Recently, I was discussing Lil Wayne with a couple of people and I said that I didn’t care for him much as a rapper. I was asked why and I replied that his rhymes struck me as infinitely stupid. One of the people I was talking to quoted a Lil Wayne lyric to me and asked me if it was dope. I said no. Then the other person said I wouldn’t understand why Lil Wayne was dope because I’m not a hip hop head.
This statement annoyed me for several reasons. One reason was because it represents the kind of hip hop elitism that I’ve encountered time and time again as I’ve worked in various aspects of entertainment industry. However, this annoyance was short lived because it is what it is from that perspective. Every type of music has it’s elitists who think that unless you’re a die hard fan, you couldn’t possibly get it.
Another reason that this statement annoyed me because when it was made, I never got to say why I can’t really get into Lil Wayne as a rapper. My opinion was dismissed because I am a self professed R&B chick. I grew up listening to R&B and nothing makes me feel better than a well written song with a great melody and hook sung by a fabulous voice. However, as I thought about the conversation, I realized why I don’t think that Lil Wayne is that dope of a rapper.
The huge majority of his rhymes are metaphor and I’m not impressed by it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do applaud Wayne for taking the time to get his bars up. He has definitely grown as a rapper from his early days at Cash Money until now. However, I would like for him to revisit the drawing board and step his bars up some more. He did it once and I’m confident he can do it again. Yes, using great metaphors is a wonderful way to rap and it represents a level of creativity well above those rappers who only rap about sex, drugs, money, clothes, cars, etc.
However, there are so many other literary tools a rapper can explore with his rhymes that if all you can do is one of them, I will quickly get bored with hearing you rap. Not only can a rapper use metaphor, he/she can also use similie, onomatopoeia, story telling, rhetoric, quotations and alliteration, to name a few. In my opinion, rapping only using metaphor may sound good but it’s like eating fast food. It tastes good and will quell your hunger but it’s not something you should eat all the time. You have to balance a great metaphor with things like a compelling story or some interesting alliteration.
With books like Decoded by Jay-Z being written and courses that delve into the deeper aspects of hip hop and rap music, I just ask that emcees approach the process like a writer creating a piece. Whether you write all of your raps down (or type them in your smartphone) or you go off the top of your head, be thoughtful with your words. Read some different types of books and expose yourself to different styles of written communication.
I really enjoy it when rappers like Jay-Z and Andre 3000 freestyle because you can really hear them choosing their words in their flow. It is possible for hip hop to be intelligent and thought provoking while creating wonderful imagery. There are many rappers who do it. I’d love to see more.