How Eminem and Kendrick Lamar Create Cinematic Albums

In Eminem’s new single, Walk on Water, we hear him crumpling and ripping up pages in the background both between and during his verses. In many ways, these sound effects make us as listeners feel as if we’re there with him in the room as he frustratedly attempts to write the very verse he’s delivering. The effect is cinematic, and it gives us a fuller picture of the artist in his struggle to create.

Since Kendrick Lamar subtitled his landmark album, good kid m.A.A.d. city, a short film, the theme of comparing rap albums to movies has been prevalent in modern hip hop. A$AP Ferg called Biggie’s Suicidal Thoughts “cinematic” in an interview with Pitchfork. J Cole compared his own album,2014 Forrest Hills Drive, to a movie in the documentary, “Homecoming.” In this new video essay, I explore how artists like Kendrick Lamar and Eminem use sound effects and skits to make their music more “cinematic,” and how little elements can go a long way in creating a richer experience for the listener.

And with Eminem’s Revival coming out soon, it’ll be interesting to evaluate his new album in the context of the ideas laid out in this video, especially with the Revival drug campaign surrounding it. Will he create a cinematic narrative around the Revival drug and connect it to his own revival as an artist? Only time will tell…

This one comes from new contributor Michael Kaplan, check it out!


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 [email protected].

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