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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rapper's Flow Encyclopedia - Rone

This is a new rap music analysis video on my favorite battle rapper, a guy named Rone. Check it out!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Update!

As you can probably tell by now, I really like big projects. Like, HUGE, titanic, herculean and gargantuan efforts. The bigger, the better. Size matters. Write a 9-movement, 35-minute funeral mass set to music during 2 and a half years, once re-starting it from nothing, that memorializes victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti? Sure, why not!

This book I'm writing for you guys is just like it. It might have seemed hard enough in the first place: write 120,000 words on rap that people will be willing to pay money for. Well, I just upped the difficulty level, because I've recently started making edits to the book.

And when I say "making edits," I pretty much mean "re-writing the whole damn thing in two months." After getting the feedback from my editor a few weeks ago, I just sat down to start revising my book. The first thing I did was throw out all of the 500 pages I had written specifically, while keeping the general topics the same. Then, on the advice of my editor, I have come up 10 chapters with 10 attributes, not the previous 5. Instead of historical consciousness, versatility, originality, manipulation of expectation, and technical proficiency, these are the musical attributes below that I'll be arguing that the very best rappers possess.

A good rapper should be:

1. Historically Conscious (which we see best in the work of Mos Def)

2. Versatile (Pharoahe Monch)

3. Visionary (Kendrick Lamar)

4. Original (MF DOOM)

5. Melodic (Busta Rhymes)

6. Commanding (Game)

7. Eclectic (André 3000)

8. Technically Proficient (Eminem)

9. Deep (Lil Wayne...yes, that Lil Wayne.)

10. Purposeful (Talib Kweli.)

In addition to re-working the number of attributes, I've also, as you can see in the above, simplified the number of rappers I mention. In the first draft, I discussed no less than 39 rappers; my awesome editor suggested reducing it to just 1 per chapter, and those rappers in the above are the ones who I'll be talking about in the chapter, because I think best represent that essential musical characteristic. So start learnin' up ya bums!

Oher changes: I've also simplified the difficulty of the language I used, made my argument more specific and less encyclopedic, addressed it to an audience more on the side of general rap fans than academic scholars, and, quite simply, used less words, shortening the book from about 100,000 words to about 65,000 words. The result is a 100% improvement, and I hope you'll agree.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cold Crush Brothers - Fresh, Fly, Wild and Bold - Rap Music Transcription

Below is the sheet music for "Fresh, Fly, Wild and Bold" by the Cold Crush Brothers, released in 1984. It is the rhythms of the rapper's words written down in music notation.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Earl Sweatshirt Rap Music Transcription

Below is the sheet music for Earl Sweatshirt's rhythms on his song "Earl", from his 2010 album called Earl. There is also a video that plays back all of his rhythms for the first 32 bars of his rap.

-Capitalized words are rhymed words
-the long curving lines underneath the note heads represent sentences or grammatical fragments

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rapper's Flow Encyclopedia - Earl Sweatshirt, Part 2

This is part 2 of a 2-part article on Earl Sweatshirt in celebration of his long-awaited second album, Doris, which comes out August 20. If you haven't read part 1, that's okay - you'll still be able to understand part 2, but you'll probably eventually want to see it at RapGenius here. If you have already read part 1, you can skip the first section of this part where I repeat some things from part 1. Head down to where the line of underlined asterisks **** is.

Even though his second album is out today, we’re gonna go back and see where Earl started from, which is his aptly named song “Earl,” from his 2010 album Earl.

Let’s start by comparing Earl’s rap stats to the other rappers I’ve analyzed before. Check them out, and try to guess what rapper most primarily influenced Earl based on how similar their stats are, before I reveal a possible answer later on:

The stats from Earl that jump out at you immediately are his very low number of sentences per bar (.087), and his very high rate of syllables per sentence (15.70), which are indicated by their respective red coloring (pointing out the lowest recorded value of a specific stat) and blue coloring (pointing out the highest recorded value for a specific stat.) The "bar" in "sentences per bar" refers to the musical unit of time that repeats over and over in music. Since a bar is always the same length of time, that means that we can use it to compare rappers across their different songs, just like an hour is used to measure miles per hour for different objects in motion because an hour always lasts the same amount of time.

