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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Flow: rap rhythm and rhyme


“It’s down to attaching flow to the beat… like Bruce Lee said, if the water is in the jug, it becomes that jug. If water is in that bowl, it becomes that bowl. That’s how I approach it,” says Sean Price of the hip-hop group Heltah Skeltah in the How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC book by Paul Edwards. Like all musical genres, the rhythm and rhymes of rap are one of its identifying markers and are referred to as the “flow”.”

Without the right flow, the delivery of the song would lack charisma and the message of the poem would be lost because the audience won’t show up. “I’m a flow person, and without the right flow, subject matter probably won’t even matter. It’s all about style…If people can’t feel how you’re saying it, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying.,” says Havoc of Mobb Deep in Edwards’ book.

Edwards shows how rap music is coded into beats, bars, and rests. He explains how lyrics and beat coalesce, talks about types of rhyme schemes, and how rhythm is developed. These are all elements of flow.

Flow needs to exist in a hip-hop song but it’s not where the song starts. “Sometimes I might write a poem, a spoken-word poem, but then morph that into a rap rhythmically,” says Myke 9 of Freestyle Fellowship. It’s the flow of the song that leads to its evolution from a poem to a hip-hop song.

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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in hip hop, rap, sound

 

Instead of war on poverty, they got a war on drugs…


Many of Tupac Amaru Shakur‘s lyrics were inspired by the life of poverty, drugs, and crime into which he was born. In his song Changes he poignantly echoes “I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do.”

And still I see no changes. Can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war on the streets & the war in the Middle East.
Instead of war on poverty,
they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.
And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do.

In this song, he says “we ain’t ready to see a black President”, but was shot dead many years before Barack Obama took office. Although, Obama is probably not the “black” president 2Pac referenced as his was likely talking about socio-economic roots rather than race.

The lyrics drip with the frustrations and marginalization suffered by many poor black people in America. In the song, he calls for change but ends the song with “Some things will never change.”

Whether the changes he envisioned occur or not, his words resonated with many because when this song was released after his death, it won  a “Best Rap Solo Performance” Grammy nomination, held the #1 Billboard Hot Ringtones Chart for 34 weeks, and was listed as one of the top-12 myspace favorites of the Vatican.

[youtube-“http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8Y9-JlSRXw”%5D

2Pac RIP.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in crime, hip hop, lyrics, poetry, poverty, rap

 

I like to rhyme, I like my beats funky…


:
I like to rhyme,I like my beats funky,
I’m spunky. I like my oatmeal lumpy.
I’m sick wit dis, straight gangsta mack
But sometimes I get ridiculous
I’ll eat up all your crackers and your licorice
Hey yo fat girl, c’mere – are ya ticklish?
:

Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance” was my introduction to rap but, somehow, I lost my connection to the hip-hip scene after that… maybe it was the massive infusion of violence and misogyny into the lyrics, maybe it was just bad publicity about rap…a recent NPR pledge drive featuring a rap song drew my attention back to the hip-hop beats and to the rhymes. Then the April National Poetry Month brought rap to my full consideration when I wrote abut the last of the rhyming poets.

In the next few articles in my blog, I will explore rap in terms of content, flow, writing, and delivery.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in dance, lyrics, poetry, rap, song

 

the last of the rhyming poets: rap music


Is it possible that a rapper might someday be a poet laureate?

Billy Collins, 2001-2003 Poet Laureate, writers free verse. Charles Simic, 2007-2008 Poet Laureate, writes poetry in prose. The modern form of poetry is no longer limited to the confines of rhyming. Rap music, however, is rooted in rhymes. It straddles the border between poetry and song because the words are often spoken rather than sung and flow with the metaphors and similes that are foundations of good poems.

Whether rap touches the heart of the high-art poetry scene or not, it has revived the rhyming scheme. For example, literary scholar Adam Bradley examines the art of rap in the Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, a teacher uses rap to teach poetry in schools, a website devoted to hip-hop in the classroom looks at examples of metaphors and similes in rap.

“Rap is a river. Poetry is the ocean,” says a poet in this video as he sums up the relationship between poetry and rap.


 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in art, lyrics, poetry, rap, song

 

The Smiths, The Cure, Talking Heads… 80’s poets


In the 80s, my head was jammed into the alternative music scene, a place where many of the musicians inhaled and exhaled poetic melancholy. Some of the songs and lyrics that I remember:

The poetic metaphor of “I can feel the soil falling over my head…” from the song “I know it’s over” by The Smiths etched into my memory after the first time I heard it.

The haunting lyrics and melody of “Three Imaginary Boys” by The Cure can still give me shivers.

Talking Heads “Once in a lifetime” is a timeless pondering on the nature of time and it’s passage…

It was the poetic edge of the lyrics, the deep explorations of the human condition, in 80s alternative music which saved me from getting lost in the banality of top-40 music-as-commodity. The 80s alternative music scene resonated with my love for words and provided a music foundation that I will always cherish and I dedicate this song to that gift:

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in 80s Alternative, art, poetry, punk, sound