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Nope, this ain't about Danquan.
Oh yes, it's finally here. Occams, Gaj, S_Dae, ask and you shall recieve. As for everyone else, sit back, relax, and let Professor HLBC educate you about the ebbs and flows of this wonderful art called rap. Whether you're a fan of the genre or not, take some of your time to hear me out and at least come to an appreciation for what this music is truly capable of. It's no secret that I'm a rap connoisseur. I've been listening to it since I was a toddler, and I have grown to love and appreciate the work that goes behind it, just like any other artform.
I'm going to discuss four different songs from four different rappers, both old and new:
But before we go any farther, let's get some terminology out of the way, so as to not lose my lovely readers in the jargon. Not all of these will be used, but it's always good to learn something new anyway. Like I always say, if you stay stale you stay behind.
Don't pick the cherry. I hate cherries.
Aaaaaaaand that ought to do it! You are officially ready to handle the sheer magnitude of these four songs. Before we get into the nitty gritty, I'd just like to say that Rap Genius is an amazing tool that allows hip-hop heads to collaborate and decipher lyrics for every rap song in exisitence. I'm only going to touch on some of the techniques that were used because each song has so much content that they deserve a full blog in their own right; which I neither have the time nor energy for.
With that said, LET'S GET OUT THERE AND LEARN SOME SHIT!
You tell em' big boy.
Without further ado, let's introduce our first track, "Communism".
This track comes from Common's 1994 sophomore album, Resurrection. This is one of his classic albums, and while he still maintained his conscious roots, he was more of a gunslinger of a rapper than he is now; which isn't a bad thing. In "Communism" he masterfully blends free association, alliteration, double entendre, switching flows and displays his style change from his previous album, which was.....questionable at best. While the song is only one verse, it's easily his best and arguably one of the greatest of all time. When listening to this track, try not to listen to the words first. Instead, listen to the sounds of the words and how it the flow stays consistent for a few seconds, then switches. After you've got that down, listen again and follow the lyrics. Feel free to click on the bars to see what's going on behind the scenes. You'll always learn something new! As a challenge, try counting how many times you hear "com" without looking at the lyrics.
Did you count 40? If you did, you have some sharp ass ears. Common displays his masterful use of alliteration by using the "com" multiple times and his skillful wordplay of his name Common by using different words; all while sticking to the main concept of the song. Notice how he also occasionally switches his flow. For example, for the first 38 seconds, his flow is very distinct and easy to follow; but after the 40 second mark it switches to a faster and more fluid pace. Amazing isn't it? What makes this track so sick is how Common was able to compound (ha haaa!) so many different lyrical components in just 1 mintute and 30 seconds. There's a reason why Talib Kweli named this as one of his top 25 favorite hip-hop verses of all time.
Next up on our lyrical journey is "It Ain't Hard To Tell".
This track is from Nas's impeccable debut album Illmatic; which is considered by many to be one of, if not the greatest rap album ever dropped in history. After spending the first 9 tracks describing his upbringing in Queensbridge, this final track is all about his love for smoking the ganja. And man, does he do it well. If you listen carefully, you can hear the sample of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" running in the background. And let me tell you, this track is smoother than a baby's butt. Again, follow along with the lyrics and start jamming!
Please tell me you chuckled in amazement at the first 4 bars. Just look at this slice of lyrical brilliance:
It ain't hard to tell, I excel then prevail
The mic is contacted, I attract clientele
My mic check is life or death, breathing a sniper's breath
I exhale the yellow smoke of buddha through righteous steps
Nas just kills it with his rhyming, free association, and metaphorical use. I mean, who comes up with this shit?! It's genius! He even makes up "magmatize" as his own word in the second verse, "so analyze, surprise me, but can't magmatize me". What he's basically saying is that no matter what people say or think about him, he'll never change as a person nor as a rapper. Staying true to yourself is a prevalent theme for many great rappers.
Alrighty then, we're halfway done with our journey! We've cleared the old school section, and now we're moving foward to the new age of rap: the Young Millionare generation!
Shut up mayo boy and let me teach!
If you've been following the list, you know what's up next. There's a reason why I chose a verse from Kendrick and not one of his songs. The impact from his verse in "Control" was so massive that the rap game went under cardiac arrest to understand what the fuck just happened. His verse was so vicious, so brutal, and so ill that some radio stations only played Kendrick's verse when "Control" came on. I almost feel bad for Jay Electronica. I mean, how are you supposed to follow this? Listen and try not to vomit from the sickness of this verse. Listen to Kendrick's tone too; he's out for blood.
Sweet Ghandi's tits was that ferocious! But if you're still asking why this verse is so important, allow me to explain why. Kendrick pays respects to the masters of rap, but places himself at the front of his list, then transitions to the current players in the game, calls them out, and challenges them all to take the throne as the greatest, just as he is.
