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It’s what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it

November 11th, 2013 by | Tags: , , ,

I like rap. I like the way rap feels.

It’s hard to quantify in human terms, but if you enjoy music, you definitely know what I’m talking about. It’s that thing that makes you nod your head to the bass coming out of somebody’s car, because even though you can’t hear it very well, you know exactly what Slim Thug’s “Get That Gwop” sounds like. It’s that thing that makes you dance a jig across your apartment in the dark, because Icona Pop and Charli XCX screaming “I DON’T CARE!” is super-motivational. It’s that thing that makes you feel momentarily brave enough to try to hit those same notes as Lauryn Hill when she goes “That thing, that thing, that thiiiiing,” even though you’ll never manage it, because you’re just feeling yourself so hard listening to that song. It’s why people get so hype for “Bohemian Rhapsody” at karaoke.

I really like the way “Pre,” the first track on Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, feels. It makes me want to be a part of it, to own it. The beat feels slow and dragged out, like it’s been stretched. SK Laflare opens the song with “Baby girl, what you wanna do?/Hop in this ‘Cedes, girl/She like where we goin’ to/ A new life, new world”. It’s basic, but Laflare’s flow is tight, so full of confidence that I can’t help but get into it. Those bars, and a few more couplets down the line in Laflare’s verse, are what I’m talking about here, that je ne sais quoi that makes you grunt and run it back when somebody gets off a hot line.

Around the time of New York Comic Con last month, one lyric from this song kept running through my head. Earl starts his verse with “I’m a problem to niggas,” which is already one of the hardest things I’ve heard all year. But toward the end, Earl delivers these eight bars:

Hard as armed services, y’all might have heard of him
Escobarbarian, best call the lawyers up
Bruh, the broad aryan, know the squad loiterers
Not with the grain and these bitch niggas’ wishes
Dealt with addiction, fell for the bitch with the
Pale butter skin who just packed up and dipped
In the land of the rent-less, stand with my chips
In a stack and a grin, fuck ‘em

“Bruh, the broad Aryan” killed me. He’s referring to his girlfriend, who is white, and the scansion of that line matches with the first half of the previous line, “Escobarbarian.”

Something about that combo, Escobarbarian and bruh the broad aryan, has stuck with me. “Bruh, the broad Aryan” has a “cellar door” feel, in that it’s pleasing to say and a pleasure to hear. It’s smooth, despite the hard D in broad and snap of the bruh.

There’s an easygoing glide in there that I enjoy a whole lot. I love rap music as a whole, from the culture on down to the weird samples, but I spend most of my time talking about the content of the lyrics. The truth is, the lyrics are hugely important to me, but so are the beats and how the rhymes shake out, the performance aspect of things, what the rhymes sound like. What everything feels like. Delivery and flow are harder to explain, but they’re so vital.

Saying “My girlfriend’s white” is one thing. “Bruh, the broad Aryan” shows a keen understanding of the fact that language can be pleasing to the ear, musical above and beyond the fact that it’s set to music…rap music, y’all. There’s so much to appreciate, so many songs that have moments of greatness lurking just under the surface.

More on Earl’s Doris (and Janelle Monae’s The Electric Lady) here.

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