Earl's .087 is the lowest sentences per bar we’ve ever seen, and 15.70 is the highest number of syllables per sentence we’ve seen. Not only are Earl’s SPB (sentences per bar) and syllables per sentence (SPS) at the extreme ends of the ranges we see, but they are in fact extremely at the extreme end of the ranges. Earl's .087 SPB is 22% lower than the 2nd lowest value for that stat, Talib Kweli’s 1.11 SPB, and his 15.70 SPS is 23% above the next highest value for that stat, MF DOOM’s 12.76 SPS.

Now, how does Earl not only approach these extremes, but does so to such a great extent over these other rappers?

The answer is because of the unique way in which splits up the beat. As I’ve explained before, a beat is simply a musical duration of time that always lasts the same amount of time within the same song. In that way, it’s similar to a second: they both always last the same amount of time, and both repeat over and over. These are the two important characteristics to a beat in rap music that you need to remember:

1.    They always last the same amount of time.
2.    They repeat over and over.

A beat in rap music is usually divided into 4 parts, which are called 16th notes. Four of those beats make up a bar, and because each of those beats has 4 16th notes, there are 16 16th notes to a bar (makes sense, doesn’t it?) The 4 beats in a bar are referred to, in order, as beat 1, beat 2, beat 3, and beat 4. Most rappers, like Notorious B.I.G., have 4 16th notes to a beat. You can hear what that sounds like in the video below. The 4 16th notes in the same beat are always connected across the top of the black circular note heads by those horizontal bars, which are called beams, and are only connected to each other within the same beat. If there are two of them over a note, like on the words “sicker than your,” it means that those notes are 16th notes. Where one bar starts and the next one ends is denoted by the vertical lines along the music, such as between “twist” and “cabbage.” You only need to watch a few seconds of each video here to get the gist of it. The rapper’s rhythms are played by the triangle, and those repeating, identical beats are played by the low bass kick drum. And in any music I quote exactly or show in a picture or video, the rhymed words are always capitalized:

See The Notorious B.I.G. Rhythm Demo Here

However, rappers don’t have to always divide the beat into 4 parts. Some rappers, like Big Boi below, divide them into 3 parts or 6 parts. These divisions are indicated by the 3s and 6s above the notes, such as on the words “now is the time to,” or on “get on the” in the video below. Since 4 is the normal division of a beat, no number 4 is indicated over those kinds of note heads in music, such as in Notorious B.I.G.’s video, or in Big Boi’s video below on his lyrics “get your work and."

See The Big Boi Rhythm Demo Here

Rappers can also divide them into 5 or 7 parts, as MF DOOM does below:

See the MF DOOM Rhythm Demo Here


Earl Sweatshirt doesn’t divide a single beat into 3, 4, 6, or 7 parts, as Notorious, Big Boi, or MF DOOM does. He divides TWO beats into 9 16th notes, instead of two beats into 8 16th notes. Let’s see what that means.

The tempo of the song “Earl” is 78 BPM. BPM stands for “beats per minute,” and denotes how fast or slow a piece of music is. The beat in “beats per minute” is the same beat that we described before as being the building block of musical time that repeats over and over and always lasts the same amount of time. If “Earl” has a tempo of 78 BPM, that means each beat lasts about .77 seconds, because 60 seconds/78 beats-per-minute = .77 seconds. So, two beats last 1.54 seconds (.77 x 2 = 1.54). Earl sweatshirt divides that 1.54 second duration of 2 beats by 9, which means each 16th note in Earl’s noctuplets (a word that comes from the Latin word for nine) lasts about .17 seconds, because 1.54/9= .17.

The fact that Earl divides those 2 beats into noctuplets, when combined with what words he does or doesn’t accent in his rap, means he almost never, ever lands right on a strong beat in the bar.

He never, ever lands on a strong beat.

If you have ever heard anything about music, you should know that the above sentence, in some ways, blows up any preconceived notion of what rhythm is. That’s because all rhythm is defined by what’s on the beat, and what’s not on the beat. Any rhythm that lands on the beat is just called “on the downbeat,” or “on the beat,” and rhythms that are off the beat are called “syncopation.” But Earl isn’t doing either of those. As we said before, his noctuplet 16th notes each last .17 seconds. Because a 32nd note is half of a 16th note, Earl’s 32nd notes last .085 seconds (.17/2 = .085). The length of the synth sound in the video below is .085 seconds.

