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.


Trading Places

24 December 2008

Dan keeps bugging me to write.  The end of the semester and exam week really did me in — I’m tired, irritable, and more than a bit burned out.  I’ve been doing nothing but playing Left 4 Dead and Castle Crashers for an entire week, bugging the living shit out of my friends (I don’t own an XBox 360).  I’m like the Tyrone Biggums of video game consoles.

I want some Castle Crashers.

Joe Rogan, this is not the first time I've tasted penis for some Castle Crashers.

Alright, so enough of this shit and onto today’s topic.  When I’m in the car, I listen to whatever contemporary pop Hip-Hop station I can find.  I do this for the chuckles — there’s nothing a Hip-Hop singer won’t sing about soulfully (clubs, bitches, getting head, not finding any seeds in your sack of weed, the list goes on).  Not to mention, I like to keep up on the most recent slang. 

Recently I heard the song “Trading Places” by Usher.

Apparently, it’s a red-letter day in the Usher household.  Why, you ask?  Is it an anniversary?  Did his girlfriend get a promotion?  Did Usher just beat Left 4 Dead on expert-mode?

Nope.  Tonight, Usher’s girlfriend is going to fuck him from the top.  That’s what the song is about.  That’s what “trading places” refers to.  She’s going to fuck him on top, and this is such a rare occurrence that he must commemorate its passing with song.  

That’s not where the ridiculousness of the song stops, however.  Apparently men and women don’t act the way they do because of genes or some stupid shit like culture and society.  They act the way they do based on who fucks who on top, according to Usher.

Once his woman does him from the top, let’s examine his resulting behavior:

I’ll be waking u up to a cup of Folgers 
Pancakes and eggs I owe ya breakfast in bed, oh baby 
And your orange juice sitting on the coaster 
Toast on the side baby strawberry and grape jelly 
You finished let me get that drink, 
Pull the curtain from the window 
Time to get up baby let me make this bed up 
Today we going shopping blow 30 on me 
Make it 60, spend it like u really love me 
Skip dinner and we gon rent a movie 
You order chinese food right before u do me 
You coming on strong baby let me wash me hands 
She said hurry up then get your ass to bed 

We get the point.  Usher’s doing the things his girlfriend normally does.  However, there are a few questionable things about this passage.  First of all, if you needed any more evidence that Usher is gay, he’s putting the orange juice on the coaster.  I mean, I understand that he’s supposed to be acting like the woman in this song, but keep in mind he sat down and wrote (or read) the lyrics at some point.  

Second of all, Usher is giving his woman Folgers.  FOLGERS.  Come on man, you’re USHER.  Cough up $20 and get a fucking grinder for crying out loud.  Folgers?  Folgers!?

(yeah) Wash the car 
(yeah) I’m gonna walk the dog 
(yeah) Take out the trash 
(yeah) With nothing but your t-shirt on 
(yeah) I’m gonna press your shirt 

This shit is just beyond the pale.  Keep in mind he’s not doing these things for his woman because he loves her, but because of their particular spatio-temporal relations during sexual intercourse.  

I understand that a white guy commenting on Hip Hop is at best stupid and at worst inappropriate.  But then again — I have ears, don’t I?