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February 1, 2013 4:36 AM   Subscribe

A fascinating breakdown of Eminem's rhymes. Is Eminem one of the most impressive lyricists ever? (SLYT)
posted by greenhornet (118 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
his palms are sweaty, knees weak
arms spaghetti
There’s vomit on his spaghetti already,
mom’s spaghetti
He’s spaghetti, but on the surface he
looks calm and ready to drop spaghetti
but he keeps on forgetting what he
spaghetti
posted by Drexen at 4:49 AM on February 1, 2013 [66 favorites]


He's pretty good, but he's no Howard Ashman.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:57 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not a huge fan, but the guy has tons of talent and has worked really hard to hone it. I wouldn't call him a great lyricist, but he can tell a story in a sort of guttural, raw kind of way.
posted by gjc at 4:58 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


so iTunes shuffled to Stay Wide Awake the other day, one of his newer songs from a couple years ago that I never paid much attention to (plus it's extremely malevolent and misogynistic)

and I slowly realized just how skillful his verses are on that. I don't feel like pasting a fragment here cause it's some crazy serial killer rhymes but check the third verse lyrics on rapgenius or listen to the second verse onwards at youtube
posted by the mad poster! at 4:59 AM on February 1, 2013


Well, he's clever and often funny but is he up there with the greats? No.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:01 AM on February 1, 2013


Eminem is a pretty good lyricist, but shoving multiple internal rhymes in a song is easy if you just forget that the best way to enforce structure is to forget to place rhymes just at the end. It free's up your vocabulary if you keep to internal rhymes. Maybe it's just me, but proper end rhyming isn't as easy as Freestyle Mc'ing can be.
posted by zoo at 5:02 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eminem has always had some serious skills, rap-wise -- Infinite (1996) is a classic album that's up there with the greats. The trouble is that starting after the Slim Shady LLP, which was goofy but funny and with mainstream appeal, he started going off the rails, following a kind of MTV-baiting schtick that meant he was making dumb, whiny sellout tracks and abandoning the rock-solid fundamentals that always underpinned his antics.

Seems like he also started making collaborations as a way to, I dunno, claim credibility as a big-name rapper I guess? Don't know what else could have been up with his weird relationship with 50 Cent. Anyway, since then he became just another rich session rapper with nothing interesting to say.
posted by Drexen at 5:05 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


It free's up your vocabulary if you keep to internal rhymes.

No way. Keep in mind that the type of internal rhymes we're talking about here are multisyllabic rhymes. The internal rhymes are in a repeated pattern, not just a matching syllable here a syllable there
posted by the mad poster! at 5:05 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Lose Yourself is so good even Greil Marcus likes it and recently he had some great guest verse on an Azalia Banks song. But he's still not fit to lick John Darnielle's boots.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:10 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm guiltily rabid about multisyllabic rhymes, and I can tell you - that they're not that difficult.

And the repeated pattern is this:
- Find as many rhymes as you can, and when you need to change,
- pick the last {x} syllables before your last rhyme and use that for your new rhyme.

I think it's one of those things that actually comes pretty easily after enough practice.
posted by zoo at 5:11 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's taken me a while to come to this point, but Eminem is a decent lyricst who frequently puts his talents into the service of some problematic subject matter. The misogyny and homophobia prevented me from seeing his skill for a long time. Even now, some of the drive-by slurs in songs that have nothing to do with women or gays (like "Elevator") stick out and derail the song a little bit.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:12 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not saying that I've had enough practice BTW. But that "lots of fast internal rhymes" thing always came easier to me than sticking with some weird ABABC end rhyme structure.
posted by zoo at 5:13 AM on February 1, 2013


Is Eminem one of the most impressive lyricists ever?

By certain measures of impressive, he absolutely is.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:14 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


""I bomb atomically, Socrates' philosophies
and hypothesis can't define how I be droppin these
mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery
Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me
Battle-scarred shogun, explosion when my pen hits
tremendous, ultra-violet shine blind forensics
I inspect you, through the future see millenium
Killa B's sold fifty gold sixty platinum
Shacklin the masses with drastic rap tactics
Graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths
Black Wu jackets queen B's ease the guns in
Rumble with patrolmen, tear gas laced the function
Heads by the score take flight incite a war
Chicks hit the floor, diehard fans demand more
Behold the bold soldier, control the globe slowly
Proceeds to blow swingin swords like Shinobi
Stomp grounds and pound footprints in solid rock
Wu got it locked, performin live on your hottest block"

That was the first verse from "Triumph," written by Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan. I just posted it to remind myself that there was a time when hip-hop didn't suck. Sigh... "

(Found via Cracked - the 6 least hip internet song lyric references)

Gotta say, that's some cool use of language.
posted by marienbad at 5:14 AM on February 1, 2013 [29 favorites]


It's pretty ridiculous to claim that earlier forms of rap were only about rhyming the last words. Complex rhyming structures abound in De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, KRS-One, etc.
posted by jammy at 5:16 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Stephen Sondheim, Agony from Into the Woods

Sheldon Harnick, Miracle of Miracles, from Fiddler on the Roof

Oscar Hammerstein, Soliloquy, from Carousel
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:18 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


AYO, Kay Ryan spits it the thickest:

NEW ROOMS

The mind must
set itself up
wherever it goes
and it would be
most convenient
to impose its
old rooms-- just
tack them up
like an interior
tent. Oh but
the new holes
aren't where
the windows went.

Unedited, explicit version goes summin like this:

NEW DOOOOOOMZ

The mind must set itself up wherever it goes (nobody nose)
and it would be most convenient (HI!) to impose its old rooms--
just tack them up (BRRRRRAAAP!) wack them up! Like an interior tent
ayo but the new holes ain't where the bullets went.
posted by herrdoktor at 5:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been up all night playing chess vs Shredder and listening to Kendrick Lamar forgive me, please. My brain's mush: my Elo = my IQ which is presently in the double digits.
posted by herrdoktor at 5:25 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm guiltily rabid about multisyllabic rhymes, and I can tell you - that they're not that difficult.

And the repeated pattern is this:
- Find as many rhymes as you can, and when you need to change,
- pick the last {x} syllables before your last rhyme and use that for your new rhyme.

You're right that rhyming ABAB like a sonnet is tough in its own way. But I don't follow your point here. Let's take the song style that Eminem copied for Infinite: AZ's "Rather Unique".

