Disclaimer: If you don’t like rap music and are not even curious enough to try it, please skip to the next article.
Everything is not for everyone, and that is okay.Tuface &Simi – Original baby
Music is vast. The genres, subsets of genres, and individual styles of approach are as varied as one can imagine. It makes me wonder what constitutes good music. Why does rock&roll sound like noise to fans of blues, and why do blues sound like a boring lullaby to many rap enthusiasts? I guess Tuface and Simi were right. Everything is not for everyone.
Of the many genres of music that appeal to this eclectic soul, one standout for me is rap music.
I think rap gets a bad rap (pun intended) due to its close association with American gangsterism.
This association was somewhat inevitable. Rap began in the streets of Newyork in the 1970s, gained national recognition in the early 80s, but really became a worldwide phenomenon by the late 1980s when a few young men from Compton, California used the genre as an avenue to share their life experiences growing up in crime a ridden neighborhood.
Their stories were stark and gory but they were so well written and delivered that the world couldn’t help but notice. Eazy E, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube were some of the notable names from that era. The rap group they formed, N.W.A, became a beacon of light in the black community in the US, shining not just a glorious light to the outside world, but directly at the despicable occurrences going on in the black community.
Fast forward to today and there is a slew of artists both locally and internationally. Rap music has become a force of nature. From the streets of South Korea to the Favela’s of Brazil, and from the snowy lands of Russia to the Ghettos of Mushin, Rap has become the sound of the streets. Everyone has been influenced by the culture.
Elements of Rap
So what makes a good rap song?
The elements of rap include; Content, flow, and delivery
Content- What is being said
Delivery- How what is being said is said.
Flow- How the ideas are strung together
Rap came under a lot of criticism because of its content. Mainstream rap mostly sounded violent, used curse words a lot, and objectified women. However, regardless of your preference, there is a rapper for you. Devout Christians generally stick to ‘Christian rappers’ like Lecrae, Andy Mineo, and Tedashii. For the politically aware, MCs like the South Africa’s, Stogie T works for them. For those who want to hear about things they can relate with, spoken in a language they understand, Olamide, Phyno and Reminisce will work for you.
Not all rappers are the same. Two MCs will pick up the same rap content with the same flow, and spit two completely different things. They make the same song sound different. Some listeners love rappers who sound laid back, like Snoop Dogg or whiz khalifa. Some other listeners prefer more aggressive content like that of JaRule or DMX. However, most people prefer rappers who are somewhere in the middle. Rappers who can be laid back or aggressive whenever the song dictates. This is where people like Kendrick Lamar and Eminem stand out.
I could write forever about flow. Flow is what separates a mediocre rapper from a real MC. Checkout this rhyme scheme from Eminem’s 2002 release, Lose yourself
|”His palms are sweaty|
|knees weak, arms are heavy|
|There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti|
|He’s nervous, but on the surface, he looks calm and ready|
|to drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting | …
Notice the construction of the rhymes. Each line (called a Bar) ends with a 4-syllable rhyme scheme. ‘palms are sweaty’, ‘arms are heavy’, ‘mom’s spaghetti’, ‘on forgetting’. He also does some internal rhyming within the third bar with ‘already’ and ‘spaghetti’, a trick Eminem is notorious for. Combining great content with good flow can elevate a rapper to the heights of rap fame. Eminem won an Oscar with this song.
Another element of flow is the use of double-entendres. Check out this flow by our very own MI on the Martell cypher 1.
“Sometimes rapping isn’t fun at all,
There’s nothing I can brag about I’ve done it all
There’s no rapper I can beef with men, I son(sun) ’em all
And it’s real(Isreal), looking to the sky hoping that man ‘ a (manna) fall.
At first hearing, the listener might hear him say on the third bar that he sons them all, like he is their father, but the fact that he references beef also implies a second meaning of sunning his opposition the way some people sun beef to preserve it. He did the same thing in the last line with Israel and manna vs its real, and ma ‘a fall, (like they are wishing that he will fall).
All the great rappers have used double entendres in their music. Time will fail me to elaborate on flow.
In The End..
Rap is a beautiful genre of music that has poetry at its core. The best rappers are actually great writers. Tupac attended the Baltimore School for the arts and Mos Def and Childish Gambino attended NYU school for the Arts. However, some of the most lyrically gifted artists are self-taught. Simply by listening to great rappers, they were able to create their own sound and style. I guess we learn in different ways.
2 Replies to “Your Rap Education”
Like Kendrick Lamar wining the highly coveted Pulitzer, it only seems right,
rap takes her place as the true leader, an undimmable light,
but las las, still on still, chicken no dey cry for night. – T Wizzle.
Nice one Ijay
If ee cry for night, we go kill am chop
If the owner come, we go tell am say…