Rap Music Analysis – Eminem, “The Rap God”

From new Composer’s Corner contributor, Steven Bruno:

-Steven Bruno is a 22 year old author from Toronto Canada who writes short scary stories, you can find his work on his blog Blood In My Pen.”

Eminem’s ability to rap well is obviously one of the main reasons
that he stands at such a high spot in hip-hop. He can string words and
syllables together that no other rapper would even dream of, and he does it
CONSISTENTLY. He uses a mixture of complex rhyming schemes and wordplay that he
mixes together with a smooth sounding flow to create his own unique sound that
not many other rappers can match. Some rappers can emulate certain parts of his
style and make a few good songs, but I haven’t heard of anyone who is able to
do it consistently for 8 albums. His consistently good music is what
sets him apart. I’m going to break down his style into multiple sections to
help you understand fully all that is Eminem. I’ll include some verses from
other rappers to compare and contrast multisyllable/word rhyming, flow, speed
and wordplay.  
Let’s
check out Drake’s opening lines on “Headlines”: (each song’s title in this article is hyperlinked to the YouTube video for that song.)
“I
might be too strung out on compliments, overdosed on confidence
Started
not to give a fuck and stopped fearing the consequence
Drinking
every night because we drink to my accomplishments
Faded
way too long, I’m floatin’ in and out of consciousness”
Now
I’ll admit to the fact that Drake is a far better rapper than this verse
implies; I’m just using these lines as an example of a popularly used simple
rhyming scheme. As you can see, he’s rhyming only one word with one word, each
word being 3 syllables:
“Compliments
Confidence
Consequence
accomplishments
Consciousness”
This
is probably one of the easiest patterns to use, although it’s commonly done
with 2 syllables instead of 3. Before we go on, I should define what a perfect
rhyme
and family rhyme is. A perfect rhyme has these
characteristics:
            1. The rhyming syllables have the
same vowel sounds 
            2. The consonant sounds after
the vowel (if any) have the same sounds
            3. The rhyming syllables begin
differently
A
family rhyme is the same except for that second point:
            2. The consonant sounds after
the vowel are phonetically related
Frog/dog
would be an example of a perfect rhyme, while rich/wish and fun/sung would be
examples of family rhymes. They rhyme, but you can tell they don’t perfectly
match up. In the above example, compliments and confidence are
perfect rhymes while accomplishments and consciousness can
be considered a family rhyme, especially since the syllables -ments and
-ness don’t rhyme perfectly. Eminem (and a lot of rappers in
general) utilizes a lot of family rhymes in his songs, which allows him to
rhyme together a wider selection of words and syllables. I’ll go into more
depth on his use of family rhymes in a later segment.
Let’s
look at another rhyming style that is a bit harder to implement but is still
popular. This verse is taken from Lil Wayne’s “She Will”:
“Niggas
is jealous, but really I could care
less
I’m
in Hell’s Kitchen with an apron and a hairnet
Devil
on my shoulder, the Lord as my witness
So
on my Libra scale, I’m weighing sins and forgiveness
What
goes around comes around like a hula hoop
Karma
is a bitch? Well just make sure that bitch is beautiful
Lil
Wayne’s specialty is not his technical ability to rhyme, but let’s take a look
at the rhyming scheme here. As you can see, he’s rhyming the last two syllables
in each line (with the exception of jealous
and careless in the first line),
whether those syllables are contained in one word or two. This is also a very
popular style in rap and isn’t too difficult to do. Let’s now look at another
Lil Wayne verse that is a bit more complex, from the song “A
Milli”:
“A
millionaire
I’m
a Young Money millionaire, tougher than Nigerian hair
My
criteria compared to your career just isn’t fair
I’m
a venereal disease like a menstrual bleed
See
the way he uses two words (nigerian hair) to rhyme with millionaire?
The -gerian in nigerian is a family rhyme with million
while hair  rhymes with -naire as a perfect rhyme. He also
switches it up in the next line:
“My criteria
compared
 to your career just isn’t fair”
Criteria compared is at the beginning of the sentence yet is a
family rhyme with nigerian hair which comes at the end of the last
sentence. Let’s look at some other lines from this song to highlight another
important style:
“I
go by them goon rules if you can’t beat ’em then you pop ’em
if
you can’t man ’em then you mop ’em
if
you can’t stand ’em then you drop ’em
You
pop ’em cause we pop ’em like Orville Redenbacher” 
See
how man ‘em and stand ‘em both come at the
beginning of the second and third line while mop ‘em and drop ‘em both
come at the end? This style really differentiates an amateur rapper with a more
talented rapper, but is nonetheless still quite common in rap.
Now
let’s take a look at an Eminem verse to see how he utilizes these different
techniques. This is part of a great verse on the song “Bitch Please II”:
