The Rap Analyzer Is Now…The Rap Maestro

One of the reasons that I am able to analyze music so incisively isn’t just because I listen to a lot of it; it’s also because I make a lot of it. I did, after all, get my undergrad degree at Duke in music, with a concentration in composition, where it was also the subject of my senior thesis piece, which was covered on the Duke TV station here. Since is already, like, a G.D. slam dunk, I figured I’d conquer music next. I mean, I might as well, right? Towards that end, I recently made a remix for one of my newsletter readers, who is actually a pretty awesome rapper in his own right — Shah, known for his killer 200k, strip-club-anthem video “Pay Day 71.” The remix I made of it can be heard at the player below. BE WARNED: At The-Drive In samples, audio verité, two choruses, a rondo form, and heterophony were all ABUSED in the making of this mix!

My next song will be a beat I produce for the really awesome Boston rapper Young L3x, who has even been featured in The Source, at the article linked to here.  One of the reasons that so much rap sounds so similar is because its songs are always made in the same way: 1 person makes the beat, which he gives to another person, who then makes the song. These remixes I’m doing come out so creatively, because I purposefully upend that dynamic. The same person adds both rap and the beat (me,) and I only add the BEAT after the rap has already been done (by Young L3x, for my next song.)

I was so super pumped to get the awesome verse L3x gave me, because his raps display a similar level of confidence and creativity. This might be because L3x is a recording artist coming out of Boston, MA, just like the famous Guru of Gang Starr was. L3x’s music is a combination of catchy melodies, heartfelt relatable lyrics and deep storytelling, which you can hear on the project he just released — his fourth — called “Once I Figure It Out.” When he hit me up on email, he mentioned that, “My inspiration for this project came from my fans responses to my previous works. Through my relentless work ethic this project shows my growth as a writer and my overall versatility as an artist. This project was all written, mixed and mastered by me in my bedroom.” I was also super hype to get a verse from him because his words reminded me of Kanye West’s own intense work ethic, as he describes it on his 2004 track “Spaceship:” “Lock yourself in a room, doing 5 beats a day for 3 summers.” If you want to hear more of Young L3x, you can do that on SoundCloud here.

I think the catchy melodies, relatable lyrics, and deep storytelling come through best on that album’s second song, “Keep Faith.” In terms of rap analysis, pay attention to how much he “sings” his rap; his voice goes up and down as much as Eminem’s, or maybe even Drake’s/Young Thug’s…MF DOOM, this is not! There might even be a little Kendrick sprinkled in there, which you can hear in the rough timbres.

Anyway, I’ll be releasing the remix through the newsletter as well; should be out sometime soon.

Thanks guys!



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, 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

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