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.




....besides, it's Sunday (well, what's left in EST), and snowed -in into quiet isolation,


....and hopefully not as stressed as our hero in the above.... *G*

....and then, there's just the satisfying sub-stuff stalking about the edges of rap  rhapsody, just because it's meant to played Loud.

Well, you are aware ... their are mort important thingamajigs to be concerned with @asvjerry, than being snowed in ... ;-)


Of course it is. I think if I were to recommend a couple albums to someone making a genuine attempt to appreciate the genre, I’d go with these:

Reflection Eternal - Train of Thought(2000). This is a project Talib Kweli did with DJ Hi-Tek and is pretty palatable to folks who like melody and variety with tempo. He pays tribute to so many musicians who came before him in so many unique ways all over this album.

Nas & Damien Marley - Distant Relatives(2010) Nas is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. This album also has a few songs that are not rap, and the use of real instruments on some of it. The subject matter of the album, and the messages behind it actually puts this in my top 10 albums of all-time. There is just so much to unwrap, and has many lines that I only understood after I took a history of Africa course in college. Maybe pair this album with the book King Leopold’s Ghost to get a better grasp of the lyrics.

This list turned out to be not very "musical" and therefore not very listenable.

  • Slick Rick - The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick (Children's Story is a masterpiece)
  • NAS - Illmatic
  • Outkast - Stankonia
  • Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill

The Kanye, Jay Z, Ludicrus, Missy Eliot, etc are full of musical themes and counterpoint rap that make them interesting.

"Without sounding like I am beating a dead horse, though, my only complaint with rap is of a musical nature. For the most part, it is too simple, poorly played, repetitive, musically trite for my tastes.

The problem I see, for my tastes, is if there ever was a subgenre of rap that fit my criteria for the music I like (high level of musicianship, complexity, nonrepetitive, deep and broad emotional and intellectual content, it would probably not even be identifiable as rap any longer."

No longer identifiable as Rap any longer? I do think the genre is pretty broad. Some cuts are actually sung!

IMHO - Rap sounds better with a philharmonic orchestra playing the music.

That Hilltop Hoods album with the orchestra they did years ago was quite good, and yeah they cover more social issues than most other rappers do.
This Bliss n Eso song is a little more my scene though now.

@avsjerry - Born Slippy, Faithless and many others, I grew up to those tunes.



@dabel , *rotflmao* and nearly having a 'Depends Descent'....

It's best that he's cool with his...'option'.  Just think, you can rent it out...but it'd better stand up for whatever it's applied into...or

Lloyd's of London is your first call after the.....'discovery.'  Ought to be the first thing (...well, perhaps, the Second) to do with the thing....

Funny that you mention such, but it's an 'adult audience' and everyone's' home from church....🙄....or whatever they've 'been up to...' "😏"

To totally derail this thread (Rap? Yes and No co-exist; another cosmic leap. *S*):

I actually found the Very Same Item 'Our...Hero?....ehh) found next to a burnt-out toaster oven.
The one I discovered was hanging by its' cord from a tree in the dog relief area of the complex we were living in.
Imagine my surprise.  "Pennies from Heaven", but this?

Very tempted to put signs out nearby:

Found! 😜

One large purple
'personal item"
No questions asked.
Batteries not found
nor included

(The Brain Police may confiscate the fast....)

@holmz , I totally agree, frankly.  Rap began before the name was made, but it hasn't really interfered with its' evolution(s).  Hilltop Hoods is an excellent example of where the arguments of artistry dissolve....

Sung to the beat, string quartet intro....what's not to love? ;)

Just trying to keep the neurons amused and the onboard pump doing its' own rhythm....


@asvjerry there are not many groups that do the rap songs about retired (pensioners) protecting pole dancers… like the example I posted earlier.

@rixthetrick that esso is good,.. ta

@asvjerry, your posts are enlightening. Glad I could be of some amusement ;-)

@52356, John Gage 4’33 and your post is priceless. Lol! Also, the Bob Dylan that you referred to earlier and the flashcard idea, I couldn’t help but remember INXS and their Mediate music video.

Music to unite, never to divide

@jssmith and @mglik I’m really glad you both gave those songs a listen, even though you didn’t like them very much.