Pretty small, isn’t it? It has to be, for it to move the beat.

We know Earl moves the beat, rather than landing right on it or off it, because although Earl’s rhythms happen all over the place musically, they never feel off. His rhythms can always be explained in the context of those noctuplet rhythms. Contrast this to what happens in the video below, where I’ve taken an instrumental song and put a different song's rap over it. The rap below FEELS off; that’s because the rap and the beat are at two different tempos. (The rap is Ludacris’ verse from his song with Usher, “Yeah!,” and the beat is “Five” from Ratatat’s album 9 Beats.)

But Earl is also rapping in a different tempo over a rap that’s at another tempo, and yet it still feels like Earl is rapping with the beat. How is this possible?

As I explained before, there are 4 beats to a bar, and the speed of a song is determined by BPM, which is “beats per minute.” If there is a high BPM, the song is faster; if there is a low BPM, the song is slower. The BPM of "Earl" is about 78, as I've already said. Time for a thought experiment: music can theoretically be played at any speed, right? And the beat can theoretically divided by any number, right? Since both of those statements are true, there have to be some points at which rhythmic layers are equivalent to each other in chronological duration (measured in seconds), even though they might be 16th notes in one tempo and 8th notes in another

Below is the formula for finding those points at which two different tempos line up:

The above describes a shift from the speed of one song (“old tempo” on the left) to another (“new tempo”), using a note value from the first tempo (“pivot note value in old measure”) to a note value in the second (“pivot note values in new measure.”) We have values for 3 of those variables above: old tempo (78 for “Earl”, as we said above), pivot notes in old measure (“8”, for the normal 8 16th notes to 2 beats), and the number of pivot note values in new measure (“9”, for Earl’s 9 noctuplet 16th notes for 2 beats.) When we work it out, that means we get that "new tempo" = 88 BPM. This means that Earl’s noctuplet rhythms are equal to quadruplet (“4 to a beat”) 16th note rhythms at 88 BPM. That makes sense because Earl is dividing the same musical space into more pieces, 9, than normal, so those same notes will sound faster.

And yet, the song DOESN’T feel like it’s at 88 BPM; it stays firmly rooted in 78 BPM. This is different from Talib Kweli in my analysis on that Brooklyn rapper here, where he divides the beat into 5 and it DOES feel like it’s in another tempo because he lands on most downbeats, such as on the syllables “sweet,” “bet,” and “get,” and the “-y” of “cavity” in the video below. That’s a full bar of landing on downbeats. Check out a demonstration of it:

See The Talib Kweli Rhythm Demo Here

And that’s exactly what Earl DOESN’T do: land on the downbeats. He is always milliseconds off.

Below is a demonstration of rhythms that are on the beat. The underlying beat is played by the lower bass kick drum, while the triangle is playing the rhythms shown on the music. Every black circular note head with that greater than sign below it denotes a note that is landing on the beat. Rhythms without the greater than sign are off the beat. First a bar of quarter notes are played, than a bar of 8th notes, than a bar of quadruplet 16th notes. For those 3 rhythmic categories, there are 4 downbeats in the bar: on beat 1, beat 2, beat 3, and beat 4, because there are 4 beats to a bar in rap music. But in the next 2 bars, where I play 2 full noctuplet of those 16th notes that Earl divides 2 beats by, there are only 2 downbeats in the full bar, since 9 isn’t divided by 2 without fractions. Compare to how that bar sounds compared to the normal quadruplet 16th notes that are repeated immediately after that bar. The on-the-beat notes in the video below also sound different, harder, from those that are off the beat.

