Cento comes from the Latin word meaning “patchwork.” The cento is a poem made entirely of pieces from poems by other authors, with footnotes that credit the original authors. Many rap songs “sample” music and lines from other musical pieces, as well as from newspaper headlines, advertisements, etc. For example, Jay-Z says in his song “Takeover”: “Then I heard your album bout your tec on your dresser/So yeah I sampled your voice, you was usin it wrong/You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song”.
There are literally hundreds of songs (not only rap) that string together samples from previous songs. Here is an excerpt of a cento from a creative writing freshman Greg Grant: Why do they hate me and try to hold me down/I don’t smile no more; my life’s full of pain/The tears start flowing and my heart dips into despair/Y’all judge me before y’all even get to know me” Inspired by: Christopher Hillard, Shie, Sparkle, Rosalee Munoz, Hersh and J-Girl.
Have students write a cento.