The Anatomy of Hip-hop Music

“Hip-Hop is what makes the world go round,” according to Calvin Broadus Jr., also known as Snoop Dogg. Hip-Hop is a genre of music birthed in inner-city New York, the Bronx to be precise, in the late 1970’s. Hip-Hop’s style is forever changing and emerging, but the anatomy of a good hip-hop song starts with a catchy beat, meaningful lyrics, and an amazing title to bring it together.

From the works of producers like Dr. Dre, the RZA, Pharrell Williams and Timbaland, hip-hop fans have learned the importance of a good beat, rhythm, and melody. The beat, rhythm, and melody are the first thing to draw in the audience. No matter the style or the audience, the very first sound of the beat, melody, and rhythm are the most essential element of a hip-hop song. An example of this is in Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, his strongest way of captivating the audience, besides his raw and real lyricsim, is the drop of the first beat. For example, in his song “Poetic Justice,” he samples Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place,” a beat that is familiar in his audience’s demographic. This is just one of the many ways a beat can be used to make a great hip-hop song, but the oldest way and most common way besides sampling, is breaking out the turntables and mixing a beat from scratch. The blueprint and the one every producer aspire to be is Grandmaster Flash. He is the godfather when it comes to making a beat from scratch and artists still reference his work from the seventies into today’s works. An example of his amazing works captivating the crowd comes from a performance of his famous song “U Know What Time It Is,” which is bound to always get the blood flowing and pumping in a crowd. The beat determines the audience’s energy and mood, making the beat the first stepping stone into rafting a hip-hop song.

In hip-hop, lyrics tell the artists stories in the most artistic way possible. The common misconception about hip-hop lyrics are that they reflect how much money the rapper has or how many luxuries he can afford; however, that is not the case as lyrics are used to tell the artist’s story in an imaginative way. Many hip-hop artists write about their lives or the harsh realities that living in the hood bring. Rappers such as 2-Pac, Ice Cube, and Lauryn Hill are all examples of rappers using their platforms to expose the brutalities they had face. 2-Pac famously wrote and memorialized Latasha Harlins in his song “Something 2 Die 4,” stating,” Latasha Harlins, remember that name, because a bottle of juice ain’t nothing to die for.” An even better example is Ice Cube’s “Dead Homiez”, which entails the killing of young, innocent black men in inner city neighborhoods, specifically by white officers. The most meaningful lyric being, “Cause I’m in a suit and tie, they killed a homie that I went to school with,” lyrics such as those are the ones that help the audience relate to the artist while telling their story to the masses who refuse to acknowledge the injustices going on right under their noses. Lyrics are the most important part of the hip-hop songwriting process as they essentially make the song for what it is and what it will be.

The last part of the anatomy of a hip-hop song is a memorable title. All the great hip-hop songs have amazing titles because the title brings the song to life and the project together. A good title makes the very first impression on an audience, essentially personifying the message that’s being rapped about or alludes to the feeling the song will give. An example of a good title is “Keep Ya Head Up” by 2-Pac, which displays the message of the song out front and give a good feeling to anyone who’s listening to it. “The Lord is Coming” by H.E.R and YBN Cordae is another example of a title being personified as it alludes to the lord is coming and the injustices of the massacre in Sudan. Another key essential step is to try not to make the title to lengthy, as it’ll be too long for the average person to remember. Most artists these days are akin to giving titles short names or even turning them into acronyms. For example, rap group BROCKHAMPTON, is known for giving their songs one-word titles like “BLEACH” or “GOLD,” making these song titles easier to remember. Naming a song is a small but significant part of the process, but either makes or breaks the project into a hit or just another track that goes to the vault.

In conclusion, the three essential parts of a hip-hop song are the beat, lyrics and titles. Each of these three items hold weight in the process of developing a song, and the song just cannot be created without them. Without these three items, they become meaningless tracks that go the vault or become just another meaningless song to hit the charts.    

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