What would be five songs you each would recommend? Things you like but might be off the beaten path - would be great to learn about something I haven’t heard before

I actually agree with a fair amount of what you said in response to those songs (and appreciate the objective content of your comments) - which is why taste is so interesting. Some of those qualities you dislike wind up being things I particularly like in rap (agreed - they aren’t conventionally “musical” & nothing distinctive about the instrumentation/performance - I mostly thought about them as being somehow “accessible”)

(One of my favorite genres for musicianship is southern rock. Holy fxck, those guys could shred. I listen because I love the songs, but it’s a genre where sheer technical mastery and technique are so elemental to its form)

For whatever reason, the closer rap gets to a voice, lyrics, delivery and a beat, the more I respond to it, on balance - maybe it’s the “purity” of what the artist is doing, and listening to how they play with rhythm, rhyme, pacing - vocalizing with/against/without regard to the beat in amazing ways. It’s why I like “Warning” by Biggie so much — those last two minutes are nothing but his voice, two minutes straight

And seriously, would be great to get some recommendations!

Glad this thread has (mostly) turned into a good discussion about music and ideas

Have a great day, everyone


@mrskeptic - Three Feet High n’ Rising is a really special album. They were doing something really different and special. I remember “I be blowin’” as my introduction to Maceo Parker, and a beautiful rabbit hole of exploration

@52356 the John Cage reference is really funny


...rap songs about retired (pensioners) protecting pole dancers… 

...Now, there's a market segment ripe for 'fulfillment'....;) *L*

Monday and it's still quiet out there.....I suspect there's a lot of us snowed into their homes today in AVL environs....spank the alarm, roll over, and drift back into Dreamland...*S*  Impromptu 3 day weekends are rare enough...

@dabel  Glad to be of some version of 'consciousness distortion', and thanks for being the 'straight man' of a off-center poke at everymans' fav toy....;)

"Not detachable, but goes off enough to keep a smile." *G*

*sigh*  I guess I ought to be fractionally productive today, and actually -work- *shudder*

Oh, btw...apologies to rixthetrick and ricmech for confusing both...ric made a comment that I attribed to rix......but I'll be a snot and let you both figure out what i'm alluding to....but, no great shake of the earth involved....

Chalk up to MID.....'Multiple Identity Disease'...the only cure for it is pretty final....

Have a grate day, J

*L* ric & rix, I’m just happy to straighten this out within my fetid mind... ;)

@ricmech23, Yes, my diy Walsh do work surprisingly well, thanks. Low bass gets shunted to a Polk sub, as earlier versions would heat up the voice coils and get the magnets hot to touch.
One of 4 fused the coil...Kapton formers and vented magnets are now SOP.
Still ’under development’, along with titanium cones; still 2-way as you’ve seen.
About 16" tall from base structure to top of hf driver. Have a smaller pair that are used daily as ’puter monitors....*s*

@rixthetrick, just wanted to let you ’in’ on the miscue.... :)

Lincoln Walsh did comment in his patent that he could see his design literally made nearly that large ’for stadiums’ and sports venues. How the ’magnets’ would be achieved...?! They would be unlikely to be ’static’ as in ’normal’ speakers, more electromagnetic as in ’screen’ versions...

I’m not sure I’d want to be next to one...

As for the 2 guys in the pic....the one by the door would be smashed against it while the one at the foot of the steps would be afoot trying to get out of the way of the frame as it lunged towards him. That, and the door opening isn’t tall enough, so they’re screwed from word one....*L*

Geeks being geeks....a, a crane would be a better ’call’ on the task. But the magnet would have sucked up to the machine and made the whole process moot....

...not to mention anything ferrous within a ? radius....or the wattage of the amp to drive it...

Calls to mind a line from a song:

"50 thousand watts of Funky!", and wires the diameter of your forearm....🤪

Cheers, guys...👍
Jerry (Trying to give ’Jerrybuilt’ a positive spin... 😎...)

Most Rap/Hip Hop is poetry accompanied by music. Check out "Poetry Slams" to hear Rap without the rhythm section.

I question the "musicianship" of many rappers. I question whether they can read music, play an instrument, etc. Anyone who thinks these guys are improvising the lyrics is living in cloud-cookoo land.

Hey Jerry!

Is your coded verbiage the way you post on other threads?

Do you have any intention of plain speak any time now?

Maybe I am square but I find it impossible to follow your coin of phrase.

Is this your way of Rapping? Non capisco…

Although, kind of cool…

@denverfred - heya! just wondering what does being able to read music, a vocalist's ability to play an instrument, etc have to do with anything? Plenty of great 'musicians' just bore the crap out of me because they're more concerned with showing off their skills than songwriting. 

But hey, I too am happy that this thread has not devolved into some quasi political diatribe. This is what happened to my several past attempts to start a thread about my desire to understand and enjoy Rap.

