Rap Loopholes

12 March 2011

In the beginning, rap was all about lyrics; beats were simple and image was secondary. The following song exemplifies this aesthetic, and is, in my estimation, the finest display of lyricism in the history of hip-hop:

In today’s rap world, however, lyricism seems to be taking a backseat to production and fashion; consequently, more and more artists are resorting to what I call “rap loopholes.” According to my observations, there are three such loopholes:


Quasi-rhymes are the alchemy of hip-hop, whereby a rapper tries to make two words that don’t really rhyme sound like they do. For an example of the technique, as well as modern rap’s emphasis of style over substance, I present Pittsburgh’s finest emaciated stoner, Wiz Khalifa:

Wiz, we get it: you smoke weed. How about fewer shots of your bong and more actual rhymes? In case you’re unclear on the concept, the following word pairs DO NOT rhyme:

honest/call it

This is some weak sauce, and there’s no excuse for it. There are many options available to the lyrically challenged rapper: he can have someone else write his rhymes, rip some verses off from another artist, or employ one of the following two loopholes, which, despite their dubious artistic merit, at least involve technically genuine rhymes. Which brings us to…


Perhaps the most well-known and most commonly used rap loophole, spelling words out has served as a crutch for unimaginative lyricists since the birth of hip-hop. The fact that seven letters (B, C, D, E, G, P, T, Z) rhyme with one another as well as many words enables mediocre rappers like Dr. Dre to make virtually any two words rhyme. Consider the following verses:

It’s the muthafuckin’ D-R-E
From the C-P-T
On a rhymin’ spree
A straight G
-“Let Me Ride,” The Chronic

From Eazy E to D-O-C to D-P-G
All started from that S-O-B, the D-R-E
-“Big Egos,” Chronic 2001

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of Dr. Dre, and both of the albums above are absolute classics, but this is some seriously lazy shit. Dre should stick to producing, at which his skills are unparalleled, or at the very least have more talented rappers write his lyrics for him, as is obviously the case in songs such as this:

3)Rhyming a word with itself.

Unlike spelling words out, which is essentially unique to hip-hop, rhyming a word with itself has been a technique exploited by poets and musicians of all genres.  I already pointed out an instance of it in the lyrics of hack “poet” Jim Morrison in this blog’s most read entry. Only in hip hop, however, do we find this device (and just about everything, for that matter) taken to its logical extreme. Back in 1998, Juvenile broke new ground when he realized that he could write an entire song simply by ending each line with the same word:

If you can understand even 25% of what Juvenile says in this song, you should consider a career in linguistics. Nonetheless, it’s apparent that there are very few rhymes in this song. Juvenile subsequently stepped up his game with this classic, in which he cleverly replaced the word “ha” with the word “yeah”:

What a great video; fantastic beats, plenty of ass-jiggling, and hood rats instead of models. This song also includes more legitimate rhymes than does “Ha”; in fact, here I’d argue that Juvenile is applying Euclid’s Second Axiom, which asserts that equals added to equals are equal. In rap, this means that if “wood” rhymes with “hood,” then “wood, yeah” rhymes with “hood, yeah.” You’ve got to hand it to Juvenile for overcoming his lack of talent by discovering the rap loophole to end all rap loopholes.