I heard the barbershops be in great debates all the time
Bout who's the best MC? Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y'all
New niggas just new niggas, don't get involved
And I ain't rockin' no more designer shit
White T’s and Nike Cortez, this red Corvette's anonymous
I'm usually homeboys with the same niggas I'm rhymin' with
But this is hip-hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you niggas
Trying to make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas
They don't wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas
What is competition? I'm trying to raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it? You're better off trying to skydive
Those 16 lines are the words that truly shook the game to its core. This resulted in many other rappers, not just the ones listed, to reach for greater heights and not settle for stagnation. Mac Miller was one of the few to answer his call; and Faces was his response.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Mac Miller and his hilariously brilliant track "Friends" from his 2014 mixtape, Faces.
"Friends" is one my favorite tracks, mainly because it describes Mac's crazy life in an almost whimsical nature. Rocking the legendary Miles Davis's instrumentals in the background, he calmly takes a sip of his Arnold Palmer before he gets to work. Pay attention to the rhymes; it's almost as if he's freestyling.
Remember when I mentioned Mac answering Kendrick's call? I'm sure you caught that little snippet in the second verse.
In this Game of Thrones, it is known
I got the 4G, L-T-E connection bars
No Control, fuck Ken Lamar (Fuck you Kendrick!)
Let's take a minute to disect the cleverness of these bars. There's a picture of Kendrick wearing a crown, which portrays the obvious. Game of Thrones depicts the current rap game of many contenders fighting for the throne. Kendrick's wearing crown. 4G LTE the fastest and highest quality connection there is; which is how he describe how good his bars are (the notation for that line on Rap Genuis is retarded). The last line is self-explanatory, and ties all of what I just said into just three lines. That's pretty impressive. Keep in mind that this is just a friendly jab; they're both good friends off the court (ha haaa!).
Phew! Well students, we just covered plenty of ill ass content back there. We learned some new terms, discovered some new artists, and gained an immense amount of knowledge from four different tracks of different styles. I hope I gave you all some perspective about how deep rap truly is. I personally feel that people who dismiss all rap as trash are agonizingly ignorant because they don't at least try to see the significance. Listen to the literary mechanics rappers infuse into their verses. There's free association, alliteration, double--no--even triple metaphors, double entendres, similes, etc. It blows my fucking mind. I love it. Unfortunately there are a plethora of potato rappers that people think are good but only because they have an amazing beat to back up their shitty, dull, uninspired, cookie-cutter, vanilla ass lyrics. I only listen to those who have true skill. Real recognize real; and I hope that after reading this, you will too.
See Ya Space Cowboy.
Haters gonna hate.
[No pic/gif intro this time, my friends. I'm back with another blog, but I'm going to do something different. I'm going to give you guys a nice short story to read! After reading Brittany Vincent's lovely prose, I was motivated create my own. But why stop there? Let's get this fever pitch started and see what you guys can do! Consider this an unoffical Blogger's Response call. Write a short story about anything, videogame related or not. It's that simple. I'd love to see what you guys are capable of, so let's get this ball rolling! Here is my short story. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I loved crafting it.]
The icy wind bit at Ryner’s olive skin. His eyes were stained glass of mosaic red and pink with a pale-green halo. The thick, musty smell of singed hair and gunpowder suffocated his nose as he gazed hopelessly at the wreckage; scraps of sheet metal were hammered through the ground like tombstones. The passenger seats were ripped apart by the shrapnel, now stained wet of blood and ice.
“All fucking gone,” Ryner said.
He knew he had to find shelter soon. The blizzard was not letting up, and the wind continued. Gunshots reverberated in the woods.
“Shit. I knew they were nearby, but not this close,” he said.
He clenched his fists and dashed towards the trees. His lungs were on fire as he ran through the bitter, frozen forest. The trees’ lifeless limbs towered over him like sentinels, watching his every move. Like icicles, the chilled air consistently gnawed at his skin with its icy jaws. He was tempted to stop and rest for a moment, but he knew better than to give them time. The crunch of powdered ice packed beneath his feet as he ran with his willpower dragging behind him.
Ryner’s heart lifted when he approached an abandoned house, a dilapidated remnant from a war of years past crutched between two pine trees tapered in ice. He hurried towards the house and shut himself in. He slouched in the corner of the living room. He could smell rotting wood beneath his feet; no less pleasant than the crash site a few miles back. The walls were a pale blue, as if reflecting the white world outside.
“Jesus, this whole damn forest is a graveyard,” he thought.
Ryner was shivering in frozen agony as he tried to stay warm. He couldn’t feel his limbs. Breathing was painful. He was scared beyond belief, but was too cold to care. The sliver of life he hung onto was slowly fading until he noticed an old woman in rags sitting across from him.
