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Rapping, deconstructed: The best rhymers of all time

Rapping, deconstructed: The best rhymers of all time


A few weeks ago, I interviewed one of my favorite
rappers, Open Mike Eagle. And immediately we started geeking out over the masked emcee,
MF Doom. His flow I have to be careful with his flow
because his flow lives in my mind and in my heart. I can almost get into his mind on how
he writes. You know? This is what MF Doom sounds like. Just listen. He’ll have entire bars that rhyme. Like
the entire set up bar rhymes with every syllable in the punchline bar. It’s incredible. It made me wonder: What can I learn from rappers simply by looking
at how they rhyme with the beat? I try to start off with 16 dots on the paper. That’s Rakim. He’s widely regarded as
one of the most influential MCs of all time. If 4 bars was this long. I see like a graph
between them four bars. I could place so many words and so many syllables. I could take
it to the point where there were no other words you could put in those 4 bars. So, before we get into rhymes we need to know
what beats and bars are. Martin: I always try to find the beat of the
music first. That’s Martin Connor. He’s analyzed the
most rhythmically dense rap songs down to the last syllable. And he writes about it. Martin: A bar is a grouping together of 4
beats. Before guys like Rakim came along, rhymes
in rap songs were pretty basic. Take one of the first commercially successful
rap songs from 1980, “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow This simple AA BB rhyming pattern with no
word play or puns is pretty predictable, lyrically and musically But, fast forward to 1986 and you’ve got
songs like “Eric B. Is President” from Eric B. & Rakim. Compare this to “The Breaks” and it’s
clear the frequency of rhymes is greater. But not only are you seeing more rhymes you’re
also starting to see different kinds of rhymes. “Indeed” and “Proceed” are internal
rhymes because they happen inside the sentence. “Man made a mix” and “band-aid to fix”
are multisyllable rhymes The other thing Rakim does later in the verse
is cross the bar line and he does it in a tremendously clever way. Crossing the bar line happens when a sentence
like “The rhyme can’t be kept inside” doesn’t end when the bar ends. If you listen closely you’ll hear that the
second syllable of inSIDE Lands on the first beat of the next bar. Rakim even references this in the lyric. And
it’s pretty clever. Now, fast forward 11 years and Notorious B.I.G’s
“Hypnotize” cleverly used Rakim’s techniques to make one of the smoothest rap songs ever. Martin: What I like most about this is that
it’s not predictable and it’s always changing. So sometimes Notorious B.I.G.s sentences are
long. Sometimes they’re short. Like the moment in this verse here: He’s also completely comfortable delivering
a sentence across the barline. But, what makes this song stand out the most to me
is that before one rhyme scheme ends, another one begins. Like this moment in verse 2. The first group of rhymes is the “oo”
rhymes and it links the first and second sentence which then begins the “ih” and so on. It’s a huge reason Biggie sounds so smooth
here. Now, as much as Biggie daisy chained an entire
song together with rhymes, he was, for the most part using single syllable and single
word rhymes. And this is where artists like Mos Def push
things even further. His verse on “Re:Definition” from 2002
hits nearly every note within the bar with 4 syllable rhymes. And he does it across a whopping 14 bars. In Re:Definition, Mos Def is very clearly
rhyming each word with the beat. This is where Andre 3000 shakes things up
with his verse in Aquemini. Focus on the beat first. Now listen to each syllable, with the beat in mind. Most rappers would have dollars, parlors,
and bottles all rhyme similarly on the beat. But Andre is accenting each rhyme within different
places relative to the beat and bar. People say that the word orange doesn’t rhyme with anything.
And that kinda pisses me off because I can think of a lot of things that rhyme with orange… In fact, Eminem, does this exact thing on
his 2002 song “Business” Eminem doesn’t just pack in tremendously
dense multi syllable rhymes, he also tells incredibly vivid stories. And for a lot of people that wins in a battle. This is where “Lose Yourself” comes in.
It was the first rap song to win an Academy Award. Whew the Oscar goes to Eminem, for Lose Yourself
from 8 Mile. Martin: I’ll see the line and I’ll separate it all into not just words or sentences, but into their syllables. When you group all of these rhymes together,
this incredibly complex rhyme scheme emerges. It’s unpredictable, it’s complex rhythmically
and lyrically but – It’s not just that you’re rhyming,
It’s that while you’re rhyming you’re still telling a good story. And “Lose Yourself” is like that. Today, rappers like Kendrick Lamar are carrying on the tradition of artists
that are able to use the musicality of rhymes to create really memorable songs. Let’s look at Kendrick Lamar’s “Rigamortus” The first thing you’ll notice is that Kendrick
has created a very clear motive with his rhymes. What’s a motive? It’s a short musical
idea. A musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in
a composition. Here’s probably the most recognizable motive
in the history of music. That “du du du dummmmm” is carried out
through the entire piece. It’s 3 quick notes followed by a long note. The musical motive in “Rigamortus” is
two short notes followed by a long note, stringing the entire
song together. When Kendrick goes into 4th gear he
keeps the motive going. And the motive keeps him in check. As much as Biggie’s “Hypnotize” sounds
completely different from “Rigamortus” there are a lot of musical similarities. Remember how Biggie daisy chained rhymes?
Kendrick does that too here. In “Hypnotize” Biggie also creates a motive with the sequence
of rhymes here: Now, let’s get back to MF Doom. Two years
after “Lose Yourself” won an Academy Award, MF Doom released 3 full albums including Madvillainy – which is widely considered one
of the best underground hip hop records period. Mos Def can’t even contain his excitement
talking about Doom. For the most part, MF Doom rhymes on the beat
but he uses multi syllable rhyming phrases up with wazoo often rhyming entire lines together. This is called a holorime. Mike: He’ll do setup punchline. Like his
following bar will be referencing the punchline but not in a way that he’ll be setting up
a another one, he just starts to go in another direction, but just acknowledges where the last bar was. This is what Mike is talking about. MF Doom understands the power of rhyme and
the beat and completely manipulates it in a humorous way. As Pitchfork points out “the rhyme’s pattern
and rap’s topical stereotype demands the word “bitches,” yet Doom hilariously says “booze”
and uses that rhyme to connect the next sentence. Where artists like Kendrick Lamar, Eminem,
and Andre 3000 are telling very vivid stories with their rhymes, MF Doom is using his dense
rhymes like a villain would use his superpower. Before you know it you’re being hit with
a killer punchline, double entendres, and clever wordplay. Martin: I love rappers with that syncopated uneven phrasing where the sentences don’t line up with the bars because, like you said, you can’t predict what’s going to happen. The point of appreciating it is to see what the very most clever human beings are capable of doing that you didn’t think possible.