Below is another demonstration. Now, I’ve removed the only on-the-beat note in the noctuplet that we had before. Instead, I’ve started the beat off with a 32nd note rest (a rest – an absence of music – is represented by those squiggly lines.) That 32nd note rest lasts only .085 seconds. That’s a very small amount of time. So when Earl places rhythms there like he does, it doesn’t feel like a syncopated rhythm — that small difference, when combined with the fact that he places an accent on the syllable in question (he pronounces it CRA-shing, not cra-SHING), makes it feel as if the beat has arrived early. Take a listen to how similar but different the below video sounds to the noctuplets in the previous video:

Now let’s see Earl do this in the rap itself. For instance, consider the opening part of the song played in the video below. Watch only the first 12 seconds or so:

You can see that none of his syllables fall on the 1st or 3rd beat, because each of those 9s over the note heads represent 2 beats. Beats 1 and 2, for instance, is from “and” to the start of “cra,” and beats 3 and 4 last from “-shing” to the word “to.” On the beat, all of the notes are either rests, like in between the word “hot” and “and,” or they are tied notes, such as on the “cra-“ of “crashing,” or “roth,” where that small line that connects two consecutive notes means that you just add the rhythmic values together and only play it once, such as on the “cra-“ of “crashing” and the next note, or “roth” and the next note.

So, Earl isn’t landing on the beat…but he doesn’t sound off either, like the video demonstration with a mismatched beat and rap did. He moves the beat and, although his division of the beat is very, very irregular, he never varies from it, and so the rap actually does feel like it flows.

He does this again very shortly after that example, in bars 4-5 of the transcription, which is also played in the video above:

In the above, the word “and” after “saws” is so, so, so close to being on the beat…but it’s not, by .085 seconds. Here’s what it would feel like if “and” was actually on that beat, and everything after was moved a 32nd note later.

It sounds very, very similar, but it's not the same. The landing on the "and" is simply too heavy and direct.

Now, Earl uses a lot of different rhythmic durations in this rap. In the opening bars alone, we see a quarter note a dotted 32nd (on “I’m”), a 16th not (on “a”,) a dotted 16th ,on “as-“ of “astronaut,) an 8th note (on “while”)…you get the idea. But they always feel like they’re flowing because they are always explainable inside of that noctuplet division. Earl’s dexterous sense of this finely detailed rhythm is most impressive from the opening as well, where he metrically transfers the rhyme group on astronaut/crashing while/jacking off. To metrically transfer something means that Earl has taken the same series of rhythmic durations, called a rhythmic profile, and moved them around relative to that repeating beat that we discussed before. Each of those 3-syllable rhymes, astronaut/crashing while/jacking off, has a rhythmic profile of a dotted 16th, followed by a 16th note, and then ending with an 8th note. They also have a rhyme profile of an opening “ah” rhyme sound and an ending “aw” rhyme sound. If you compare all of the rhythmic durations, they are the same. But they don’t always happen in the same place within the noctuplet. “Astronaut” happens in the middle of the noctuplet, as you can see by it’s distance from the lefthand side of the bar line, but “crashing” starts right before the end of the first noctuplet of the bar before “jacking off” starts in the same place as “astronaut.” To be able to feel that small difference in rhythms is amazing. Check it out:

Now we see how Earl literally transform rhythm in his music. This is a technique similar to what happens in jazz music, and is way beyond what anyone thinks of as rapper's being capable of.

If you want to hear more about Earl's rhymes and rhythms, check out part 1 of the article at RapGenius here.

Web Hosting for Earl Sweatshirt Analysis Article

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

An Aspiring Rapper's/Producer's Guide To My Articles

Not very many of my articles are directly addressed to rappers or producers who are trying to get better at their craft. However, rappers or producers can still learn a lot by reading them. Below is a guide to which articles can improve you in the specific areas that are listed below:

Rapper's Skills:

Pacing In Rap:

-Mos Def, Article 1

-2pac Article

-Talib Kweli Article

How To Craft A Flow:

-Notorious B.I.G. Article

-Big Sean Article

-Kendrick Lamar Article

How To Make Your Flow Better:

-Jean Grae Interview

-Talib Kweli Interview

-The Rap Voice As An Instrument Article

-How To Have Better Delivery

New, Complex Rhythms To Use:

-Busta Rhymes Article

-Big Boi Article

-MF DOOM Article

-Talib Kweli Article

-Kendrick Lamar Article

-Nas Article

Complex Rhyming Techniques

-Jean Grae Article

-Eminem "Lose Yourself" Article

-Eminem "Business" Article

-MF DOOM Article

-Mos Def, Article 2

Wordplay & Puns

-Pharoahe Monch Article

Producer's Skills:

Balancing Different Musical Ideas In The Beat/Making Your Beat Deeper

-Dr. Dre's Proportions On His "Oh!" Beat

-Dr. Dre's Orchestration Article

Song Structure

-Kanye West Song Structure Article

How To Make Your Beats Sound More Interesting:

-Dr. Dre's Orchestration Article

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Web Hosting for Rock Analysis on Rapgenius

Rapper's Flow Encyclopedia - Heltah Skeltah, Rock Rap Music Analysis

There are some musical artists that encapsulate and perfectly represent their eras.

