Blues and rap are arguably the most important American vocal innovations of the 20th century, each of them distinctly African American and each deploying unruly four-beat meters, not the “standard” syllabic song meters. Both showcase an individual performer (usually male), but blues, sung to instrumental accompaniment, typically features melancholy or wry complaint, whereas rap, declaimed to a digitally mixed beat, features boasting, battling, or outspoken social criticism. Because blues grew out of the Jim Crow South, what needed saying often had to be said indirectly, and seldom earned fame and fortune. Although still subject to broad cultural hostility, rappers can say what they damn well please, successfully. In this class, focusing on poetics, we will compare and contrast how blues and hip-hop artists have addressed racist social injustice, policing, and incarceration.