100 thoughts on “Rapping, deconstructed: The best rhymers of all time

  1. Sad when people who have no idea of the culture try to break things down even sadder when any musician believe they the truth in a culture that never needed a keyboard for anything dealing with the true culture,now what she did was watch another channel and now she’s genius 🤔🤔 the foundation channel on YouTube sounds like she stole everything he about

  2. Rappers don’t even really be thinking about this stuff when they rap. They just want to put together a good song for their fans. What’s amazing is that everyone has their own style influenced by certain motives.

  3. rapppers dont think so much , its wat it feels , d vibes dat matters!!!! u cant write if u think so much of rhymes

  4. Che cazzo volete checche se ho le orecchie a sventola e una sventola alle orecchie che chiede chi è che mi sventola. – Blnkay

  5. Add the emotion , clever lines and meaningful lyrics and this is what i call art. Then you have the new rappers that cant even rhyme 1 word at the end and get hundreds of millions of views.

  6. Method man should have been mentioned here! Around the 4 minute mark, she's talking about Biggie's "Hypnotize" hitting rhymes all over across line breaks. I think Method Man really pioneered this in '94 on "Tical."

  7. PLEAAAASE! WHAT'S THE NAME OF THE BACKGROUND MUSIC? (track) iv'e searched the discription, the comments, the comments on another video with the same music, how am i the only one interested?

  8. Jay-Z is EASILY top 5 of all time – he has the most unpredictable flow plus the most quotable lines – which is REALLY the mark of a good MC, not how many multisyllabic words they can throw into a bar so where is he on this video????

  9. I'm a metal-head. and most modern day hip hop… Gangster-Rap is nothing for me at all… that are some fantastic modern poets that chose hip hip as their form of art. Biggy, Eminem and the others this video talks about are fantastic Poets! and while it isnt my fav. choice of music… I really respect those poets a LOT! Big respect to them!

  10. The beat of the song is the reoccurring interval, a bar is one cycle of reoccurring intervals. There are 6 major types of beats in music theory, 4:4 is the most basic, underground hip hop does all the more advanced beats.

  11. benjamin Andree a.k.a andree300 is one of the greatest lyrics masters of hip hop ever. his best work is on sixteen ft rick ross, this is a role model masterpiece.

  12. Their rhythms are OK, but their vocabulary and themes are weak. Second generation rappers (Rakim, Latifah, Kane, G-Rap, etc…) had stronger vocabularies for lyrics, with more powerful themes (tricknology) in their rhymes. In the end, it's all about 'them' words in those rhymes, with a deep subject. Anyone can rhyme in and out of a bar which we called rhythmic rhyming, but it's those words and topics that define how deep your mental is!!!

  13. this reminds me of a part of a verse i came up with in 08' the bar goes "Nice fullback and i love her back field and she like to have that when i hit it from the back feel" (the whole verse used football references as punchlines). later i realized that i could go from "she to "back feel without fully pronouncing the words. and years later found it interesting and funny i could hum and not say the words in between "she" and back feel. What's more interesting is while typing this i realized that i could change that when to the when and i still get my point across. it take years to get to that point.

  14. This isn’t cool to me. They’re trying to take EVERYTHING from us. In 100 years black people will be forgotten as the architects of hip hop. Just like Rock and Roll, Jazz and so on….

  15. I always loved this vid but I feel the rhyme styles of Ghostface, GZA, Big Pun, Redman, Common, Kweli, Twista, Jay Z and Kool G Rap (all in their lyrically primes) should have been included, if only just briefly…. Each one made a vast contribution to the MC culture alone

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