Is Rap a valid musical form?


This has been way more than the progression away from tubes to SS!

Believe the world of Hip Hop has been around and evolving for around 5 decades.

And for most of that time I have dismissed and avoided that world and its “music”.

So angry, offensive and abrasive. Just a bunch of rhythmic yelling.

I believe my former thread was titled “Why Rap?”.  Through that discussion and somewhat of an understanding that this must be a new art form that engages and entertains millions if not billions. That and a long standing belief that if a type of music or a particular artist attracts many, many fans there must be substance and quality there. Even if I personally don’t particularly like it there must be something there.

Rap and the Hip Hop world was always so foreign and culturally untouchable.

Then my Rap thread and several others at that time got me rethinking my perspective and I watched a video of a group of student performance musicians at Juilliard all exclaiming their fascination with a Rap artist named Kendrick Lemar and his “masterpiece” “To Pimp a Butterfly”. I bought the double LP. Trying to listen to it turned out to be difficult because of my old view of Rap and that of the world of Hip Hop. But it was also becoming clear that this was truly something of significant interest. However, I just listened to the two discs only once-with some difficulty.

Today, after several weeks, I hesitatingly pulled the album out again. And to my surprise and actually delight hearing it with fresh ears it grabbed me and would not let go. I immediately heard the brilliance of a multi faceted, and to me, all new experience in sound. Not unlike great 20th century or progressive Jazz it evolved from section to section with a plethora of fascinating, yes musical, experiences. Tonal, atonal, percussive, rhythmic, breathing combined with incredible, energetic tongue twisting strings of mostly unintelligible words. And not merely angry yelling.

Sure, a ton of F bombs but words that don’t flow over you like lovely other genres but invade the psyche and don’t let go. Not particularly pleasant but gripping and interesting in its complexity. Words delivered with such power and drive which acted as a rhythmic counterpoint. It was impossible to turn away or turn off. 
And speaking of turned off, the experience was the opposite of that. Stories of life undeniable human. Yes, driven by bitterness, anger and raw emotion. Impossible to  dismiss it as not deeply felt.

I do think “To Pimp a Butterfly” is unique. But I also believe that there must be much more in this Hip Hop world that has deep musical interest. Some time ago I heard Drake on SNL perform a song that was amazing though not really Rap. Rather an advanced and unconventional musical form. I hear similar musical threads throughout “Pimp”. I did get a CD of Drake. “Scorpion”. I also could not absorb it in my first listen. I look forward to the next, fresh listen. I did try to hear several YouTubes of some very successful Rap artists. They mostly lacked the interesting musical themes threaded through. “Pure Rap” with just the rhythmic words-not my cup of tea. But a musically valid form none the less.

 

 

mglik

Sure it’s a valid musical form. Not a very good one, for me, but still valid.

It’s just one I happen to dislike immensely. While I can appreciate the political messages, especially in the earlier days of rap, the simplistic musical delivery system for those messages, is boring, cliché, repetitive, poorly played, IMO. In other words, it has a very limited musical language.

My criteria for what I consider good musical forms are: very high level of musicianship, musical complexity, deep and broad emotional and intellectual content, avoidance of verse>chorus>bridge song structure, no need for simple hooks.

In other words, almost the complete opposite of rap.

And yes, I have listened to rap many times, in all eras. Every time I mention on music forums why I don’t like it, someone will invariably mention rap that they believe fits some of my criteria. Having an open mind, I will listen to it, and always come away disappointed. It is always simple, repetitive, lacks any real musicianship, etc.

Just to sum up, my dislike for rap is purely based on musical content and merit. No other criteria at all enters my judgement. I also put pop, mainstream rock, punk, disco, country at just a slightly higher level than rap, again due to those criteria I mentioned above.

Fun topic

If music is defined by melody, harmony and rhythm, then somebody needs to go tell Bartok, Schoenberg, Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. Because they didn’t care about any of it ( @stuartk )

(I love the dead, but Jerry Garcia is just a folksinger who got lucky)

Here are five songs to try if you haven’t listened to rap or think you don’t like it. Personally, I think a lot of people forget that a lot of rap is funny, and much of it tongue-in-cheek parody. And many don’t really listen to lyrics - structure, rhyme scheme, meter. They just hear the words. And like any art form, understanding context can assist appreciation

This isn’t a “greatest of all time” list.  It’s just a list of good songs that maybe are accessible to a new-comer, and demonstrate some facet of hip-hop/rap worth that is worth understanding 

1) All Fall Down, Kanye West. May expand your mind on the themes of hip-hop. Btw, Kanye literally changed popular music with this album (College Dropout), reintroducing melody and introspection after some years defined by sampling, and then beats.  Bonus track: Breathe In, Breathe Out. So funny, amazing parody

2) Jay-Z, The Story of OJ. Speaks for itself. A song by a 50 year old man, who has seen every side of America (look up who’s providing the backing vocal sample and what they are singing). Sean Carter understands American history with unflinching clarity

3) Ludacris, Southern Hospitality. First, it’s really funny. Second, grab a pencil and parse the rhyme scheme, scansion, form, alliteration, assonance, etc. Chris Bridges is a very shrewd lyricist

4) Missy Elliot, The Rain. Probably the most influential song ever written by a female hip-hop artist. If someone on the thread understands music theory, please explain to us that rhythm. It might as well have come from Mars, because there wasn’t much like it before. Written by Missy and her childhood friend Tim Mosely (“Timbalad”), now considered one of hip-hop’s greatest producers

The Rain also contains the best use of onomatopoeia in all music, at the beginning of the third verse

5) Warning, Biggie. A fantastic example of storytelling in hip-hop.  The song is a journey. And Biggie’s delivery is a good introduction to the concept of “flow”.  The producer, Osten Harvey, is good enough that Miles Davis asked him to produce for him

@mrskeptic + 1 @atlvalet ​​+1 ​@larsman + 1

@jonwatches1 - 'Jerry Garcia is just a folksinger who got lucky'? That's the funniest thing I've read this year so far! 🤣🤣🤣

And yes, I love the Dead too, but I sure ain't buyin' THAT!

 

@atlvalet - I'm 70 and totally enjoy hip-hop, rap, punk, post-punk, etc etc. so maybe all 'boomers' ain't the same, yeah? 

@larsman , ok, maybe I said that for a little effect 😂.  But let me remain sacrilegious and point out that John Mayer is a better singer, musician and songwriter than Jerry Garcia, by, like, 1000%. He’s still not Jerry, nor should he want to be

I’m a musical omnivore and really do think there is great art in hip-hop as well.  And, like all music forms, 98% of it will be forgotten in a hundred years. I mean, who remembers what was #2 on the charts in 1723, or whenever Bach finished his cello suites?

@simonmoon , appreciate the thoughtful addition to the conversation

@jonwatches1 - Hah! Nothing wrong with a little old time sacreligion! Dunno what the criteria for 'better' would be, but not for me he ain't - never mind ballpark; not even the same planet! Gimme Jerry 👍, not John Mayer 👎! 😃

Interesting that Bach was 'lost' for about 150 years, including just about all of the 19th century, I believe, before he went on his 'Last Tour'!