Too hard to follow, you took a bite but couldn't swallow
Your mind's boggled
But I'm as deep as Donald Goines novels
My whole persona's kinda laid back like a recliner
And since a minor, I been fucking with marijuana
Wavy-haired, my skin got a money getting glare
Strictly menace wear, macking offa Guinness beer
So where it all begins is here
Destiny and me finally meet
So how can I be weak?
I'm rather unique


He's rhyming multiple syllables at line endings (Guinness beer, begins is here) and also rhyming within lines. It's almost awkwardly robotic when taken to an extreme so it certainly puts a limit on what vocab you can use. Now in terms of cognitively putting it together, it's not that burdensome compared to iambic pentameter or some end-line schemes, sure.
posted by the mad poster! at 5:29 AM on February 1, 2013


I like Lose Yourself a great deal. It's a great pop song. The thing here is that this exercise can't prove that someone is a good lyricist because this sort of rhyme density is not what anyone thinks being a good lyricist is. What makes lose yourself good lyrically isn't the rhyme density it's the very basic story it tells, the images it chooses, the thoughtfulness of some diction choices.
posted by I Foody at 5:34 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Johnny's in the basement, mixing up the medicine
I'm on the pavement, thinking 'bout the government...

(Who's this Slim Shady fella?)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:36 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think Eminem is an immensely talented lyricist - his words are both technically challenging and evoke vivid images:

Now listen to me, while you're kissin her cheek
and smearin her lipstick, I slipped this in her drink
Now all you gotta do is nibble on this little bitch's earlobe..
(Yo! This girl's only fifteen years old
You shouldn't take advantage of her, that's not fair)
Yo, look at her bush.. does it got hair? (Uh huh!)
---
Baby, don't cry honey, don't get the wrong idea
Mama's too sweepy to hear you screamin in her ear (ma-maa!)
That's why you can't get her to wake, but don't worry
Da-da made a nice bed for mommy at the bottom of the lake
Here, you wanna help da-da tie a rope around this rock? (yeah!)
We'll tie it to her footsie then we'll roll her off the dock

The problem is that the images aren't necessarily ones you want evoked...
posted by zug at 5:43 AM on February 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only
posted by nathancaswell at 5:47 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lyrics from White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" by Melle Mel, released in 1983:
"Ticket to ride, white line highway
Tell all your friends, they can go my way
Pay your toll, sell your soul
Pound for pound costs more than gold
The longer you stay, the more you pay
My white lines go a long way
Either up your nose or through your vein
With nothin to gain except killin’ your brain"
I'm not sure where this guy got the idea that Eminem reinvented the wheel. In terms of his analysis of rhyming word stacks, excluding internal rhyming of words like "pound" and "your."

Ride, white, line
Highway, way, pay
Tell, sell
Toll, soul, gold
Vein, gain, brain

Melle Mel is 51 and has been active as a recording artist since Eminem was 6.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:47 AM on February 1, 2013


I'd argue that "blau" is a real word.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:47 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the topic of lyricism and how to define it, I highly suggest taking a look at Nas' I Gave You Power. It's a narrative from the perspective of an unexpected protagonist.

I've always found a certain appeal to rap. I have always enjoyed poetic narratives. Homer, Virgil , Dante, Spenser, Milton, etc. I've always felt that rap has had the potential, and in some instances realizes this potential, to carry on in this tradition in terms of constructing a narrative in terms of rhymes, meter, and other stylistic factors.

The modern day equivalent of those bygone poets, I submit, are (can, or should be) rap artists.
posted by SollosQ at 5:49 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"My rhymes are so potent that in this small segment
I made all of the ladies in the area pregnant
Yes, sometimes my lyrics are sexist
But you lovely bitches and hoes should know I'm trying to correct this."
posted by jaduncan at 5:50 AM on February 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is Eminem one of the most impressive lyricists ever?

Bob Dylan didn't make it to where he is from his voice.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:53 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


not sure where this guy got the idea that Eminem reinvented the wheel.

Rakim & his contemporaries did increase the general complexity of internal rhymes from the Melle Mel, Run-DMC style. But yes, that was long before Eminem.
posted by the mad poster! at 5:54 AM on February 1, 2013


roomthreeseventeen: I love imagining what kind of rap Sondheim would've come up with had he been born at the right time.

I also want to hear Ice T do a reading of kids books. Something Seussian. (This came to me after hearing him rap the phrase "venomous feminist" in the track he did for the Tank Girl soundtrack)
posted by rmd1023 at 6:12 AM on February 1, 2013


FWIW, Ice-T made a documentary called "The Art Of Rap" that is well worth your time.
posted by Catblack at 6:14 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The modern day equivalent of those bygone poets, I submit, are (can, or should be) rap artists.

machine gun beat poets, even...
posted by titus-g at 6:14 AM on February 1, 2013


I've always found a certain appeal to rap. I have always enjoyed poetic narratives. Homer, Virgil , Dante, Spenser, Milton, Sticky Fingaz.
posted by Jpfed at 6:20 AM on February 1, 2013


I'd argue that "blau" is a real word.
If it's good enough for Punch 'Em in the Dick, it's good enough for me.
posted by Flunkie at 6:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Blau! How you like me now?"
- ODB

Seems legit.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:38 AM on February 1, 2013


Maestor Fresh Wes always impressed me with his rhymes; going back to 1989 from Let Your Backbone Slide:

You try to lift, you're cool, but it fell again
Rap scholar, soul like a Dominican
But like I said before, I'm not American
It's who you are, not the way you went
We all originate from the same descent
I make alot of cents, sense, and pence
Gold (gold), myrrh and frakincense
When I'm in France they blow me francs
Frank, with your swiss account is the way I bank-pank
At home, I make bills are brown from my sound
In the states green like the grass in the ground
When I'm in England, they pass me pounds now
....
Rap is like a jungle
Where rhyme for rhyme is like a vine to vine
Swung line to line of mine
I'm collossal, you'se a mosquito
I'mma play Tarzan, you play Cheetah
Cheeta, biter, love to forge
Better yet, I'll call you Curious George
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:40 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


i never really paid attention to Enimem until the guy who does All Songs Considered or whatever did a bit on his album from a few years ago, the one with the serial killer songs and how he had expected it to be something he would not enjoy. i think someone told him to check it out and he was like fine whatever and ended up being kind of impressed not necessarily by the lyrics themselves but by the way Enimem was able to develop these personas tell what basically amounted to a horror story.

not that i pay attention to Enimem now, but i feel like the dude has a good bit of a real artistic streak. people lay down some weird shit in open mic poetry sometimes and that whole serial killer bit is kinda like that. i write and while i can often see other people's points of view, i have hard time writing as someone else. Enimem seems to be able to do that pretty well. i think that's pretty neat.
posted by sio42 at 6:54 AM on February 1, 2013


If this is a battle of the lyricists, I'm sorry Leonard Cohen wins. (Dylan second). This is "Take This Waltz." I wanted to excerpt it, but I couldn't. I just couldn't.


