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 described 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 you Space Cowboy.
Haters gonna hate.