The Beatles and the British Rock Invasion of the 60s.

Prince and the excess of 80s synth rock.

K$sha’s grimey, dance-rap of today.

Although these artists might move on artistically from their origins, they will always leave their influence on the years in which they came up, and those years will do the same to them.

Another one of those groups is Heltah Skeltah, coming out of Brownsville, New York, in the 90s. They’ve been getting professional love since 1995, on Smif-N-Wessun’s album Dah Shinin’. Although they’ve progressed since then, some elements of the New York rap scene around that time have never left, especially for Heltah Skeltah member Rock. On the Evidence-produced Heltah Skeltah song “Hellz Kitchen,” it’s pretty clear that Rock’s flow, while also being substantially different, is similar to none other than The Notorious B.I.G.’s flow on another song we previously have taken a look at, “Hypnotize” []. Note that the direction of influence might flow in either direction, as the two acts — Biggie and Heltah Skeltah — started working around the same time. Recently, Rock has made the move to the legendary W.A.R. media record label that also includes Jean Grae and fellow GOAT Pharoahe Monch. Managed by Satori Ananda, I personally can’t wait to see what he comes out with next. My pipe dream is a W.A.R. media compilation…we’ll see what happens!

But the bone-crushing force of Rock’s rap comes primarily from his overbearing, strong delivery on the mic. You can definitely hear it on the Heltah Skeltah song “Hellz Kitchen:”

When he tells you, “Leave you feeble fuckers in puddles,” you feel like he’s talking right at you more than some other rappers when they use the 2nd person form of address. How hard he comes is a really good illustration of a concept that GOATs Jean Grae in her interview and Talib Kweli in his interview talked about. Take it away, Jean:

“What doesn’t work for one rapper might work for another. You have to get to know your voice as if it was an instrument. Know what you can get away with – how you sound, almost what the frequencies of your voice are….For instance, if you change the rapper of a verse, but keep the rhythms and words the same, the feel of the verse completely changes.” - Jean Grae

And Talib:

Composer’s Corner: You were saying you flow the best when you’re free with it. Do you mean with where your place your rhymes, how long your sentences are, the words you use, or stuff like that?

Talib Kweli: All of that, but also how relaxed it is. Even if it’s a loud beat and an aggressive rhyme, the more relaxed I am when I’m performing it, it just flows better. It melds into the track better.”

Now, there is no question that Rock knows his voice like an instrument, inside out, and knows what flow fits his voice, as Jean and Talib describe. He comes across so convincingly, as truly believing what he’s saying, that you have to be crazy in order to not feel him. Just like Talib knows to relax when he flows, Rock knows to come hard.

But those overall descriptions don’t quite capture the force of Rock’s work technically. I’ve never used this internet-speak before, but smh man, smh…Some dudes get. slept. on. And people don’t even know. I more deeply address why some rappers who aren’t very good technically might get popular while other emcees who are better rappers don’t get radio play at this article here at Rapping Manual.. The gist of it is that if you only stick to radio, or even the top Hip Hop blogs/magazines (The Source, XXL, etc.,) you’re missing out by getting to hear only one type of rapper. The abilities and technologies you need to rap nowadays are simply so widespread that there are probably thousands of mic rockers out there who are super talented but who people will never get a chance to see. Everyone’s got mics, everyone’s got some kind of access to music and the Internet. So get out there! Go to Myspace, select your geographical location, and just browse. And when you find an act you like, you can really help them out to bring more people their music. Those acts will actually return the love to you, and it will mean a lot more to them than it would for Drake or Wayne.

So for those class clowns out there who didn’t do your rap homework, you might have otherwise found out earlier about a awesome dude like Rock. Now, what have you been missing out on?