Now in Vienna there's ten pretty women
There's a shoulder where Death comes to cry
There's a lobby with nine hundred windows
There's a tree where the doves go to die
There's a piece that was torn from the morning
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz with the clamp on it's jaws
Oh I want you, I want you, I want you
On a chair with a dead magazine
In the cave at the tip of the lily
In some hallways where love's never been
On a bed where the moon has been sweating
In a cry filled with footsteps and sand
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take it's broken waist in your hand
This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
With it's very own breath of brandy and Death
Dragging it's tail in the sea
There's a concert hall in Vienna
Where your mouth had a thousand reviews
There's a bar where the boys have stopped talking
They've been sentenced to death by the blues
Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
With a garland of freshly cut tears?
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz it's been dying for years
There's an attic where children are playing
Where I've got to lie down with you soon
In a dream of Hungarian lanterns
In the mist of some sweet afternoon
And I'll see what you've chained to your sorrow
All your sheep and your lilies of snow
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
With it's "I'll never forget you, you know!"
This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz ...
And I'll dance with you in Vienna
I'll be wearing a river's disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I'll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
With the photographs there, and the moss
And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross
And you'll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist
Oh my love, Oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It's yours now. It's all that there is
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:00 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


So far in this thread we've had entire songs copied and pasted by both Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, who, I'd agree, compared to Eminem, are far, far superior wordsmiths. I'd also say that Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, Randy Newman, Hank Williams and lots, that is LOTS, of other songwriters are far, far superior to Eminem. But, what's the point? It's an Eminem thread. So I'm gonna stand up and give Eminem a round of fucking applause. Cause why the fuck not.

But I'm going back to my Chuck D now, cause he's better too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:14 AM on February 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


Can someone explain how the chorus to "Without Me"--which is my Exhibit A in How Eminem Is Vastly Overrated--apparently represents A Subtle Mockery of Your Eminem-Hating Opinion, Philistine? ...because I've heard it argued that way more than once and it honestly just strikes me as lazy, lazy songwriting.
posted by psoas at 7:17 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree, this is supposed to be about rap. Although I'm still not convinced by M&M.

Also agree re: Chuck D - PE are singular...
posted by marienbad at 7:18 AM on February 1, 2013


All these predictable old white guys being trotted = smh. Being a "lyricist" as a rapper is a different from being a song writer for a singer. None of those dudes could write or perform a hip song song any more than Ringo could play drums like Max Roach.

What is being communicated by an MC is 50% the words being said, 50% the pattern of syllables and rhymes communicating something more complicated than any rock singer (except maybe Dylan) could even imagine. Eminem is great lyricist on both sides of that equation: his rhymes are so tight and surprising and beautiful even while his words are about really dark shit. He doesn't just talk about being poor and desperate and mentally ill: his lyrics enact it--sometimes you laugh at horrible shit, sometimes you cry for no reason, and all the time you make the best of things, seeing the skein of some higher purpose dimly through the scum on the glass.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:18 AM on February 1, 2013 [29 favorites]


You're right flapjax. Sorry, it just seemed to me the sweetness of the English language was under assault - not to suggest that Eminem is not very good with lyrics - but by those who may know what intense beauty has been composed by the classicists. Also: Sondheim, Sondheim, Sondheim.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:22 AM on February 1, 2013


It's interesting that the two old white men that keep getting trotted out as the shining example of what lyrics writing should be are, by any sane standard, incredibly crappy singers.
posted by Shepherd at 7:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


What has continually surprised me about Eminem is the broad range of his vocabulary. He makes some very wide ranging cultural references and uses such a wide variety of words that I forget this is a kid who dropped out of high school and never really focused on academics.

For some reason, guys like Beastie Boys, Ice Cube, the Wu-Tang clan, and even Outkast, I expect to present a broad and literate range of rhymes, but it surprises me every time I listen to Eminem. Part of it is his image of a homophobic, misogynistic, uneducated white boy, but the other part is my own baggage. I love rap and I love the deep intricate rhymes, but for some reason, my own class biases got in the way of really getting Eminem when he first came out. It was "Lose Yourself" that made me willing to examine his work and he really does what he does well. Some of the shit he talks about is wrong and terrifying and I really don't like the idea that he really does speak to some people, but damn he does it in a really lyrical and almost beautiful way.
posted by teleri025 at 7:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyone agree tat there are two schools of rhyming? One is driven by which words rhyme - the results can either be pretty nonsensical or extremely deep if you're inclined to attempt your own interpretation of what the artist 'really means'. Personally, I find this does not require that much skill.

This is what I mean by rhyme driven work - it can sound great language-wise but only offers bite-sized chunks of meaning (Inspectah Deck):

Battle-scarred shogun, explosion when my pen hits
tremendous, ultra-violet shine blind forensics
I inspect you, through the future see millenium
Killa B's sold fifty gold sixty platinum
Shacklin the masses with drastic rap tactics

The second, is driven by the story or message imho requires a far greater level of skill to tell a story in rhyme. Eminem is pretty good example of this:

Baby, don't cry honey, don't get the wrong idea
Mama's too sweepy to hear you screamin in her ear (ma-maa!)
That's why you can't get her to wake, but don't worry
Da-da made a nice bed for mommy at the bottom of the lake
Here, you wanna help da-da tie a rope around this rock? (yeah!)
We'll tie it to her footsie then we'll roll her off the dock

I'm a major fan of lyricists in music, from Shock G to Tim Rice (who again, just imho, is the most impressive lyricist there's ever been)
posted by guy72277 at 7:24 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This far into the thread and no love for female lyricists? Dudes, Joni Mitchell, particularly in the pre-jazz fusion days.
Sitting here waiting for my sugar to show
I've been listening to the sirens and the radio
He said he'd be over three hours ago
I've been waiting for his car on the hill
He makes friends easy
He's not like me
I watch for judgement anxiously
Now where in the city can that boy be
Waiting for a car
Climbing
Climbing
Climbing the hill

He's a real good talker I think he's friend
Fast tires come screaming around the bend
But there's still no buzzer
They roll on
And I'm waiting for his car on the hill
It always seems so righteous at the start
When there's so much laughter
When there's so much spark
When there's so much sweetness in the dark
Waiting for a car
Climbing
Climbing
Climbing the hill
posted by pxe2000 at 7:33 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have often marveled at Eminem's rhyme and off-rhyme skills--his jump from canteloupes to antelopes to can't elope to antidote to pantyhose in "Real Slim Shady" is rather a thing of beauty.

