Rap Analysis Glossary of Terms

Hey there! Most likely you’ve been referred here from another one of my posts, telling you to go here in order to ground yourself in the basics. The most important thing to know when reading my analyses is the importance of accent in rap – verbal, metrical, and poetic. Go through this glossary in order so you feel like you have a good grip on things – as might be expected, though, you will get much fuller explanations of these concepts in the full posts. See my #3 Rap Analysis on Nas for accent, and my #8 analysis of Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” for a discussion of grammatical phrasing. for musical phrases, see #2, on Eminem’s “Business.” For rhymes, see Mos Def, #11. For a good discussion of flow, see #12, Big Sean.
Verbal accent – The natural way in which words are pronounced. For
instance, in the word “verbal”, the accent is on the syllable “ver-“, so that
it is pronounced (and notated in my transcriptions) as “VER-bal.”
Verbal Accent Displacement – The act of displacing a word’s natural
verbal stress from the metric accent of a bar as determined by the time
signature. For instance, Nas in “Don’t Get Carried Away” – QUOTE
Verbal Accent Adjustment – the changing in the pronunciation of a
word to match up with the metric accent of a bar’s time signature.
Poetic accent – An accent that is created when a rapper links two
different notes by rhyming them together, alliterating them, or through other
poetic means.
Metric accent – The accent imparted to a musical measure by virtue
of its time signature; for instance, in 4/4, beats 1 and 3 are the strong
beats, and beats 2 and 4 are the weak beats. Thus, we say that beats 1 and 3
receive the metric accent.
Flow – An all-inclusive term for referring to the strictly musical
qualities of a rapper’s work. Flow is affect by articulation, rate of poetic
accents, the nature and use of syntactical and/or musical phrases, and so on.
Rap – A musical vocal idiom of the inflected speaking voice characterized by constant
rhythms and a focus on tight manipulation of accent and articulation.Whenever
the term “rap” is used in this work, it should be taken to refer to both the
musical and textual qualities of a rapper’s work, as opposed to the other parts
of the typical rap song, i.e., the beat (bass kick, snare, etc.), the
accompaniment (piano chords in the background), and so on.
Rap Music – Refers to the genre of rap in general.
Production – Refers to those parts of a typical rap song that is
everything besides the rapper’s work, such as the bass kick, snare, and any
other percussive elements, as well as melodic and accompanimental ideas found
in any specified-pitch instruments (such as pianos, violins, etc.) Note: the
word “beat” should never be used to refer to these musical elements, to avoid
confusion with the idea of a “beat” found in a time signature.
Beat – The rhythmic duration that receives stress, as determined by
a time signature. For instance, in 6/8, the bottom number, the 8, designates
which rhythmic duration receives the beat: here, the eighth note.
Musical Phrase – Strictly in this work’s context, a short musical
idea whose rhythmic structure is repeated at least once. NOTE: This is vastly
different from the definition of a musical phrase in other musical contexts,
such as classical music.
Grammatical Phrase – The natural phrasing imparted to a rapper’s
work by organizers of syntax, such as commas, conjunctions (like the words
“and”, “or”, “but”, etc.), periods, and so on. Indicated notationally by a
curved line under the notes from one note to another one.
Tyranny of 4 – Refers to the over-emphasis of the number 4 or its
derivatives in the organization of almost all rap music. For instance, there
are 4 beats to a bar, different structural elements of a song (verses,
choruses, etc.) are usually organized in multiples of 4 (ending at 8, 12, 16,
etc., number of bars.) The variation of this natural tendency for the
organization of music is a major way forward towards creating new, innovative
rap music.
Metrical Transferrence – The
changing of the metric placement of a musical phrase by a rapper; for instance,
in Biggie “Hypnotize”, the changing of a music phrase from starting on the beat
to starting off the beat.
Internal Rhyming – The technique of placing rhymes inside
syntactical phrases; typical of rappers like Mos Def, Nas, and Eminem.
End rhyming – The technique of placing rhymes at the end of
syntactical phrases; typical of most rappers like Kanye West.
Block rhyming – The repetition of a set order of vowels in a rhyme
scheme over and over, without changing their order.
Syllabic rhyming – Rhyme schemes that are based on a single or more
vowel sound, like Eminem in “Lose Yourself:” Their order can change
if more than one vowel sound is involved.
Multisyllabic Rhymes – Rhymes made on more than one syllable.
Isosyllabic rhymes  – Rhymes
made on a single syllable.
Rapper – The person who generates both the words and rhythms of a
Rate of Poetic Accent – How many accents there are per measure in a
certain rap.

Martin Connor is a music teacher & writer from Philadelphia, PA, with a music degree of high distinction from Duke University who is currently studying for a master’s degree at Brandeis University in Boston, MA, while focusing his research on the vocal melodies of the rap genre. He has contributed freelance articles to HipHopDX, Complex, and Pigeons and Planes, and had multiple articles from his website, www.RapAnalysis.com go viral on BET, The Source, XXL, and MTV. He teaches rap lessons online through the music school LessonFace, and has a book, The Artistry Of Rap Music, forthcoming from the McFarland Publishing House, scheduled for release in late 2017, as a follow-up to his 2014 contribution to their anthology "Eminem & Rap, Poetry, Race." He welcomes all comments, compliments, insults, and restaurant suggestions at [email protected].

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