Just read that Kendrick Lamar is going into film production with the South Park guys. And I discovered that one of his albums set a record for remaining on the Billboard charts for 400 weeks! That and several Grammys, etc, etc.

And his acting was only criticized for being too “real”.

Clearly, it’s not just me who is a fan.

Just a semantic difference. It's all Performance Art. Theatre departments are beginning to move from classes in "Oral Interpretation of Literature" to classes in "Spoken Word." Adding rhythm and sound effects to poetry is not new.
There is convincing evidence that this combination plus dance was the essence of performance values in ancient Greek theatre (c.500 BC) and continues to feature in popular performance arts of all types.

It's a positive, not a negative, to add music to another art form. Whether or not it confers the title "musician" on the person reciting the poetry is in the eye/ear of the beholder.


Thanks for the response. Maybe you didn’t see a subsequent post. I dug a little further and I actually like a few songs I sampled from Flo Rida. They were musical, had instruments and some singing. Even one song from Nicki Minaj was musical, but just one.

Southern rock huh? I listened to Skynyrd, 38 Special and early ZZ Top growing up, but I couldn’t tell you what’s going on in that genre since the 80’s. I’m principally a metal-head at heart with some tentacles into classic rock, classical Spanish guitar, modern blues, shred, atmospheric rock, a little acapella, and even doo-wop.

Off the beaten path, huh? Metal is definitely off the beaten path in this forum. It’s a genre that you’re either geared to gravitate to, or not. In that regard, it’s probably a little similar to rap. And it’s definitely not audiophile-friendly. I don’t know if you have any experience with it. You’re possibly familiar with Anthrax teaming up with Public Enemy about 30 years ago on a metal-rap song. But I won’t subject you to the more extreme versions of the genre that I prefer, however I will recommend one song that even if you don’t like it you’ll be surprised and entertained by it.

Five songs ... hmmm. It’s important that you follow these specific YouTube links for full effect of what you’re about to see with some of these artists.

Jinjer - Pisces: Progressive metal. Like it or not, you will be "entertained."


"sheer technical mastery and technique are so elemental to its form"

Dream Theater - The Dance of Eternity: The band that immediately comes to mind when terms like that are used. Every member of this band is a master of their instrument, except the singer, but this song is an instrumental. DT’s time signature changes can be a little disconcerting for people who aren’t into progressive- rock, metal or jazz. Their songs can be very complex.


OK, back to "off the beaten path."

My favorite guitarist (I play guitar).

Buckethead.- Jordan (live): Buckethead is likely an autistic savant. His skill level is ungodly. And he has over 300 albums of various styles and genres. Yes, 300. It’s so hard to pick one song because one only gives you a sliver of a glimpse into Buckethead’s repertoire, he’s so diverse, but this is a good start. And you have to see a live version to understand not only the skill, but the mind of Buckethead.

Lacuna Coil - Trip the Darkness: A gothic/alternative rock/metal band. Their album Comalies is actually audiophile-friendly. One of the few well-recorded rock/metal albums. Like your list, this is a band I would list as "accessible" to beginning metal-heads looking into "modern" metal.


When it comes to technical mastery I could list a slew of shredders that have ungodly guitar and compositional skills. Or I could list my second favorite guitar player, SRV, but I’m assuming, even though SRV is blues, if you know southern rock you probably know who he is. And I don’t want to freak you out with metal since it’s likely it won’t be accessible. What to do, what to do? OK, let me give you the guy who, IMO, created shred guitar.

Yngwie Malmsteen with the Japanese Philharmonic: Malmsteen created neo-classical shred guitar (I don’t want to hear from you Blackmore fans). Van Halen was THE guitar god at the time ... until Malmsteen released his first album in 1984 and changed the course of electric guitar. That album is what made me take up guitar. I can’t come anywhere near playing with his speed or accuracy. But neither can all but a handful of professionals. He was heavily influenced by Paganini and incorporated it with rock on guitar. Unfortunately, after his first album he proved not to be nearly as accomplished a composer as a guitar player. But that first album - Rising Force - is great. He spawned a slew of shredders on the Shrapnel label who themselves spawned another slew of shredders. He is the father of shred.

Look at M&M he was Huge and helped change gangster rap which is degrading and vulgar , M&M had his own flair and toned it down and white which was a Shocker I am not much into rap  but a couple CDs were pretty catchy

Jump up And get down. 

I call  Eminem  M&M a game changer from gangsta rap who set his own 

standard and being white a standard ,and $$ 250 million net worth.what  many don’t realize even though  is 

95% of rappers are black,  but much more people of all cultures purchase rap.