One of my all-time favorites in rap for its technical skill, though, belongs to Danny Boy from House of Pain:

I'm rockin' the clock as if I was Bill Haley
I'm cockin' my glock and I got my shillelagh

Perfect interior rhyme, cultural references, cleverness. I'm down with that.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:34 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eminem's words always felt a little on the nose. I really like Jonwayne as a lyricist.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:35 AM on February 1, 2013


Chuck D is the only person mentioned so far on the same level as Slim. But he's the opposite of Em as a composer in some ways, he is always breaking the line, transgressing all of the standard rap idioms of the time, especially by quoting, lyrically sampling language from James Brown and Malcolm and pop culture, just throwing it all in there. Em is less poetry and more prose. If Chuck is the John Ashberry of rap, Em is the James Dickey.

two schools of rhyming

I'd say its more like two aspects of the craft which a writer has to pull from that get two different effects, sometimes in the same song. Kool Keith and MF. Doom use intensely packed abstract rhymes with awesome success. Someone like Guru on the other hand tells stories slowly in every song with an relaxed flow, expertly stacking rhymes that seem easy and inevitable but pack a ton of wisdom into every line. Meanwhile someone like Jay Z is thought of as the best because he balances those two sides: dizzying metaphors/ stacks of internal rhyme/ rhythmic variations meanwhile telling a story, making jokes or scoring political points with his rhetoric.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:37 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


But you don't have to be a dude
Shit I'll dick-punch a chick
Cause I don't discriminate
When I punch em in the dick
Juicy Karkass
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:39 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think people are under appreciating the role of rhythm, here, too. The voice in well crafted hip hop is a rhythm instrument, just as much as the snare or hi hat.

Eminen uses rhymes the way composers use notes. A shift in rhyme schemes works the same in his lyrics as a key change does in another song.

I think if you sketched out an eminen vocal matching vowel soubds to notes on sheet music, you'd see what I mean.

He's not singing, but there is a pitch element to it.
posted by empath at 7:40 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Em's great. But the only way he gets to be a legitimate GOAT candidate, I think, is to use a fairly specific definition of GOAT--one that makes pop-chart success a major factor. And I'm not really down with that definition, both because it leaves out your Lord Finesses and Gift of Gabs and Mike Ladds and Jean Graes and because Em's pop-chart success is, in my reading, inextricably connected to his whiteness. I don't think it's intentional, usually, but when someone judges Eminem to be the best rapper ever, I kinda feel like they're grading on a curve.

(Folks who enjoy discussing rhyme schemes and stuff might like RapMetrics--here's a Rap Genius post, and a blog.)

On preview: If I recall correctly, it's Everlast, not Danny-Boy-the-emcee, rhyming on 'Danny Boy'-the-song. Danny Boy was kind of the Sen Dog/Flavor Flav of House of Pain, relegated to hypeman status and occasional features.
posted by box at 7:42 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


posting lyrics totally unselfconsciously, like 8th graders on tumblr who don't yet understand how uncool it is to really unreservedly just like something

excellent.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:45 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Examples:

Gang Starr:

The same sheisty cats that you hang with, and do your thang with
Could set you up and wet you up, nigga peep the language


MF Doom:

Look like a black wookie when he let his beard grow
Weirdo, brown skin'ded always kept his hair low
Rumor has it it's a S-Curl accident
DOOM was always known to keep the best girls backs bent


Jay Z

You know the type, loud as a motorbike
But wouldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight
And only thing that's gon' happen is
I'mma get to clapping and
He and his boys gonna be yapping to the Captain

posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:47 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lol oops. I'm a total 8th grader I know.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:47 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Still think Em's best song is White America.
See the problem is, I speak to suburban kids
who otherwise would've never knew these words exist
whose moms probably would've never gave two squirts of piss
till I created so much motherfuckin' turbulence
straight out the tube, right into your living room I came
and kids flipped when they knew I was produced by Dre
that's all it took, and they were instantly hooked right in
and they connected with me too because I looked like them
that's why they put my lyrics up under this microscope
searchin' with a fine tooth comb, its like this rope
waitin' to choke, tightening around my throat
watching me while I write this, like I don't like this, nope

All I hear is: lyrics, lyrics, constant controversy, sponsors working 'round the clock
to try to stop my concerts early, surely hip-hop was never a problem in Harlem
only in Boston after it bothered the fathers of daughters starting to blossom
so now I'm catchin' the flack from these activists when they raggin'
actin' like I'm the first rapper to smack a bitch, or say faggot, shit
just look at me like I'm your closest pal, the posterchild,
the motherfuckin' spokesman now for

White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get
posted by shakespeherian at 7:49 AM on February 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


NO YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND IT'S AWESOME.

SO GREAT.

I CANNOT EMPHASIZE ENOUGH THE EXTENT TO WHICH I AM NOT BEING IRONIC OR SARCASTIC.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:49 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always thought

"Hip hop was never a problem in Harlem only in Boston
After it bothered the fathers of daughters starting to blossom"

was pretty great. And from the same song

"White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get"

while not especially brilliant always makes me laugh.
posted by leopard at 7:50 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that the two old white men that keep getting trotted out as the shining example of what lyrics writing should be are, by any sane standard, incredibly crappy singers.

