Monday, September 19, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

I still can't understand half of what these cats are saying, and it doesn't matter.

There was a girl in my neighborhood named Tonya who had the uncanny ability to hear, understand, and memorize Bone Thugs-n-Harmony lyrics. It was downright spooky, because no one in the neighborhood could come close. It was almost as if we were witnessing someone decode some kind of encryption or linguistic algorithm. I found it particularly frustration because I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what these cats were saying.

Listening to it now, I think I've discovered a bit of why Bone Thugs were so indecipherable. The traditional aesthetic of rap performance relies heavily on dynamic syllabic emphasis. Emcees have historically invested lots of performance energy into playing certain words and syllables for a given effect. However, Bone Thugs moved away from that tradition into a style that dissipated the energy of each word and/or syllable, giving them all almost equal weight or importance while keeping stressed words sparse. Thus, they created a vocal sound that became much more about the melodic and syncopative qualities of the lyrics rather than the intellectual ones. When this song was came out, no one had ever heard anything like it.



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