Like I said before, the strongest thing about Rap’s game is his strong delivery. That’s not only in the way he talks, but the rhythms he uses as well. Towards the end of his opening verse on “Hellz Kitchen”, after he’s laid down a few bars of pretty steady rhythms, he starts shooting all over the beat. It matches up perfectly with his boasts of gunplay. Check out, for instance, these bars:

Even if you can’t read music, just look how different that representation in musical notes of Rock’s verse looks from his first few lines: 

If you’re going to read the music above, there are a few things you need to know. Those black circles on the lines are the musical notes, and there’s one for each syllable Rock raps. Those curved lines under the noteheads, such as from the syllable “lis-” of “listen” to the “-in’” of “bitchin’” represents a full grammatical structure, like a sentence. Those squiggly lines in between the black, circular noteheads, like between “night” and “don’t,” are called rests, and those just mean that Rock isn’t rapping anything right there. Also, the rhymed words in every sheet music example are capitalized. If you’re still confused about the notation, just watch the video demonstration of Rock’s rap rhythms at the end of this article and your ear will sort things out for you.

Between the two images, you’ll notice that the 2nd notation looks a lot simpler. In that one, there aren’t any crazy numbers over the noteheads on the lines like there are in the first notation sample. For example, there is the number 9 over “wanna dance with the devil save” or the number 7 over the words “I’m quick.” That just means Rock has opened up the verse with a lot more regular rhythms, seen in the second image, that are easier to understand. This is a good idea to do if later you’re going to get more complex like Rock does. It gives the listener a reference point and doesn’t lose them by being too all over the place.

The complex rhythms Rock uses are called quintuplet, septuplets, and noctuplets. Those numbers just mean how the music is divided: into 5, 7, or 9 units. These complex rhythms put him into some rarefied company. The songs and rappers that we’ll be comparing and contrasting Rock’s rap against are Talib Kweli, MF DOOM, Notorious B.I.G., 2pac, and Busta Rhymes. Now, from the above list, only MF DOOM made use of rhythms that were as complex as Rock’s. The rhythms of Kweli and Busta Rhymes would be right behind him in terms of complexity. The other musical symbols we defined before, such as sentences, can also be used to compare and contrast Rock to the above rappers.

For instance, in this verse, Rock raps 212 syllables in the musical space of 16 bars. A bar is simply a musical time unit that occurs over and over in rap music. Because it always lasts the same amount of time between any rap song, we can use it as a fixed reference point to measure rap in certain ways. For instance, Rock’s 212 syllables in 16 bars means there are 13.25 syllables per bar. And the 23 sentences Rock has makes it mean that there are 1.44 sentences per bar. I also measured syllables per sentence, syllables per word, and % of syllables rhymed. Check all of Rock’s stats out below all the way to the right, and see how they match up against B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, MF DOOM, 2pac, and Talib:

Now we see how Rock was formed by his era, and how he formed it himself. Rock is most similar to Notorious B.I.G. in his stats, out of all the other rappers there. The percentage of syllables that Rock rhymes, 33%, is close to Biggie’s 38%. Rock’s 33% rhyme rate is close to Busta’s 30% and Talib Kweli’s 28% rhyme rate as well, but those two rappers are much wordier. They have, on average, Busta’s 11.85 and Talib’s 12.76 syllables per sentence, while Rock has only 9.21 syllables per sentence. That 9.21 is close to Biggie’s 7.25 syllables per sentence, DOOM’s 9.18 syllables per sentence, and 2pac’s 9.32 syllables per sentence. But DOOM has a much higher rhyme rate, with 45% of all syllables rhymed, and he is maybe the most wordy rapper ever, having about 1.75 syllables per word. Meanwhile, Rock’s rate of 1.37 syllables per word is close to Notorious’ 1.30 rate, as well as 2pac’s rate of 1.21 syllables per word. Rock’s 1.37 syllables rate is also similar to Kweli’s 1.47 syllable per word rate, but Kweli has much longer sentences. Kweli has 1.11 sentences per bar, while Rock has 1.44 sentences per bar. That 1.44 rate is much closer to Biggie’s 1.38 sentences per bar rate than Kweli’s rate.

In fact, Rock’s style is more similar to 2pac’s than Kweli or MF DOOM, even though Rock came up on a whole different side of the country from 2pac. What matters is that they were from a similar era. I also don’t think it’s an accident that Rock’s style is more similar to Busta than DOOM or Kweli, because Rock came up in the 90s along with Busta.