@mglik *G* "I come in peace, I mean no one no harm." ;)

It's been rumored there are those amongst us that follow my...'train of thoughts', however derailed it may interpreted by others.

But the suggestion
of an impression
Of the motive
to insert in
an emotive
Tweaks m'brain
beyond the membrane...

*EDM insert*

Sorry...been in some state like this for 70.5 yrs.  A habit that's a bit hard to 'recover' from....

I'll just go sit in the corner with my back to it, and just observe for awhile... ;)

*good natured tease* (nothing more, nothing less...*S*)


But hey, I too am happy that this thread has not devolved into some quasi political diatribe. This is what happened to my several past attempts to start a thread about my desire to understand and enjoy Rap.

It took me a long time to abide it.
If I may make a few suggestions.

  1. There is a wide swath of what maybe considered rap.


Here are some things I enjoy:

  • “The Streets” album “A Grand Don’t Come for Free”. The album is laid out like an opera where each song are the parts of a whole story. And in that sense it is very good. The last song is brilliant with a rewind to offer two ways to end the story.
  • “Immortal Technic” “Mistakes” is a song worth a listen to (IMO).
  • I think group “House of Pain” may be considered rap. And I suspect that a bunch of Irishmen out of Boston also somewhat brought rap towards a larger following

A more recent finding was this: Whether it is spoken word, or rap… well… I am not too sure.


@mglik Stoked that you gave Kendrick the chance he deserves. Curious to know if you have listened to any of his other albums and if so, what you think of them. Definitely check out the album by Anderson .Paak, titled, ‘Ventura.’’ Lots of live instruments used in his recordings, he grew up playing drums and playing at church a lot, hence a bit more R&B flavor to his mix of rapped and sung vocals. He’s even won a couple Grammy awards over the years. 


I just listened to a couple of Kendrick’s videos and want to buy that album that was on the Billboard charts for 400 weeks. Think that was something like M.aad.

The little that I just heard was less complex than “Pimp” but still had a musical thread that evolved and resolved. And his rap is very musical in its rhythmic beat.

Certainly not monotonous.

I too thought of the music of John Cage. Very avant-garde. I think he has a piece that is 4 minutes of silence. And there is much 20th century Classical that stretches the boundaries of what is music.

I really liked the Bliss N Eso. Rap very integrated into a familiar musical structure with acoustic instruments. I would like to hear more of them.

I did listen to all suggested videos and artists. The Elvis Costello was a lot of fun.

In my personal stretching of my musical experiences I have gotten heavily into David Bowie. Had always seen him at arms length as an almost bizarre character.

But now listening to his YouTubes I am drawn to his deeply charismatic vibe and highly sophisticated, progressive work. 

@holmz - I was just listening to The Streets a couple of nights ago - his first album, 'Original Pirate Material' is also excellent.... I got to see him perform here in San Francisco about 10 years ago or so...

I find band Asian Dub Foundation (UK) is phenomenal rap band with big music and arrangements behind. I wish Mac Miller was alive, because I haven't got the chance to see him live.

Style doesn't matter. What matters is whether there's or there isn't music.

@holmz - Heya! No, I've got some speakers and headphones up for sale, but not any TT.... 

Well likely flying through SFO soon, so it seemed good to ask.

I don’t think I will be packing up a TT as luggage though. ;)

@holmz - So selling you my Harbeth speakers would be out of the question then, yes? 😆

Since I originally posted on this thread, stating my dislike for RAP based entirely on its musical merit, I have listened to most of what has been recommended.

I'd like to say I discovered something I deem of musical merit, but it was not to be.

Still the same simple song structures, lack of a high level of musicianship*, repetitiveness, lack of sophisticated arrangements (especially harmonically), etc.

So, please don't stereotype me as an old guy yelling at people to get off his lawn. That is not me at all. 

My only reason for not liking RAP, is, that it lacks complexity, lacks a high level of musicianship, lacks deep and broad emotional and intellectual content (referring to the music, not the lyrics), it is repetitive, it is too reliant on image and attitude, and not substance (again, referring to musical substance, not lyrical substance). 


As said in my OP, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a 🦋 Butterfly” is as sophisticated musically as any music I know. The musical themes evolve and develop including a brilliant rhythmic rap and sound effects that create “deep and broad emotional and intellectual content”. If you check it out keep an open mind and judge it in its entirety. I think you will find it interesting if not gripping. In my superficial and introductory dive into Rap, it is firmly in the genre yet unique.


