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The Modern Rap Fan’s Guide to Rhyming

I have a minor obsession with poetic techniques, rhyme schemes and suchlike. I also love wordplay. This gives me a whole new level of joy when listening to rap music. I’m always like, ‘Fierce internal rhymes’ and ‘Did you hear the enjambment on that?!’ The fun never ends in my house. This is my quick guide to poetic techniques that are in vogue in the educational medium we call hip hop music. You’re welcome. drake

  1. The Drake: Actually reputedly invented by Big Sean (who is actually medium sized for an adult human), the technique is to throw something on the end to be the rhyming word or phrase – a word that isn’t integrated into the previous sentence. See ‘Forever‘:
    She insists she got more class, we know
    Swimming in the money, come and find me, Nemo
    This makes every line a punchline; it can be witty, irreverent, and is a good way to slip in a topical reference (perhaps to a clown-fish-based Disney film).  Kanye-Creative-Genius
  2. The Kanye: The key is to find as many words as possible that rhyme with your own name and insert them as end rhymes in an A-A rhyme scheme. See ‘Famous‘:
    For all the girls that got d*** from Kanye West
    If you see ’em in the streets give ’em Kanye’s best
    Well I’m Kanye impressed. This technique is self-referential, perhaps self-mocking, and a way to marry braggadocio and punning in a meta society. Also, it’s an entertaining way to practise rhyming – look up your own name in a rhyming dictionary and go to town.
    Gambino
  3. The Gambino: This chap did not invent the rhetorical question; he’s not even the most famous proponent e.g. What’s a goon to a goblin? or Can I get an encore? However he often combines the rhetorical question with anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, to have a cumulative, powerful effect: See ‘Heartbeat‘:
    Are we dating? Are we f****ing?
    Are we best friends? Are we something…
    See also ‘Bonfire‘:
    You want to see my girl? I ain’t that dumb.
    You want to see
    my girl? Check Maxim.
    And ‘III. Telegraph Ave.‘: 
    Can we just roll with the feeling?
    Can we just roll for a minute?
    Choose a start to a question then vary the ending to have a hectoring, bold effect.
    nicki-minaj-whats-good_nu0iffukzj1qzwh14o1_500
  4. The Minaj: Go full meta and just announce what rhyming couplet you’re aiming for and hope the populous are happy to go along with it. See ‘Only‘:
    My man full, he just ate, I don’t duck nobody but tape
    Yeah, that was a set up for a punchline on duct tape
    She’s actually great at assonance (no pun intended), consonance and internal rhymes, but her ‘I’m going to include something about this because it rhymes with this’ speaks to what we all know poetry really is.
    kendrick
  5. The Kendrick: Mix every linguistic technique with extraordinary realism, conscience and a bit of free jazz and be king of everything.

Of course these clever souls use a vast array of techniques; I’ve just picked out a few that I think you should all try to employ in the rhymes (or poems or novels) you’re secretly writing in your bedrooms. You know who you are.

Are there any other rap or poetic techniques that are tickling your brainboxes at the moment? Share please!

 

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Democracy of Sound by Alex Sayf Cummings

This history of piracy covers everything from copying piano rolls and sheet music in the nineteenth century to pirating mp3s and leaking tracks on YouTube. It includes fascinating facts about the industry, for example: ‘despite numerous attempts, the recording industry did not secure federal copyright protection for its products until 1971. Recordings were technically uncopyrightable for decades, and various pirates seized on the apparent loophole in federal law to copy works without seeking permission.’

Democracy of Sound

I loved reading about the avid, competitive jazz collectors of the 1930s and the expense some outlaid for a home disc engraver to copy rare records. It also, to some extent, provides a history of musical evolution. Apparently, free form boogie-woogie is rather difficult to copyright.

Throughout the book, there is an engaging discussion about who owns the rights to music and its distribution: the composer; the artist; the recorder; the record company? If someone covers a piece of music, to what extent does that belong to them? Ethical questions give the discussion nuance; some pirates justified their actions by saying that they were providing a service to the people as record companies failed to produce or reissue classic, niche records that were culturally important. Of course there were also mobsters and inside-jobbers doing it for the cash! Excellently, one of the pirating outfits of the 1950s ‘bootleg boom’ cheekily named themselves ‘Jolly Roger’. The section about the birth of the mixtape and hip hop is a brilliantly researched account that really captivated me.

The book also catalogues the inception of each changing technology, explaining how it works. This book works because it deftly interweaves legal, economic, ethical, cultural and musical history, alongside a chronology of enthusiasts and music-lovers. Its serious conclusion considers the future of music and the recording industry. The book is political, informative and sharp. Anyone with an interest in music should read it.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this advance review copy.

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