Haha! "Any sane standard" eh? Happy to be counted among the insane, then! But there are all kinds of singers, all kinds of voices, and ascribing "sanity" or the lack of it to the appreciating and enjoying of one or another is an extremely shallow and absurd notion! But, yeah, whatever... Beyoncé sung the hell outta the national anthem the other night!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:50 AM on February 1, 2013


I was a high-school freshman when this one came out, but close enough:

Big Daddy Kane:

Rappers are raggin' and taggin' and snaggin' and braggin'
to be on the bandwagon, but I'm the Last Dragon


From '98, a classic couplet from the late Big Pun:

Dead in the middle of Little Italy little did we know
that we riddled some middleman who didn't do diddily

posted by box at 7:57 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I noticed that someone mentioned Tom Waits in the thread, and his writing, composing and conversational skills are so above par. Anyway, that launched me into another youtube safari to watch more songs (starting with this) and interviews, so thanks to that guy.
posted by nicolin at 8:08 AM on February 1, 2013


I think people are under appreciating the role of rhythm, here, too. The voice in well crafted hip hop is a rhythm instrument, just as much as the snare or hi hat.

Yep, empath, I agree, my comment was a bit short sighted, just focusing on the rhyme as opposed to rhythm. In fact Howard Goodall's "How music works" expands on your voice as a rhythm instrument comment Skip to 29m20s. I should have remembered that before posting my comment.
posted by guy72277 at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2013


so thanks to that guy.

That guy was me, nicolin. And yeah, ol' Tom, he's a hella fella.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:11 AM on February 1, 2013


(Not that anybody asked, but I generally think Eminem's at his best when he's working with somebody else on the track--it brings out the hungry old battle cat in him, whether he's paired up with another first-ballot GOAT candidate, an old friend or an unknown, even when he's ghostwriting the other dude's verses or rhyming with a dead man.)
posted by box at 8:12 AM on February 1, 2013


It's interesting that the two old white men that keep getting trotted out as the shining example of what lyrics writing should be are, by any sane standard, incredibly crappy singers.
This and another observation in the thread struck me as setting up a false dichotomy between skilled songwriting and good singing. I know I just gave props to Joni Mitchell (who had a gorgeous voice in the '60s and '70s), and there's also PJ Harvey, Corin Tucker, Rufus Wainwright, Bill Withers, etc. -- all very good to great songwriters and singers. Having a crap voice doesn't automatically make you a great lyricist and having a great voice doesn't make you a second-rate songwriter.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:25 AM on February 1, 2013


On the topic of rhythm one of the most frustrating aspects of Eminem is his unwillingness to stray from the click track. He's an incredibly talented lyricist, but way too robotic in his delivery. Compare him with Lil Wayne on these three tracks. To my ear Lil Wayne and Eminem are pretty well matched in their lyrics, but Weezy kills him in the delivery.
posted by togdon at 8:28 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're talking about rock music at all in this thread you should definitely check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Since Sokka says he likes lyrics quotes let's look at some more underrated Em lyrics that combine intricate rhyme schemes with fascinating ideas: One of my favorite recent ones was Role Model that starts with "I'm cancerous. So when I diss you wouldn't want to answer this." Just think about that. Could any other rapper in the history of rap start with that line? He's cancerous in that he kills his opponents, but he's also self-loathing and self-destructive--he's so out of control he feels like a disease. Then later in that song:

Some people only see that I'm White, ignoring skill
Cause I stand out like a green hat with a orange bill
But I don't get pissed
Y'all don't even see through the mist
How the fuck can I be White
I don't even exist


Further evidence of his spiral, his infamy has caused this crazy situation where he has transcended race.

Finally:

I'm about as normal as Norman Bates
With deformative traits
A premature birth that was four minutes late


More tightly woven internal rhymes, comparing himself to another kid with mother issues. He was born disturbed, both early and late. Right after that:


Mother, are you there
I love you
I never meant to hit you over the head with that shovel


He slants shovel hard to rhyme with love to show how fucked up his perspective is: love and shovel seem related in his mind even though they aren't really at all.

No other rapper addresses the way angry, drugged up teenagers feel better than early Em, but also nobody says plainly how confusing and draining and insane being a celebrity in America is, especially when you're famous for being insane.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:30 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Since the topics of Eminem's whiteness and his sometimes horrific and (seemingly?) hateful lyrics have inevitably come up, I've always found it interesting that the moral outrage over rap music in the early '90s was about rap and hip hop as a whole. The outrage over Eminem has always been about Eminem in particular.

There seems to be a strong undercurrent of race (and racism) underpinning the difference between the two "controversies."

When it was still viewed as a predominantly black art form, of course the problem was with the entire art form.

When it the problem became a particular white male using that art form in a way that some people found offensive, of course the problem was just him. He wasn't representative of any larger issues. After all, everyone knows that most white people aren't like him!
posted by asnider at 8:34 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Weezy kills him in the delivery.

That is the biggest knock on Em I agree, his delivery can end up being rather two-toned and robotic. He's at his best telling stories or telling jokes. When he's not addressing someone in the context of dialogue, describing (often grusome) action in a narrator's voice or otherwise being conversational, he falls into a displeasing pattern of two alternating notes rather than hitting a range of tones. He even kinda makes fun of this himself on Anger Management "Hi! My name is Chica-chica-chica/ Chica-chica-chica-chica-chica-chica-chica / Till this shit was stuck in your head /So much you were sick of "
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:40 AM on February 1, 2013


This might be a bit off-topic for this thread, but I might as well ask, anyway.

Why is gay-bashing and making misogynist statements seen as acceptable ways to express one's anger and masculinity in rap? I'd assume that in the grand scheme of things, gay men and women in general don't pose the same direct threat to many rap artists, particularly those coming out of areas like Detroit, the Bronx in the '80s, etc., that poverty and crime do. Do MCs just see women and gays as easy targets, or is there something larger that I'm missing?

Be thankful I didn't make the joke about how Eminem looks like a drag king.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:42 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is gay-bashing and making misogynist statements seen as acceptable ways to express one's anger and masculinity in rap?

Three reasons: 1. It pisses people off. 2. It sells records. 3. A long history of oppression that emasculates poor or black men and pits them against gays and women.

