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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hip hop was a genre founded on lyrics. Bad lyrics in a hip hop song are more detrimental to a song's quality than any other genre. It is less ambiguous than rock and r&b, doesn't rely as heavily on melody as pop music. There's always the debate about "How it's being said vs What's being said". Content vs delivery. Rap, in it's self proclaimed golden years had an excellent mixture of both. You had supreme lyricists saying things that weren't only important to the culture of rap, but things that could be applied on a universal scale to people from all walks of life. Rappers who could take an exclusive topic (the concept of bragging. The rapper is a very important topic in hip hop) and make it interesting for other people. Rappers who could structure words so masterfully that you might mistake them for poets. They could tell stories about their lives so well that the listener felt like they were almost a part of it.


I'm not saying that in order to be enjoyable a rapper has to socially conscious. My favorite example to use is OB4CL by Raekwon. On the surface it seems to be an album that your typical hip hop hater would use to justify their demonzing of the genre. Shallow content. Drugs, women, money and guns. What is the value of these things? To people who appreciate the genre however, this album is generally regarded as a classic. Held in the highest regard, it is essential listening for anyone who considers themselves a serious hip hop fan. Why is this? Because they appreciate the culture. Hip Hop was founded on lyrics as I said earlier. And where were those lyrics founded? In the streets. What will you find in the streets? Drugs, guns, an aspiration to stack paper, and a heightened appreciation for fine ass women. This album speaks to all those people. And it will continue to speak to people as long as ghettoes exist. And they will. Forever. There lies the value of the lyrics. It can be applied to a culture. So, you say, if you make an album centered around those topics you will have created something timeless? No. Because even though the debate is often Whats being said vs How its said, it really shouldn't be a debate. Rappers should strive to say something in the most masterful away possible. Why sacrifice content for rhyme scheme? Why say "I was going to walk to the store but it's too cold outside", when you can say "I had made an attempt to journey over to the local market, but alas the frigid weather prevented me from participating in this task"? Both get their point across. It's easier to see which one has a better grasp on the language though. Raekwon and Ghostface are masterful lyricist in the hip hop genre. Now we're finally at the main topic of this thread. What seperates good lyrics, from bad lyrics? Can someone be a bad lyricist yet still be a good rapper?

I'll answer the latter first since it won't take as much effort. Yes. Not everyone who picks up a mic is a gifted writer. There are two whole sub genres that nowadays are full of MC's who are so insanely average at the actual lyric writing process that it's shocking. Trap rap, and weed rap. Rappers in these two sub genres rely exclusively on delivery. If you were to take the paper they wrote their lyrics on and read them in your head you'd prolly scratch your scalp more than a couple times, left wondering how this could possibly be good. Deep down, I think the rappers who make up these subgenres know they aren't good writers. It's good that they do. It allows them to focus on putting other qualities into their music that makes it redeemable. They focus more on the atmosphere they create with their lyrics. Delivering their words with expertise, trap rap in an attempt to hype their listeners up, and weed rap in an attempt to sooth the listener. If the rapper has accomplished this, then their job is done. Should they ever be called elite, considering they are so miserable in an important aspect of rap? No. But they are listenable and can offer a nice change of pace.


Now, what seperates good lyrics from bad lyrics? Some time during this century, rappers stopped caring about what they were saying and focused exclusively on how they were saying it. I don't even have a name for this subgenre. You can't even use the same excuse as trap and weed rap because these rappers are actually consdiered lyrical by quite a few people. These rappers are trademarked by their genericness. It's not blog rap, because the blog rap golden child, J. Cole, is a pretty content heavy rapper. Literally their is no name for it. These rappers focus heavily on rhyming words rapidly. They are one trick ponies. They seem to be devoid of the ability to say anything meaningful. A good part of the time they are faux intellectuals. Someone who tries to come off as deep in their music but once broken down, they are doing nothing more than stringing metaphor after metaphor together with no clear direction. The other times, they focus solely on rhyme scheme. A great rhyme scheme can enhance a song, but never can it make a song. It's that simple. Sometimes these rappers combine both of the aforementioned traits. That is when it's really bad. I'm not biased though. Just because a rapper has good content doesn't make up for a lack of skill. Lil B is renowned for his positive content but he lacks the ability to convery a clear thought.

To explain what good lyricism is I must first explain what I believe lyricism to be. To me, good lyricism is a combination of a few things. First and foremost it is the ability to use techniques to explain a thought, wether it be their viewpoints on life, how they're feeling today, telling  a story, or themselves. Second, it is the ability to speak to people, challenge the normal thinking process, and structure words in a way that they can be applied to people from different cultures and in some cases even be applied on a universal scale. In rap there are probably only around 15 or so masterful lyricist.

One of my favorite recent rap quotables

Man, no wonder our lives is caught up
In the daily superstition
That the word is bout to end
Who gives a f-ck? we never do listen
Unless it comes with an 808
A melody and some hoes
Playstation and some drank
Technology bumpin soul

-Kendrick Lamar


For a genre founded on lyrics it is quite disheartening to see how far it has branched off from actually being about lyrics. Who's fault is it? The consumers? They are the ones who decide what's hot and what's not. Is it the rappers? If you push something hard enough and oversaturate the consumer it will stick. Perhaps a combination of both. People will say their are plenty of talented lyricist in the game today. It's not shocking that a majority of those lyricist came up in the 90's and we're smart enough to be able to remain relevant to this day, through creating timeless pieces of music. Lyrics that will stick with us forever. It's a shame that it appears that so few rappers nowadays seem to lack that same drive, instead hopping on whatever trend is the hottest at the moment and letting the consumer dictate them, instead of them dictating the consumer.

Thanks for reading.
 

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Man, no wonder our lives is caught up
In the daily superstition
That the word is bout to end
Who gives a f-ck? we never do listen
Unless it comes with an 808
A melody and some hoes
Playstation and some drank
Technology bumpin soul

-Kendrick Lamar
wow this makes no sense
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Kreamtorious said:
execution > content

doom rapping about bullshit > logic or any other wack ass emcee trying to be deep
If a rapper can mix execution with content tho :work:

But if I had to have one or the other, it'd be execution, as long as it's not generic. DOOM is one of the most creative people in hip hop.
 

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There was a lot of thought put into this post, props. I wholeheartedly agree with you. The execution of a song often catches my attention, but the content of the song is what keeps my attention. If a song is void of content, I will eventually forget about the song and move on to the next attention catcher. If a song has very good content, however, I can often bypass the execution all together and listen to the song for the years.
 
G

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Kreamtorious said:
execution > content

doom rapping about bullshit > logic or any other wack ass emcee trying to be deep
Agreed. Think about how little Ghostface makes sense on Supreme Clientele or how rarely DOOM does on Madvillainy. It's just that their delivery is fantastic.
 
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