able to publish their hip-hop styled poetry.

Nevertheless, there is currently not a financial market for the publication of scrypt writing, many underground (and also a few mainstream) rappers were originally text writers. One significant example is the Chinese-American rapper Jin, who was originally a member of the message boards Rapmusic and Holla-Front. Holla-Front now partially serves as a fan forum for him.

"Scrypt", or text-writing as it is more commonly known as, is an ever-growing area or style of rap battling. Particularly on the internet it is used for some as a stepping stone towards being a real artist, or as a means of increasing one's way of battling, to broaden one's skills. A lot of text-battlers are well known on sites, like Lay Doubt, D.Zaster, $pitacular and M~M from RapBattles. John Hensley, Allah, ClasSick, and Richard Corey from ProjectRhyme. Mimesis, 9th Degree, Nick Fletcher, JTR and hotshh! from RapVerse. These few, along with so many others are setting the trend for newcomers who want to either get into text-battling for their own interest, or use it as a means to learn something new about hip-hop and rap battling.

Links to selected text message boards and communities

Other Links

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