However: It's really not acceptable anymore. Most rappers of the past 7 or 8 years don't use language like that.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:49 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. It pisses people off.
So does not being able to get a job, governmental corruption, murders...the list goes on. I'm pretty sure that if someone close to these rappers raped their daughters, some of the rape/domestic violence content would cease to be seen as "funny" or "poignant" or whatever.
However: It's really not acceptable anymore. Most rappers of the past 7 or 8 years don't use language like that.
I don't know about that, man. Eminem still is, if this thread is any indication, and there have been a few big-name MCs in the past few years who still draw on misogyny to sell records or get people downloading MP3s or whatever.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:56 AM on February 1, 2013


You know, because, how can you talk about Eminem without mentioning his style debt to Masta Ace? Now that's that shit that I'm talkin' about. Even Em says so. It's in his book.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2013


Most of the EM songs here are from more than 10 years ago. Certainly misogyny and homophobia are still there, but I'd say the majority of rappers, especially those on the pop charts, don't say the same kind of hateful stuff that used to be commonplace in the late 90s-mid 2000s.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:00 AM on February 1, 2013


I love imagining what kind of rap Sondheim would've come up with had he been born at the right time.

Look, I made mom's spaghetti
Where there never was a mom's spaghetti
posted by Greg Nog at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


It was pretty neat to see that guys quick analysis of the different rhyme types. I didn't even realize there were names for these. I've always liked eminem, even when I wouldn't admit it, and I've heard a lot of people from a lot of walks of life express appreciation for the wordsmithery, if not the content.

Since we seem to be droppin', though, I've been into the Killer Mike recently. It's not as technically sophisticated, perhaps, but it's inspired, touching, and the delivery is like BLAU. I'm not even sure how he gets some of these words shoehorned into the beats or why...

That's Life, Pt. 2 [youtube]

Mr. Beck, Mr. O'Reilly, Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Hannity
How could you sell white America your insanity?
You tell them that they're different and manipulate their vanity
When truthfully, financially their life is a calamity
Otherwise they would be listening to Dave Ramsey
So they're about as broke as the people that they don't want to be
Convincing them that rich Republicans is what they going to be
So they act like Ronald Reagan and like him they're awful actors
Who look up to the rich like dumb kids look up to rappers
And that's about as dumb as a donkey pulling a tractor
Yes, that's a Democrat diss, I'm a detractor
So whether you vote right or vote left is not a factor
When you ain't got no care for your health, Hey, this America
They going to put your ass in debt, something terrible
So you can disrespect presidents and call them socialists
But Palin and Pelosi both going to have you broke as shit
posted by nTeleKy at 9:33 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know, if you've got shit handwriting....
posted by humboldt32 at 9:37 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rakim is the greatest lyricist of all time
posted by Renoroc at 9:41 AM on February 1, 2013


Yeah, Rakim is definitely up there. Also, click through to that dude's youtube channel for 5000+ videos worth of hip-hop promos, 12 inches, full albums and instrumentals with quality audio. I miss sample-based production.
posted by Lorin at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Not to mention Guru, but then again every verse on that particular track is great.)
posted by Lorin at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


To the 40 Mefites who Favorited Drexen's parody of the lyrics to "Lose Yourself"... You do realize those aren't the actual lyrics, right? I'm betting some of the Eminem haters wouldn't know, since they don't listen to his music.

For the record:
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
The meter he imposes upon the lyrics in delivery is an extra layer that is difficult to convey in text - but suffice it to say, he's a powerful poet.

Hardly the best lyricist in the world, but powerful. Sometimes execrable as a human being, but then, so are many others with talent.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:54 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


But then why is it called The Spaghetti Song?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


It was originally written to advertise the all-new redesigned Chrysler Spaghetti.
posted by box at 10:02 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Weezy kills him in the delivery.

From what little of him I've listened to, I find Lil Wayne absolutely unbearable. I do not like his vocal style. Maybe I'm not listening to the right songs, though.

What would you recommend I listen to in order to understand why Weezy is considered so good by so many people?
posted by asnider at 10:11 AM on February 1, 2013


asnider: David Ramsey wrote an essay in 2008 in the Oxford American about this precise question: here is a PDF link to it. Here it is reproduced on a tumbler page.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:17 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's because of his vocal style that you find unbearable, so I'm not sure how to help. I'm not an enormous fan, but there's definitely something about the way he seems to just be sort of exhaling words as they come to him, with hardly any of the rhythmatic intonation and emphasis on particular syllables that makes most rap work, and still somehow getting rhymes and lines out. Kendrick Lamar has some clear Lil Wayne influence on at least a few tracks and I like him more so I'll just say go listen to Good Kid M.A.A.D. City and pretend that it's Lil Wayne occasionally.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:19 AM on February 1, 2013


Lil Wayne's rhyme style doesn't do it for me. He says one thing and then he waits ... delivery.
posted by Lorin at 10:23 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Shoot Me Down is a good place to start with Weezy the lyricist. Or put on Go Dj and dance around your living room unstoppably.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:25 AM on February 1, 2013


Maestor Fresh Wes always impressed me with his rhymes; going back to 1989 from Let Your Backbone Slide:

geez, you left off the best line. Let Your Backbone Slide has the all-time best use of "sacroiliac" in rap, ever.
posted by GuyZero at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2013


As far as his delivery goes, it's an obvious choice, but Dr. Carter is a great example of how well it can work it in the right context. He sounds like an old sage in that song, as tired as he is wise.
posted by invitapriore at 10:50 AM on February 1, 2013


Yeah I was going to mention Dr. Carter but then failed to do so.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2013


blau fools!

Dr seuss.
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.
posted by couchdive at 11:06 AM on February 1, 2013


I'm not crazy about the chorus or the beat but Weezy's second verse on "Best Rapper Alive" always struck me as pretty brilliant:

The heart of New Orleans
Thumpin' and beatin'
livin' and breathin'
Stealin' and feedin'
peelin' and leavin'
Killin' and grievin'
dearly departed
erased, deleted

But my go-to Wayne is always Tha Mobb.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:20 AM on February 1, 2013


Eminem has always had some serious skills, rap-wise -- Infinite yt (1996) is a classic album that's up there with the greats.

Thank you for this! I had never heard this and wanted to pop back in here and say I am really enjoying it. The track "Tonite" has a lovely Souls of Mischief / Hieroglyphics vibe and its really refreshing to hear Eminem rapping in this style...
posted by jnnla at 11:20 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another wayne bit I love: "Stuntin' on my Guitar" is Wayne a cappella over some dancier beats from A-Trak's excellent Dirty South Dance. Warning for autoplay.

It's got a bunch of great lines ("What you know about puttin' bricks in the spare, man? I can stuff a couple like a motherfuckin' Caravan.") but the one that gets me I might be misinterpreting and I do not want to know if I am.