Gimme
the mic, let me recite
til Timothy White
Pickets
outside the Interscope offices every night
What
if he’s right
I’m
just a criminal making a living off of the world’s misery
What
in the world gives me the right
To
say what I like, and walk around flipping the bird
Livin’ the urban life, like a White kid from the burbs
Dreaming at night of screaming at mom, scheming to leave
Run
away from home and grow to be as evil as me”
First
of all, take a step back and look at how many words are italicized: a FUCK TON.
This is actually a good song to compare different rhyming styles because 3
other rappers are featured in the song. Okay, let’s begin to analyze this
verse:
The
words mic, recite and white all rhyme. So do give me, let me and
Timothy. He says the words so fast that you can basically look upon them
each as one word containing 4 syllables each.
Gimmethemic
lemmerecite
timothywhite”
Out
of 13 syllables, 12 are part of the rhyming pattern. Then he takes a breath for
11 syllables and finishes off the rhyming pattern with every night and if
he’s right.
Let’s call this rhyming scheme Pattern A:
Pattern
A:
Gimme
the mic
let me recite
Timothy White
Every night
If he’s right”
Pattern
A is not done yet. We’ll add to it after we analyze the next line, line 4:
“I’m just a
criminal
 making a living off of the world’s misery”
At
first it doesn’t sound like anything in this line rhymes, but pay close
attention to criminal and living off: they’re a family rhyme.
Look at them phonetically, cri-mi-nal and li-ving of, they fit
the rules of a family rhyme, although they are not part of Pattern A. Let’s
refer to them as Pattern B, even though this pattern doesn’t show up again in
the verse. Then in the following line, he returns back to Pattern A with the
words gives me the right. Eminem (and rappers in general) insert
rhyming patterns in between other rhyming patterns to make the song flow
better, and it also allows them to rhyme the majority of the words in the
sentence without being limited to one specific pattern of rhyming syllables.
Gimme
the mic (A), let me recite (A)
 til Timothy White (A)
Pickets
outside the Interscope offices every night (A)
What if
he’s right (A)
I’m
just a criminal (B) making a living off (B) of
the world’s misery
What
in the world gives me the right (A)
To
say what I like (?)”
Look
at the last line. I like doesn’t fit in perfect with Pattern A; only the
last syllable -ike seems to fit. He does this purposefully for two
reasons:
            1. He can end off Pattern A without
you realizing it and transition into a different                         rhyming scheme
            2. He can create a new rhyming
pattern that holds a remittance of Pattern A                              (because he keeps the long i syllable
going)
Let’s
name that last rhyme Pattern C and look at the next few lines:
“To
say what I like, and walk around flipping the bird
Livin’ the urban lifelike a White kid from the burbs”
He
started another rhyming pattern here, which we will call Pattern D, with flipping
the bird, livin’ the urb-, kid from the burbs.
He also
carries on Pattern C with like, life, like, white. 
“To
say what I like (C), and walk around flipping the bird
(D)
Livin’ the urb (D) an life (C)like a White (C) kid from the
burbs(D)”
By
intermingling patterns like this he can insure that almost every word in the
line is part of at least one rhyming pattern, if not two. This contributes to
his flow, which I will discuss in the forthcoming segment of this analysis. Notice how the word urban
is split into two to fit into two rhyming patterns? Livin’ the urb is
part of Pattern D while -an phonetically rhymes with i in I
like
and a in a white. These are the two patterns split
up. 
Pattern
C:
“I like
-an life
a white”
Pattern
D:
flipping
the bird
livin’ the urb-
kid from the burbs”
Let’s
finish up with this verse and analyze the last two lines:
“Dreaming at night of screaming at mom, scheming
to leave
Run
away from home and grow to be as evil
as me”
These
lines are a bit more difficult to analyze. We can see a few patterns emerging here,
some which intermingle with previous patterns and some that are part of two
patterns. 
Pattern
D:
a
white
(from the previous line)
at night”
Pattern
E:
Dreaming
screaming
scheming
evil”
Pattern
F:
home
grow”
Pattern
G:
leave
me”
Those
are all the rhyming patterns I can point out except one, which I’m not even
sure would be considered its own rhyming pattern. See how scheming is a
family rhyme with evil (Pattern E) and leave rhymes with me (Pattern
G)? Technically those words can be put together and placed in their own rhyming
pattern:
Pattern
H:
scheming
to leave
evil as me”
Do
you see how much work and thought goes into nine lines of a verse? And Eminem
does this pretty much consistently in all of his songs, utilizing these
intricate patterns and weaving them together in a beautifully flowing fashion.
I suggest you give this verse a listen and pay attention to how well it flows.
The next section of this analysis, coming out in a week or so, will analyze Eminem’s rap in terms of aspects that have to do more specifically with flow as it’s strictly defined.
Thanks for reading!