(I also did analysis articles on all of those rappers. You can find the MF DOOM one here, Talib Kweli here, Busta Rhymes here, 2pac here,, and B.I.G. here here.

But Rock is also different from Biggie in some important ways. He uses much more complex rhythms than Biggie’s regular rhythms, as we see from some B.I.G. rhythms below:

You can see that there are no prime numbers like 5, 7, or 9 above the numbers. You can also listen to how Rock’s complex rhythms sound different in the video demonstration at the end of this article, or in the Biggie analysis that I linked to above.

Furthermore, Rock’s rhyming is more complex in certain ways. For instance, he is more willing to put a number of rhymes consecutively, rather than just the 1 or 2, or at most usually 6, in a row that Biggie might do. For instance, Rock raps:

In those first 20 syllables, there are 17 rhymes, and at one point, savagery to mashery, there are 13 straight rhymes. So although Biggie has a higher rhyme density, it is because his rhymes are more evenly spread out than Rock’s. Rock also makes use of consonance, or the repetition of a consonant sound. Above, the consonance is on the “m” of “motherfuckers / monster mashery…” I consider consonance to have the same function as rhyming, in that they both place emphasis on the syllable on which they occur. Thus, I treat them both the same.

Also differently from Biggie, Rock uses longer rhymes of 3-syllables. B.I.G. in “Hypnotize” has no 3-syllable rhymes, but Rock rhymes on savagery/mashery/battery. He also uses more 2-syllable rhymes than Notorious, who was more about 1-syllable rhymes.

Below, I notated Rock’s rap rhythms in music notation and play it back through a computer instrument, a MIDI triangle. I put the underlying beat to the song underneath so you can feel how complex Rock’s rhythms are:

If you liked this song, check out another one of Rock’s songs called “Rockness Monsta:”

So there. You were maybe missing out on a dude who flows like Biggie, and who might be even better than him in some respects.

Now go do your damn homework!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The 5 Most Unbelievable Stories of 2013 As Told Through Tweets

Lucky for us, Twitter acts as an immortal showcase of the stupid things we do and say. That goes for rappers too. (I'm just saying, I hope no one ever does a story like this on me. It will probably start with asking why I re-tweet Jean Grae lyrics at 10 PM on Fridays.) But the math behind this article is easy: people do and say crazy shit/rappers especially + Twitter saves it = here are the 5 most outlandish rap stories of the past year as told through Tweets:

Normally, a rapper would want you to find out about them through their music, and not because of something wildly inappropriate they did. Unfortunately, the second scenario was the case for when I heard of French Montana, and kinda made his music hard to take after that. On February 29 this year, Montana performed at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia a.k.a. PHIL-TOWNNNN!!! (Okay, no one calls it that.) And as it happens someone got shot and died outside of the concert. Police later stopped Montana to question him about the incident. Montana responded with the above tweet and an instagram photo of him looking pissed off, clearly not going anywhere. Came off as rather dick-ish. Whatever, let's go to a less harmless egotistical rapper act instead:
When this story broke, I had to explain to my non-rap fans, all of who were still familiar with Kanye's antics ("George Bush doesn't care about black people," "Beyoncé had one of the best music videos of all time," etc., etc.,) that this was actually a real story. To promote his recent Yeezus album, Kanye broadcast a music video all across the world at the same time. The video largely consists of Kanye's own face, over dozens of feet of square area, rapping his song "New Slaves." Check it out:

 Only Kanye could think of something like that. To be clear, I'm a huge fan of the man. If he is one of the few people in the world with almost endless resources at his disposal for advertising and publicity, why not do something completely outlandish? I am going to have definitely disagree with Kanye's recent characterization of the 2nd verse of "New Slaves" as the greatest verse in the history of music, as he recently proclaimed on music. I'd expect nothing less from Kanye, though.

 I'm not gonna give you any context for this one. Just sit with this reality for a while, a quote which hopefully they engrave on Lupe's tomb:

"Dear God! I didn't get kicked off Twitter for talking about Karl Marx! Jesus Fucking Christ....who said that?" - Lupe Fiasco, Born 2/16/1982
On a recent song, "U.O.E.N.O.", Rick Ross has the following lyric:

"Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it
I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it"

Understandably, there was a lot of outrage over Ross' apparent glorification of date rape. Ross felt the pain in not just his public image but his wallet as well when he lost an endorsement deal with Reebok worth millions of dollars. However, the message may not have hit Ross right away, as he offered up the above lukewarm apology. Maybe he just meant apologies are awesome with the #boss tag?