The line sounds to me like this: "Show me my opponent. (sounds of eating potato chips, next lines over mouthful of potato chips) Show my my opponent." And I think that's the greatest diss in the world, that Wayne is so confident in his ability to out-rap anyone that he can a) be so relaxed to be munching potato chips seconds before battling and b) is so skilled that having a mouth half-full of chips still leaves him with enough surplus skill to rap circles around anyone.

I suspect that interpretation is wrong but I can't imagine another interpretation I would like as much. Yes, it's just the same line twice in a thread about lyricism. But it's bloody brilliant.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:44 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


errr should be "stuff a coupe" not "couple"
posted by neuromodulator at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2013


"Show me my opponent. (sounds of eating potato chips, next lines over mouthful of potato chips) Show my my opponent."

I think you're basically right, it's "Show me my opponent {chomp chomp chomp--he eats his opponent up figuatively like he literally eats chips and in the same amount of time} Done with my opponent." Good line, awesome performance.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:59 AM on February 1, 2013


Coincidentally I was listening to the spaghetti remix just last night.
posted by solarion at 12:03 PM on February 1, 2013


Maestor Fresh Wes always impressed me with his rhymes; going back to 1989 from Let Your Backbone Slide:

geez, you left off the best line. Let Your Backbone Slide has the all-time best use of "sacroiliac" in rap, ever.


It's like a rapsack backpack
Wic, wic wack, give me some slack, Jack.

Word.

I say, with all seriousness, that Let Your Backbone Slide is one of the greatest Canadian songs ever. I can't believe he never got huge in the States.
posted by Phreesh at 12:35 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe cuz we have more than one rapper? just playin' yall! I know you have Snow too
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


We have the best rapper. William Shatner.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:08 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Classified and Word Burglar (who I think are both from Halifax?) are both pretty good.
posted by GuyZero at 1:14 PM on February 1, 2013


All these predictable old white guys being trotted = smh. Being a "lyricist" as a rapper is a different from being a song writer for a singer. None of those dudes could write or perform a hip song song any more than Ringo could play drums like Max Roach.

I specifically copied It's Alright Ma because it contains a shit ton of internal rhymes and flows like a hip hop song... If you don't think Dylan could do a hip hop song from listening to that song I don't really know what to say.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:51 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


BNL are good and Canadian. I could probably do most of One Week from memory. "Hot like wasabi when I bust rhymes/speak like LeAnn Rimes/'cause I'm all about value".

No love for Aesop Rock?

These lil', lil' fuckin' Martians
you gotta love em' though

Mars attacks wit' electric gats
Not for sapien abduction (what's up then?!)
Billy took a laser to the mug piece; hallowed out the mandible
Channel headquarters order the cannonballs (Mars attacksssss)
FBI demands column to this pigeon ankle
And boomeranging' our harvest; 51st area sickness
Not a threat, an area witness won't injure the promise
Monster lead- carry your ligament fanged in the mosh pit
Dodge vapor, labor days are major A sir
Cater the alien decomposer soldier platter like cabbage check eight
I told her "go for C4 magic's"
Smolder as the Bazooka Tooth holster fabric
(This fucker's rabid and still breathing!) (Hiding cabbage!)
Oh, the heater claps to leave me
I'ma ninja this shit wit' sugar in the fuel tank of a saucer
Buddy up and head down to the metal corporate tunnels
Ice pick the soldered ship wiring; pissed of the mother and um
I'd be lying if I said I knew your intentions
See my sexy sabotage thinks defensive action to save the race
You land in hand on board to mention magma (Blaze the place!)
Red five revival there's wires in the bible
Obviously, ultra take advance when I point counterpoint
Comparison of ET verse little old freak me (She be on somethin')
Hey riddle sweet peas wit' your nickel PCs; fickle CDs, miserable TV sitcom (typical!)
Pathetic. Ritual. Collective slackership
Beautiful establishment; you ain't established shit! I consider you foul
Prowl back to the numbers under burnt pride in the dark (sup yall!)
They want us dead or alive without the 'aliiivee' Part
The sun rose over a body bag shortage
Last week I was like 'god bless the saint that invented the cordless'
This week I saw the re-wrap of the bull's-eye of my worship
Temple body slash bull-cabinet Mastermind diversions (Fuck yall!)
Lets do this shit, my movement soothes any space invader practice
Stomped under enemy like "Hey what now, bitch!?"
Hiding human hear me rise above material and cardinal sin
They shot me in the face

Mars wins. Mars wins. Mars wins. Mars wins. Mars wins

(Jet-black smoke on the horizon) Black smoke in the air
Maaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrsssss wins! (I thought you would like it)
Who you screaming at dog? I got this! (Lets go)

Zig zag zookah, pinnacle stitch
Unleash the unlimited edish primitive piss
I'm singin' cynical maybe the most military ops
Monkey! Here's elephant, and it drops
We on a three-ringed prong ancient elephant tusk
Bitter, at fully (break bread!) you shruggin' it off
Keep it electric, sure, But NY Electra's not about electric wars
Never seen a poor man's glimpse set fake (Last page!)
Three, two, one, domesticate!
The dawning of the cave man who invented the wheel and roll out funny
Sittin' on a bundle rolled with twenties, subtle
Sippin' Saber tooth blood puddle-
I could roll with the lackey's, that's if we hustle
Knuckle in the mud, hell's bells in the jungle
Red-berried face means smugger round the muzzle
I'm allergic to the now-born solo panel cutters stole quo to the core (dirt mess!)
Stone cold's hands out core cryogenics, stubborn
Can't talk shit wit' a tongue full a' rubber!
Bad cholesterol through blood sugar
Four-piece heartbeats wit' a subwoofer!
I'm not asking you to act like you notice (Oh Aesop's SO Mesozoic.)
Now what if in the cabin built the old pulping?
Opened the mirror, stole a pulse with the voltage
Keeping me alive is the vibe with the Vulcan's (hope!)
Tangle the vine catapult (Catapult!)
I break it down to the bunk for the crooks wit' the goals of a angel
Eat. Sleep. Fuck
Structural droids; more bangs for the buck
But they want a last stegosaurs - thorns in the glove (buck wit' it!)
Pre-stork land shark business, cradling the arms of the car man kidney
Swarm to the sickly thawed out the glacier
Beggin' for the freezer burn; back every day sir!
Sir, your science loves to fuck nature
Sir, your right to the dawn of my day sir
Sir, your violent laugh homing beacon is sad; who chase till we all catch vapors
Don't call it a sound-off, 'Mars Attacks" be the malarkey downfall
It's not a game no more, run from the flash, leave your penny at the door
A lotta of magic gadgets; give em all back just to nullify the savage
Mic's crumble we be rockin' right - in the year of the dropper tight
Saw a grey mouse rabied poured on a board
to the dull morose world like a lull in a storm
And I know you was hopin' that the piece for the ox was a dull sword, ah
(Guess what, it's not!) Guess what else, I transmit from the block!
T-Rex - X-Ray with triple X Hexen (give it up!)
For the yesterdays, or the next I can assure you if there is I got the sword
(dead flesh!)

