I think it’s safe to say, or that most people would agree, that the bulk of rap lyrics only “work” when (for lack of a better word) rapped. If you read them like prose or try to say them the way you might say some other sort of lyric, they sound odd.
I think this is because of poetical expectations. Most English speakers expect lyrics to rhyme the way “cat” and “hat” rhyme. This is, if I recall correctly, called a perfect rhyme, but the name is rather prejudicial. In any event, most rap lyrics seem to employ instead the sort of rhymes that I think are called slant rhymes: they match the vowel sounds, but not necessarily the consonants. (e.g. In his song “The Monster,” Eminem rhymes “cake,” “ways,” and “inflated”) In regular prose this is called assonance, but rappers are clearly intending to rhyme the words rather than just repeat the sound. Thus, when they rap (for lack of a better word) they speak in such a way as to accentuate the common vowels.
I’m aware that this is interesting to about five people on the planet, and that the odds of those people reading my blog are slim. It also might be entirely wrong. I’m a middle aged white-man whose primary experience is with a bunch of writers long dead before rap music was ever envisioned.
But if someone else finds this interesting, and if that person also knows more about the subject than I do, maybe that person can help me answer this question: Why is rap the way it is?
Well, okay, that sounds rather more judgmental that I intend. I don’t mean it in the way I might ask, “Why is this bookshelf so messy?” It’s more like saying, “I think there’s a story here, and I’d like to hear it.”
It’s the same sort of curiosity that turns documentaries into an addictive substance. My family used to joke that if a documentary were on the television, any of us who walked through the room would be unable to leave.
It’s also the same sort of curiosity that makes online encyclopedia’s dangerous. Sure, as a kid I would sometimes read regular encyclopedias, but there are few things more wonderful than an encyclopedia with hyperlinks.
Ok, again I admit that about five people on the planet would agree with that last statement. You have to start asking questions about your life if you ever utter a clause that includes, “there are few things more wonderful than an encyclopedia….” Luckily, if you’re the sort of person who might utter such a sentence, you’re probably the sort of person who doesn’t mind asking questions about your life.
Curiosity begets curiosity.
I could probably turn that into theological point about being created to enjoy an infinite God, enjoyment which perforce must involve exploration; or I could say that exploring creation is honoring creation and its creator; or something about diversity of knowledge. And there I just did. But my real point today was to ask the question above: why is it that rap lyrics seem predominantly to employ slant rhymes?