207. Critical Thinking: A Panoply Examining The Anatomy & Strategy of a Rap Beat Masterpiece

05 takeaways from this video:

00:00:16 MF Doom is a British-born hip hop artist. His lyrical style will isolate one syllable and then craft entire bars stringing together only words that rhyme with that syllable. For example…

00:00:59 Rakim, considered to be one of the most influential MCs of all time, explains in an interview for Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap that he divides 16 dots into 4 separate bars, with each bar only able to contain a limited amount of words and syllables.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how music shapes emotion, read my interview with composer, DJ, and producer Clemens Ruh. To find out where the lyrics for some of the most famous viral songs, check out how much it actually costs to create your own ‘viral’ song.]

00:01:20 In music:

  • Beats are the sound that maintain a rhythm, usually from the drum and/or bass
  • Bars are 4 beats grouped together
  • Crossing the bar line is when the singer uses the 4th beat to begin the 1st beat of the next bar
  • Motives are short musical ideas such as a short phrase or note that is important to the musical piece. The most famous motive in music history is Beethoven’s ‘Da-Da-Da-Dummm….’
  • Holorimes are a dense combination of multi-syllable rhymes contained in an entire line or phrase

“The point of appreciating (rap music) is to see what the very most clever human beings are capable of doing that you didn’t think was possible.”

The screenshots below demonstrate the evolution of rap song rhyming patterns from the 1980s through to today:

Song: 'The Breaks' by Kurtis Blow
Song: ‘The Breaks’ by Kurtis Blow (1980)
Song: 'Eric B. Is President' by Eric B. & Rakim
Song: ‘Eric B. Is President’ by Eric B. & Rakim (1986)
Song: 'Hypnotize' by Notorious BIG (1997)
Song: ‘Hypnotize’ by Notorious BIG (1997)
Vox rap 4
Song: ‘Re:definition’ by Mos Def (1998)
Song: 'Aquemini' by Outkast (1998)
Song: ‘Aquemini’ by Outkast (1998)
Song: 'Business' by Eminem (2002)
Song: ‘Business’ by Eminem (2002)
Song: 'Lose Yourself' by Eminem (2002)
Song: ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem (2002)
Song: 'Rigamortis' by Kendrick Lamar (2011)
Song: ‘Rigamortis’ by Kendrick Lamar (2011)
Song: 'Meat Grinder' by MF Doom (2004)
Song: ‘Meat Grinder’ by MF Doom (2004)

Below is a playlist created by VOX containing a selection of 59 songs which showcase the wit and intelligence of many of the top rappers in the industry: