There are thousands of aspiring rap artists in the world but only a few get recognition. Some get recognition due to their connections and investors, but let’s ignore them for now. Let’s focus on the artists who are recognized for their talent. Why are they great? What is there talent?
Rap is mainly characterized by its clever wordplay, flow, and delivery. There are other elements but most can be defined by these three aspects.
Flow is the combination of rhyme and rhythm. If you know anything about rap, rhyme is the similarity of sound, usually in the word ending (i.e. “It’s funny how lovely my flow be. Stunning, running past the edge of possibility“). Rhythm is basically continuously staying on beat, matching rhymes with the songs percussion section (i.e. In the former example “be” and “possibility” would end on the end of the bar/the last drum beat.
In recent years there have been many “artists” who don’t rhyme but stay on rhythm and vice-versa rhyming without rhythm. These people are relying on one part of their flow.
Simply put, wordplay is the clever use of phrases. Through using multiple meanings of a word, similes, or metaphors, this aspect shows the creativity of an artist (i.e. “My delivery brings more tears than a new born.”). This is also where the punchline of a rhyme is shown. The section of a rap where the “ooh” factor is generated with philosophical or comical verse.
This separates the good from the great. There are rappers who have great flow and great wordplay that just fall short of being great. This is skill that they lack and the reason many people are only songwriters. Some people have a relaxed delivery like Rakim or Snoop Dog, some aggressive like DMX or Eminem, and many other unique styles such as Chance The Rapper and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
To have great delivery you need to have a vocal presence. Much like in a group discussion, if you’re timid no one will listen.
Breath control is another aspect of good delivery, it also happens to coincide with flow. If you don’t manage your breath control well, you’ll end up rhyming off beat. Imagine the first time you tried to rap along with Busta Rhymes in Break Ya Neck, it’s near impossible to keep up if you don’t have good breath control.
Lastly, enunciation is a must. Whether it’s slang or dictionary words, if your words aren’t clear enough to understand it won’t be great. This is one of the issue that many “mumble rappers” have been facing.
Which of these skills does your favorite artist utilize to the fullest?? Let us know in the comments!!