-Steven Bruno is a 22 year old author from Toronto Canada who writes short scary stories, you can find his work on his blog Blood In My Pen.”

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 mepc36@gmail.com.

4 Comments

  1. The style you're describing is actually originally Kool G Rap's, that's where Eminem and everyone else got it from…

    Check G Rap's verse on The Anthem (though he does it on pretty much every verse since the early 90s):

    I sway the tec with the TECH AND SWAY
    STEP AWAY, WET AND SPRAY, REP THE DAY,
    Who over DEBT TO PAY get SWEPT AWAY
    Across the whole board like CHECKER PLAY
    When I blaze your whole SECT' ARRAYS
    Wake Up Show for those who SLEPT AWAY
    Niggas that MET THE TREY, hit the DECK AND PRAY
    DJ Revolution, spinning like lead from out the HEAD DECAY
    Tearing your NECK AWAY, flood up the street with blood reDECORATE
    Until the HEAD OF JAKE inVESTIGATES

    Also Eminem studied Treach from Naughty By Nature a lot, as Em says in Art of Rap documentary, he does that kind of rhyming a lot too.

    1. Good call – also Em named the MCs who influenced him in one of his Grammy speeches, you can look the clip up on youtube, search for "Eminem accepting the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album at the 45th GRAMMY Awards".

      In it he says:
      "I made me a little list of MCs that I wanted to name off that inspired me to, to bring me where I am today, because honestly, I wouldn’t be here without them. So the list goes like this, and it’s not in this order, but the list is this:
      Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Dr Dre, all of NWA, KRS-One, Treach from Naughty by Nature, Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z. Thank you, ‘cause I learned from all of you."

      Also in Em's book, "The Way I Am" he talks about Masta Ace and Big Daddy Kane further (Em's delivery style on Slim Shady LP was exactly like the delivery Masta Ace was using at the time).

    2. I think this article is talking more about the mixing of rhyme schemes, rather than the extensive use of multisyllable rhymes (I agree that Kool G Rap is the king of multis though).

      I think the main thing this article is talking about is the intermingling of rhyme schemes.
      It's the same thing that's covered in the book "How To Rap 2", where they call these techniques "Morphing One Rhyme Scheme Into The Next" and "Overlapping Rhyme Schemes"
      (the examples used in the book are from Nas and Biggie, so that's probably where Eminem learned it from).

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