I finally got a round to checking out Straight Outta Compton and it got me thinking seriously about metric feet in English poetry, and English poetry in general.
It's long been my suspicion that one of the reasons rap is the dominant form of contemporary poetry is that it expands the form in meaningful ways, distinct in the modern lyric medium. (Here I use "modern lyric" as originating from "light verse" in jazz, which itself derives from the blues, and introduces the concept of syncopation, which transforms music.)
I haven't had a chance to break down extended passages from the lyrics utilized in the film, which features some highly sophisticated meter, but I'll use a single lyric line (also the title of the film) to try and demonstrate the supposition that led to this question.
The line is properly delivered as:
straight out of / Compton
which can be broken down as a tribrach followed by a trochee. I've tried different ways of delivering this line, but I can't do it without long and short syllables, even when I try to deliver it as robotically as possible.
(For those who don't think a "robotic" approach to music can't be “funky” or involve syncopation, I refer you to Devo classics such as Working in a Coalmine, Satisfaction, and Through Being Cool. Mark Mothersbaugh reportedly forced their first drummer to play with only one hand because he didn't sound robotic enough.)
But even when I deliver the line poorly, getting cataletic with a single syllable in the first foot, followed by a spondee and trochee:
Straight / out of / Compton
I can't do it without using long and short syllables.
The only way I can do it without long and short is by removing syncopation:
Straight out / of Comp/ton
in this case using as iambs to establish the meter, and which brings me back to stressed/unstressed metrical feet. Only problem is, in this context, the delivery is archaic and wildly incorrect.