Her hair was thin and silver like threads from a spider’s web. Her face was carved with wrinkles and her eyes were shaped like thin, slanted almonds. Without speaking a word, she gingerly extended a cup of what appeared to be hot tea. Ryner slowly crawled with every ounce of strength he had towards her to grab the hot porcelain cup. The faint aroma of apples and flowers graced his nostrils. His heart began to glow as he cautiously took a small sip of the scorching hot tea.
“Do you still plan on going?” asked the old woman.
“What?” Ryner replied.
“Do you still plan on going? You don’t seem happy about this decision.”
“Decision? Listen, I don’t know what the hell is going on here or what you’re talking about. Our plane was shot down. My crew is dead. All of my notes are destroyed. Those facts are real. This blizzard is real. Those men chasing after me for god knows what, are real. I’m just a journalist. I didn’t ask for any of this shit. I didn’t even want to be here!”
“So you don’t plan on going?”
“Look, thank you for the tea and all, but is there any place safe I can go nearby?”
“Yes. But you have to make a decision first.”
The old lady slowly extended her long and bony finger, slightly shaking, and pointed at Ryner’s face. For the first time, her eyes opened. The old woman’s eyes were black, with a white iris and a black pupil. Ryner’s stomach churned and his heart palpitated at the sight of her Mephistophelian eyes.
“Do you plan on going?” the old woman said.
“I know where I’m going!” Ryner yelled as he bolted out the door and into the forest.
The old woman gazed upon him through the window as her appearance slowly began to change. Her thin silver hair turned auburn. Her skin became smooth and olive toned. Her face was soft and radiated a beautiful complexion. Her eyes were now pale-green, like Ryner’s.
“I see now,” the beautiful woman said.
The door crashed down. The beautiful woman heard the sound of boots thumping against the old wood floors. The gun was beating against the Kevlar vest in a militant fashion. A tall man donned in white from head to toe stood before the beautiful woman. His posture radiated an aura of regality. His face was obscured from his pitch black goggles and facemask. Nothing about his white Kevlar uniform stood out, except for a small crimson tattoo on the front of his helmet. It was a lion of regal stature, standing on its hind legs and roaring with its tongue worming its way out of the beast’s fierce jaws. It was the zodiac of Leo.
“Did he give you an answer?” asked the man with the Leo tattoo. He had the voice of a leader.
“I know him very well. I’m sure he’s made up his mind by now.”
“Which way did he run?”
“I see. It’s only a matter of time then. I’ll handle it from here.”
“He’s terrified of you, you know. You shouldn’t be so hard on the boy. He has a huge decision to make.”
“Indecisiveness is a disease.”
* * *
Ryner continued north and he eventually discovered a cave carved into a rock face. He ran into the grotto to shelter himself from the sheer cold. It was still cold, but it was a different cold. The cavern itself was much bigger and deeper than Ryner initially thought. The high ceiling and narrow passageway gave off a feeling that the place was more of a makeshift grand hall of greystone. He saw something strange for a cave: a light was flickering at the end of the deep hallway.
“Hello?” his voice echoed.
The cave extended deeper into the rock, and soon the entrance resembled a white snowball. Ryner continued to walk deeper into lifeless grand hall, each step braver still. The flickering light became brighter as he neared the end of the greystone cave. The room at the end had nothing but a fluorescent light hanging from the ceiling. The light cut off for a moment, and Ryner rubbed his eyes. When he opened them, what he saw made his legs turn to stone, and his heart drop.
The man with the Leo tattoo was standing there, his black assault rifle in hand. Ryner turned around, but the passageway was suddenly gone.
“I’ve been looking all over for you,” the man said. “It’s time for you to wake up.”
“I…I don’t know wha—,” Ryner panicked. The man with the Leo tattoo shot him twice in the head before he could speak another word.
* * *
Gasping for air, Ryner shot up out of bed as he stared at his sweaty palms.
“I know where I’m going…,” he muttered.
He immediately ran downstairs and into the kitchen, where he saw a familiar figure. A beautiful woman with auburn hair, smooth olive skin, a soft face radiating a beautiful complexion, and pale-green eyes, was making chamomile tea.
“Mother, I’m turning down the job,” Ryner said with assertiveness. “Being a war correspondent would be too much.”
Ryner’s mother turned around and extended the cup of tea with a smile.
“I’m glad you finally made a choice. What happened? Bad dream convince you otherwise?” she laughed.
“Yeah… I guess you could say that. Everything was so white and grey. I was so scared and miserable.”
“This world has its fair share of problems, hon. Why be miserable when you could laugh and smile underneath a sky so blue?”
Ryner slowly took a sip from the hot, white porcelain cup. The aroma of apples and flowers graced his senses as he cracked a smile for the first time. The sun kissed his skin when he gazed out the kitchen window. The sky was a beautiful cerulean hue.
“I hate snow,” he said. “I really hate snow.”