The outcry over Ross' lyrics is similar to other public debates over rap lyrics that have taken place recently, such as over Lil Wayne's "Emmett Till" lyric and Kanye West's recent lyric about "keeping it shaking like Parkinson's". While being a sign of current problems in rap's lyrics, the fact that these debates are taking place at all is a good sign. This is because they can eventually lead to change. Rap has had lyrics like this for years, but as rap matures, it is time to move on.

Tim Dog's tweet from 2009 seems damn near a premonition now. In 2011, Tim Dog pleaded guilty to grand larceny for conning a woman. Facing a long prison sentence and having to pay back tens of thousands of dollars to the victim of the scheme, TD reportedly died of complications from diabetes. However, none of the usual events surrounding a death were found: an autopsy, a funeral, or death certificate. An arrest warrant has now been issued for him in Mississippi. As he says on a song off his "Do or Die" album, he may have "Skipped To His Loot" one too many times.

So, what's the equation answer? If you, as a rap fan, are not on Twitter, I highly suggest it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ca$his Interview

In my internship with HipHopDX, I recently got the chance to interview Ca$his, a California rapper by way of Chicago.

He's most known for his Aftermath Associations, being signed to Shady Records and working with Eminem. Here's one of his popular songs, from the Shady Records Re-Up album:

Check out the interview here. Although I asked questions about everything - how his kids affect his music, the new album, etc. - I also got to ask him my patented rap analysis questions. They're excerpted below:

DX: When you rap, do you come up with the words first, the rhymes first, or both at the same time?

Ca$his: Together, at the same time. I let the beat play.

DX: So you always have the beat first?

Ca$his: Yeah, I always hear the beat first, unless I do something a cappella. I let the beat play, and I freestyle. It may hit me but certain words are chopped off. It’s incomplete for a minute. I get the pattern, then I vibe to it. I might write it down sometimes because I can catch myself better. Sometimes having more focus is better. I sit there, and I turn the music up, and I smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke. As it keeps looping and looping and looping, I’m ready. Maybe 10, 15 minutes I got the whole record down. I’m a one-take jake, man.

DX: Say you’re writing a verse that’s 16 bars long. Do you start from bar one and go all the way through 16, or do you keep a book of rhymes and maybe take two bars here, three bars there, and fit them together if they work?

Ca$his: Nah, I don’t really know how to do that. I’m not good at taking records from other songs of mine and putting it in there. I just come with the bars. I just go through it. I get the verse, two or three bars I have a pattern on how I wanna do it. And once I have the pattern, it’s all good. The only thing that changes is if the beat changes or if there’s any drop-outs.

DX: Say a beginner rapper comes to you and they say, “Ca$his, you’re sick. Give me some advice on how to be a better rapper.” What’s the first thing you tell them?

Ca$his: I’d tell them to remember the rhyme. That’s the most important thing in rapping. That’s what made it, rhyming. Some of the new artists forget about rhyming. But the classic, true artists don’t. Jay-Z always rhyme, Nas rhyme, Em always rhyme. The biggest artists, DMX, they always rhyme when they do their rap. People need to pay attention to that. If you stay rhyming, and build your vocabulary and confidence, you’ll be alright.

DX: Can you think of any artists who forget to rhyme?

Ca$his: I don’t listen to too many people. I have my few artists that I listen to that I’mma fan of. Like I said, Jay-Z, I bump some of the Wayne joints, I bump 50 joints. I bump Twista. There’s not a whole bunch of people. I listen to some songs from Kurupt. Like I said, I bump a lot of Snoop Dogg. I bump 2pac, I bump B.I.G. I bump a lot of Beanie Sigel. That’s pretty much it, I don’t really bump too many artists because I’m always working. I don’t ever want to sound like other people. Treach is one of my favorite artists, my uncle bumped a lot of Treach. Kurupt was the artist I sat with that really put me up on game, and who I pattern myself after. Because he can freestyle forever and he can rap forever. He just knows rap. So he’s one of my idols in rap.