Aint no time left. (Keep ya head up now)
Maaaaarrrrrrrrssss wins! (I thought you would like it)
[Random thoughts until end]
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2013


I'd argue that "blau" is a real word.

It is a last name. I know someone who married a "blau" because:

1) they kept coming back asking 'em to get married and they thought it was love and not a desperate "I can't find anyone else" position.

2) well how else could you have a child because by having a child that'll fix the relationship.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:53 PM on February 1, 2013


Frst off, this guy uses RUN DMC 1986-1993 as an example of the earlier simpler rhyme style in hip hop. He's obviously not listened to much RUN DMC. They had much more complex styles than he gives them credit for. Run's House.

And he's obviously never heard the lyrical dexterity of Smoothe Da Hustler & Trigger the Gambler My Brother My Ace.

But what it really comes down to is how much more there is to hip hop lyricism than just rhyme scheme. Rhyme scheme doesn't really explain the bleak cinematic excellence of Mobb Deep's album "Tha Infamous". There's no more perfect documentary of the nihilism of crack-era inner city America. Except maybe Nas' One Love.(lyrics) There's a reason the climax of Eminem's 8 Mile is a reference to Mobb Deep's Shook Ones. Which is what makes Eminem so great. His skills were firmly grounded in the history of Rap, while at the same time advancing the artform.

But the beauty of a song like De La Soul's I am I Be can't be reduced to just charting the way the words rhyme. Not to mention the way that their entire career has served as a spot-on ongoing metacommentary on the state of Hip Hop.

The mindblowing creativity of Outkast defies simple explanation. And sometimes, it's just about the beauty of how words sound,completely devoid of all meaning.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


asnider: Oh heck yes. A great deal of the criticism of rap music is heavily racist.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:46 PM on February 1, 2013


yes.
posted by 256 at 3:55 PM on February 1, 2013


I wish my brother George was here.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:11 PM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some years ago, I had a short discussion with a high school English teacher at the school where I teach who told me what garbage rap was. I was astonished, because the man's a published poet himself, and tried to explain what was going on. He couldn't be convinced. I lost interest in explaining it to him, but the example I tried to use was Eminem's "Without Me."

Adam Bradley's Anthology of Rap and that fairly weak Jay-Z book (Decoded) take it seriously, as do a number of anthologies by academics, but my sixth graders still think I'm letting them get away with something when I let them do the monthly poem memorization with a rap. At least until I turn down their first choice and tell them to get another, better one.

I think I might use the video with my kids.
posted by Peach at 5:24 PM on February 1, 2013


Ah, poetics. I love this shit. It's like my brain always wants to make columns of word sounds instead of sense of what's said. And it's as if songs like this know that and want to give me both.

And it reminds me of one of my favorite piss-takes on lazy songwriting:
(excerpt from "Careful with that mic" by Clutch)

So tell me, when you took the practice Scholastic Aptitude Test
Did you know the answers or did you just guess?
You rely on gimmicks to amuse your fans
And act all urban to jack-up your sound-scan.
What's the matter with you? How come you rhyme monosyllabically?
Is atrophy shrinking your entire vocabulary?
Your style's like garbage cans meant to be taken out on a weekly basis.
Ever since your first record you've been in a state of suspended animation.
You look like Snuffaluffagus and Australopithecus.
Me Cray, you abacus.
But enough about you, let's talk about me
And how single-handedly I redefined the science of radio astronomy,
making Nobel prize winners question their notions of reality.
Oh, but I digress… you play sorry, I play chess.
King's pawn to b3, checkmate, go get some Percasets.

Careful with that mic, Weezy.
Do you really think it's that easy?

Other fun things to listen for are parallelisms (e.g., repeated structures) and illiterations.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:24 PM on February 1, 2013


Question for asnider: Did De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Young MC and other artists like them get hit with the same racist criticism that stuck to the harder rap acts?
posted by pxe2000 at 6:12 PM on February 1, 2013


re:
I'm rockin' the clock as if I was Bill Haley
I'm cockin' my glock and I got my shillelagh


Is that an inside joke? Cocking a glock means pulling the trigger halfway; there is no hammer.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:26 PM on February 1, 2013


I go from skip-skop to hip-hop to be-bop to P-funk
Cutting enough bullshit to turn a tree into a tree trunk
'Cause we've sunk ships from the Pacific to the Atlantic
I dig dips who've got the hips that are gigantic

'Cause I'm frantic take you in a frenzy
Takin' you out is easier than pullin' a pull-out out of a Benzi
Box well I rocks the orthodox styles to make you squirm
Yes I come from Cali no I do not have a perm

I stand firm on the mic device when I gets nice
Don't roll the dice if you can't pay the price
I got more flavor than 7-11 Slurpees
If Magic can admit he got AIDS, fuck it, I got herpes
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:59 PM on February 1, 2013


Question for asnider: Did De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Young MC and other artists like them get hit with the same racist criticism that stuck to the harder rap acts?

Directly? Probably not.

Indirectly? I'd reckon so. Much of the criticism leveled at rap in the early '90s was thrown at rap in general, despite the "problem" really just being the "gangsta rap" sub-genre.

That said, I'm not an expert by any means, so I could be wrong.
posted by asnider at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2013


pxe2000: I think they mostly got ignored by the people making the racist critiques of the genre.
posted by protocoach at 12:14 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Call him the pooper scooper
Alec an Oompa Loompa
Retutor the school of looters
Hakuna matata Pumba
Por que esta es la rumba
Yeah, I'm fucking great at rapping
posted by moss at 2:36 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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