Rap is a complex mix of influences, including elements of speech, prose, poetry, and song. Unfortunately, many do not understand due to the speed of delivery and they miss the beauty. Well, not anymore.
Hip hop has had a profound impact on global culture. Although it can be difficult to locate the first example of hip hop music, it’s clear that the style emerged in New York in the early 1970s. But hip hop is not just about music. Many argue that it constitutes a subculture or a lifestyle. Today, one can find hip hop dance and hip hop clothing, in addition to visual arts that express the hip hop style.
Oftentimes, the terms hip hop and rap are used interchangeably. However, they are different. While hip hop refers to a number of art forms that constitute a style, rap is the rhythmic delivery of lines, typically rhymed, in music. While many hip hop songs feature rapping, there is plenty of instrumental hip hop as well.
Like all musical genres, hip hop has a song structure, as does rap. Both are built on beats. Instead of trying to fit words to a melody, as with most music, rappers write their lines, or bars, with a beat in mind. That way, every word fits the structure of the music.
Artists tend to use three basic structures to rap songs. In the standard structure, longer verses are interspersed with choruses, like so: Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus.
In the pop structure, the song might look more like this: Intro-Before Chorus-Chorus-After Chorus-Verse-Before Chorus-Chorus-After Chorus-Bridge-Before Chorus-Chorus-After Chorus-Outro. The pop structure has more repetition, which lends itself better to commercialization.
The third structure type, known as the storytelling structure, is just like the standard structure, but the verses are longer, and the choruses are shorter.
Many rap songs eschew these set structures entirely. For example, A Tribe Called Quest, one of the most influential hip hop groups of all time, made many songs without set choruses. Their music is more in line with the format of freestyle, or improvised, rap.
In freestyle rap, artists improvise over a beat in real time. Often, groups of rappers will freestyle together. These groups are known as ciphers, and they often build off each other as they rhyme.
In rap, a bar is a line in a song, and bars, plural, are lines. It’s as simple as that.
How long is a bar in rap? There is no set rule, but usually, bars might be four lines long, or shorter. For example, these 16 bars come from Nicki Minaj “I’m Getting Ready” byTasha Cobbs.
Yo, aye yo
Beach house vibes maneuver the jet ski
‘Cause-’cause I serve a God that parted the red sea
Multi-million dollars commercials for Pepsi
From food-stamps to more ice than Gretzky
I don’t gotta talk, the Lord defends me
I watch them all fall for going against me
‘Cause me and all my angels shot the devil up
While you was trying to pull me down I leveled up
I leveled up twice, I leveled up three times
He tapped ’em and told ’em, “She’s mine”
So even when I cried I knew I’d be fine
Prepared for a miracle blessing in these times
Now praise Him, raise ’em, name it, claim it
Every tongue that rises up against me, shame it
I breathe success in and out my lungs
I got the power of life and death coming out my tongue.
How do you understand and then enjoy rap?
Listen to lots of rap: If you want to rap, you’ve got to immerse yourself in the culture and the sounds of hip-hop music.
Rap along: Memorize the words to your favorite rap song and rap along in your earphones, in your stereo, in your car, etc
Rap acappella: Once you have mastered rapping along to a beat, trying rapping the song completely by yourself.
One of the most useful ways to learn any craft is to study people who have already mastered it. Seek out rap artists whose work you like and admire. Think about what makes their work so good. Soon you’ll begin to love the music and rap as well.
Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.