I’m an avid fan of rap music. There’s so many different styles to it these days. For me, growing up in the south, I have to like and feel comfortable with southern rap. Usually, not always, southern rap is more about the delivery than the content.
About 2 years ago i was talking to Bret Lowery (President of Megastar Records) about mechanics of rap. Bret used to be a recording artist signed to MCA. And his manager was Eric B from “Eric B and Rakim” . So, needless to say, he was around some of the greats on a consistent basis.
Well, more than anything, I thought lyrics were the most important part to being an MC. After talking with Bret, I learned that there are 4 major parts that define an incredible MC – Lyrics, Cadence, Delivery, and Storytelling. After he taught me that, it opened me up to a whole new understanding of rap.
Now, Eminem has always been a favorite of mine, but I never really considered him the greatest rapper. He has always been lyrically genius, and comical as hell. And of course we all know his storytelling abilities from his major successful single “Stan”.
But, I’ve been listening to him more and more often over the past few years and going back to previous albums and listening to his earlier content, and I must say that he has grown into THE BEST MC OF ALL TIME…. at least in my mind. I know, big statement…. I usually make big controversial statements, but I always have something to back it up with. In fact, let’s move right long into the big controversial statement… I think Eminem’s latest album Recovery is THE BEST RECORDED RAP ALBUM OF ALL TIME.
First and foremost, the album has a complete delivered message from beginning to end. Every song discusses how hard it’s been for him to deal with the things in his life the past few years and furthermore discusses details about the effect the death of his closest friend had on him.
He also admits that during these times, he released a couple albums that, according to him, weren’t good enough. Of course he has a few tracks that discuss his ability as an MC, and lyrically takes you from A to Z without thinking about it.
Second, Eminem has completely mastered the art of Delivery! For example, in the song ” Seduction” on the second verse, he says
“I’m the logo on that Dallas Cowboy helmet, a star
And I’m not about to sit back and just keep rhyming in one syllable, nah
Switch it up and watch them haters not give it up, cause they’re just not good enough
But I’m not giving up til I get my respect, and I won’t stop til I get enough
Cause I’m not living up to my own expectations, aww “
If you pay close attention to this line, he chooses which words to accent very carefully. It’s not about just the lyrical content… it’s about everything at once. Same thing in the song “25 To Life” at the end he says “Fuck you hip hop, I’m leaving you, my life sentence is served.” The emotion that is put behind that is so honest and real. I believe him whole heartedly.
There’s no point to discuss the lyrical portion of the 4 major components. Listen to ANY Eminem song, you will see the amazing genius at work.
Now let’s talk about my favorite part of all the components. The part that i believe to be the TRUE factor that separates him from everyone else…cadence. If you are unsure of what cadence is, cadence is the rhythm, or melody on how you are rapping.
So for example, if I were to show you in 8 counts like a dancer… whole counts would be
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8…
Half counts would be:
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8
Triplets would be:
1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a 5 and a 6 and a 7 and a 8 and a…
And lastly quarter counts would be:
1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a 5 e and a 6 e and a 7 e and a 8 e and a ….
Now in music terms these are discussed with different terminology. They are 8ths, 16ths, 32nds, and 64ths. These are known as time signatures in music.
This is Eminem’s bread and butter. Most, if not every other MC, stays within a certain cadence on each verse. It doesn’t change much. Eminem rarely stays in the same cadence on any verse on this album. Every verse switches and moves from 16ths to 32nds and 8ths. It’s quite amazing to witness how he can constantly keep you entertained with the ability of cadence.
The crazy thing about it is most of us don’t even realize it unless you’re really starting to pay attention to it. It’s THAT good. All you know is that you’re constantly entertained, and you can’t explain why. Time for some examples, and I have a lot on this one.
In “No Love” with Lil Wayne, listen to his verse. First, he changes the cadence when he says “I’m a little bit sicker than most, shit’s finna get thick again” than again which is amazing when he says ” But I’m afraid it ain’t gonna make no difference when I rip the stage and tear it in half tonight.”
So essentially he goes from 16ths to 32nds to 64ths and back to 32nds all in a matter of seconds. I could probably give an example for every single song on the album, but perhaps I should just show you my favorite cadence change in the album that solidifies his position at the top for me.
In the second verse of the song ” Unkown ” he says ” Google it till it pops up, y’all are so muthaphuckin full of shit you get stopped up ” go listen to how he changed the cadence entirely in the middle of the verse. Ridiculous, not to mention that almost every time the cadence changes, the delivery changes as well.
These are the signs of a great MC and this is also why i believe this album is the GREATEST RECORDED RAP ALBUM ever !
Please keep in mind this is only my personal opinion, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I challenge you to show me an album that embodies the 4 elements of a master MC better than this one.