The art of rap


Photo illustration by Zach Tierney

Photo Illustration by Zach TIerney

Walter Jones and Walter Jones

Nowadays, it seems that any random person can become a successful musician without actual talent, but when it comes to hip-hop, there is more to it than just rhyming words together over a beat. So I ask the question, “what is the art of rap?” There are many different elements that form the perfect song. Of course, you have the beat and the artist, but artist needs to have delivery, wordplay, flow and subject. All of these go hand and hand. You can have one without another, but that is not considered a classic song.

The beat is very important, because it’s the first thing you hear when the song comes on. So the beat has to be able to draw people’s attention. Without a good quality beat, who will listen to the song? One of the most recognizable is “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” by Tupac Shakur.

The artist has to have a good delivery and what I mean by delivery is his/her voice–it has to be a voice that can suck people in. It has to be powerful and unique to the point that when people hear, you they know it’s you. 95 percent of the time, when you hear a slick-talking, mellow, laid back voice, you know its Snoop Dogg.

When it comes to word play, there are very few than can master this craft, making it an important element. It usually has a solid metaphor that makes a person have to sit and think about what was just said and what did the artist really mean.

In Scarface’s “Guess Who’s Back,” Jay-Z has the first verse and says “I came from the dirt, I emerged from it all without a stain on my shirt.” There are two meanings. One, is the obvious about coming out of dirt with clean clothes, but he is also saying that he came from nothing and a horrible childhood without being put in jail or physically harmed in the street.

The flow is how well the song goes along together. If the words are choppy and don’t rhyme or even if they just seem thrown together then the record becomes a waste of a beat. The flow makes the song transition from beginning to end. The perfect example of this is Rakim. He probably has the smoothest flow in hip-hop ever.

Subject matter is for what type of audience you’re trying to reach. Your subject needs to be something that people care about or make them feel good. Something that reaches to the mind, body, and soul of the listeners. Without a great subject, you have no song its just random verses put together.

When you look at hip-hop there are a bunch of good quality songs, but very few possess the art of rap. Rakim’s song “Paid In Full” has balance in every category. From the beat all the way down to his subject matter makes the song what it is and that’s a classic. The flow and delivery is what hooks everyone when they hear it.

“Thinking of a master plan, cause ain’t nothing but sweat inside my hand, so I dig into my pocket all my money is spent, so I dig deeper but still coming up with lint, so I start my mission leave my residence, thinking how I could get some dead presidents, I need money I used to be a stick up kid, so I think of all the devious things I did…”