So… You Think You Can Rap?

Impact's MC Tasha explore's the lyrics and dishes out some important advice on what to look for in modern music

Ask yourself, when you listen to music, do you really listen to what the artist is saying? Can you hear the technicality of the internal rhymes as they’re rapping, and how they’ve mastered that against the beat, as well as using play on words so smartly, that they’ve managed to tell you a story and teach you a lesson all in one go?

If the answer is yes, then hats off to you, I’m fairly impressed. But, if not, that’s what I’m here for.

Before Biggie, or Jay Z, it was all about MC Rakim. Rakim ultimately changed the rap game. He introduced mutli-syllabic rhymes, internal rhymes and so many ways to play with beats in a bar to express anything, and so many rappers after him used this within their own style. Why? It’s simply a brilliant and poetic way to be, that’s why. Here’s an example:


‘Say indeed and I’ll proceed ‘cause my man made a mix

If he bleed he won’t need no band-aid to fix’

Eric B. Is President

Eric B & Rakim


Here, you can see how he’s internally rhymed ‘indeed’, ‘proceed’ ‘bleed’ and ‘need’ as well as ‘mix’ and ‘fix’ which adds depth to the rap. But, there’s something more remarkable about Rakim, as later on he says:


‘The party is live, the thyme can’t be kept in-

Side, it needs erupting just like a volcano’


Rakim deliberately makes the term ‘inside’ not fit into the first bar, to physically show how his rapping is so good, it can’t be kept inside the bar — he’s literally moved the word,  to illustrate how he intends to move the crowd with his rap. It’s genius.

Tupac has carried his legacy within his own work, but has created his own mastery within it.


‘Why shed tears? Save your sympathy
My childhood years were spent buryin’ my peers in the cemetery’


Tupac and Scarface


Here there’s an internal rhyme of ‘tears’, ‘years’ and ‘peers’ but the multisyllabic rhyme within the line of ‘my childhood years’ and ’buryin’ my peers’ as well as the AABB rhyme scheme holding the entire structure.  But Tupac uses it to relate his struggles to us. How he tells us his story, how he grew up with his friends dying, and how this was the only way youths were recognised in his time — through gun crime and death, that was his life and rapping is his way of coping and living — yet we’re out here crying over something that really isn’t too much of a big deal?

Nas is another phenomenal rapper of the 90s.  Within ‘What goes around’ he speaks of how rappers and gangsters gloss over the world of drugs, idolising it, misleading youngsters and teaching them the wrong things through their rap, and talk him down for trying to convince them otherwise:


‘Rappers only talk about ki’s, it’s all poison

How could you call yourself MCs? You ain’t poison

Think about the kids you mislead with the poison’

What Goes Around



He plays on the word ‘poison’ to indicate drugs, as well as using it as an insult the other rappers, and uses it as a praise to himself, who uses his insults (poison) to reveal the truth behind the lies they tell in their raps, indicating that they aren’t worthy of the bars (poison) that he speaks.

Joey Bada$$ with ‘Land of the Free’ in his latest album ‘All Amerikkkan Bada$$’. The entire song speaks of injustice and corruptness that Bada$$ sees in America, and he does this by using play on words, such as in the line:

  ‘Three K’s, Two A’s in AmeriKKKa’


The 3 ‘K’s’ referring to Ku Klux Klan and White Supremacy America has recently faced, and does this to speak for those who are too afraid to have a voice. He is a prime example of someone who recognises that everything we say or do is something that is going to influence the next generation, so how can we expect a change in our world if we aren’t setting that very example for the generation that comes after us?

Logic’s release of ‘1-800-273-8255’, whose title is the number of a National Suicide Prevention Line, wrote this song as an outlet for people who feel weighed down and want to end their life. The song is structured as a phone call between a person contemplating suicide and the receiver helping them get out of this state — an example of how the lyrics and structure of a rap can create generate an effect can be seen over the 4,573 phone calls made to a suicide prevention line within just one day of the song’s release.

My point?

Rap has, and is, changing our world. It’s these artists that bring back and introduce those messages, in such poetic and genius ways. Whether it is mental illnesses, political injustice, education, recognition — it’s about influencing us, helping us and warning us through their experience. It’s these artists, the artists that I haven’t mentioned, artists that still haven’t made it, who have this talent, a raw and authentic quality about them, which speaks to us. That’s who you should be looking out for and listening to when scrolling through Spotify or iTunes. Not those rappers that stick to a trio beat flow, repeating and mumbling the same word over and over for 3 minutes straight.


These rappers may be under the radar and not have the name,

but they’ve definitely got the game and aren’t just looking for fame.

-MC Tasha

Natasha Manohar

Featured Image courtesy of The Come Up Show via Flickr

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