As said in my OP, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a 🦋 Butterfly” is as sophisticated musically as any music I know. The musical themes evolve and develop including a brilliant rhythmic rap and sound effects that create “deep and broad emotional and intellectual content”. 

I listened to it. I don't hear it. Ignoring the questionable lyrics ...

Wesley's Theory - Sounds like early 70's funk with some simplistic EDM synthesizer added.

King Kunta - More 70's funk. Very repetitive four-chord bass-dominant rhythm. The beat sounds like something from the disco era.

Institutionalized - Fake drums really obvious on this one. Almost no changes on the drum rhythm through the whole song. Very simple keyboards with strange, but not interesting time signature that doesn't fit the rhythm.

These Walls - Here we go with the obvious repetitive fake drums again. The female vocals sound extremely familiar. Expose (the group) maybe? Something from early 80's. Upbeat rhythm is good. Guitar line is extremely familiar too. This song is heavily influenced from something I've heard decades ago, but I can't place the exact song.

u - Decent sax. Repetitive lyrics are irritating. Bass line drags. Weird rap voicing halfway through.

Alright - This is the third song where the sax sounds like a continuation. Again, it's buried in the background. Irritating repetitive lyrics again. Backing chorus adds the flavor this song needs.

For Sale? - Very nice chorus. First song with a more complex bass line. Nice texture added by the synth.


That's enough. Compared to other rap I can see the complexity, but that isn't saying much. There is no technical mastery, except the sax, but technical mastery isn't always needed to make a great song. I don't see compositional complexity either, except for maybe the sax lines and maybe a few of the harmonies.

If we're talking Julliard-approved here and it's considered compositionally complex rap let's compare it to something like 40-year-old Rush - Xanadu. I won't even touch on the technical differences.

I think it's too hard to ask those of us who are used to something like Rush to take a step back and appreciate Lamar. I can appreciate simpler music, but it must be virtuosic, either in technical ability or in composition. But there isn't a bass line on that album I couldn't master in 5 minutes. And I'm not that good. So I just don't see it.

Valid? Just as much as the spoken world pieces our conductor had us do in college in the ’80s. I liked them as much as I do Rap but to each his/her/thon’s own.

I find Rap quickly boring. Then again, I am always drawn the the music much more than the words in any piece. When I was singing, at least for me, the words conveyed the music.

if everyone liked to listen to the same thing, there would be only one genre and that would be a bad, bad thing.

Unfortunately yes it is. I just don’t care for it.

What I really don’t like is how it’s jammed down our throats on the various streaming services. Do we really need another rap playlist?  It's to the level also that if god forbid I search for a rap song just once, the logarithms they have then over value rap as a genre I am interested in. 

@sounds_real_audio - Uh, no - 'Rapture' was not the first rap song; very, very far from it - it was paying tribute to earlier rappers like Grandmaster Flash...  

Seems to me that criticizing hip-hop for lack of 'musical creativity' or whatever, is like criticizing a symphony because you don't like tympani - it's not the point of the music. It's about rhythm and words and the rhythm of words....

@larsman you know he meant the first rap song that was snuck onto the mainstream… (by a blond crackeress.)

Is there any rap that doesn't include some sort of vocal? I say vocal instead of words because I've heard of something called "mumble rap." Can "instrumental" rap exist?

@holmz - Hah! I see so much weird stuff on these forums that I DON'T know that!  🤔  I have no doubt that there are people who think that was the first rap song....I love 'Rapture' - such a haunting melody, and I like Debbie's rap, too! 

@holmz - Hah! I see so much weird stuff on these forums that I DON'T know that!  🤔  I have no doubt that there are people who think that was the first rap song....I love 'Rapture' - such a haunting melody, and I like Debbie's rap, too! 

There is a channel in Australia called SBS (“Special Broadcasting Service”), which airs all the foreign news, and does translation services. It’s sort of like a combination of PBS and NetFlix. The news shows run most of the day, and the evenings are foreign films. Tour deFrance, Dakar, etc.

They have a sub channel called NITV (“National Indigenous TV”) and show a lot of Canadian and US indigenous and African-American programs.
It was only because I saw the show “The Evolution of HipHop” that I knew that.

She was actually a fan of G.M.Flash and I think some of the other groups in NY, like the Fabulous Five (and Fab 5 Freddy).

@holmz - More than just 'she' - as the saying goes, 'Blondie is a group'! 😎 - and Chris Stein writes most of the songs. And Clem Burke is one of the greatest drummers in rock. But yeah, the lyrics in 'Rapture' pay tribute to GM Flash and Fab 5 Freddy, so no surprise there!