I recently had a great conversation with a young up and coming emcee. While talking about our latest projects and having a brief listening session I pointed out some things I noticed in his rhyme schematics, delivery and flow that I have always consciously or subconsciously analyzed in the rappers I have liked or disliked.
Which got me thinking. Why do we like certain emcees more than others? What makes one rap verse better than another? And what makes an emcee great?
I believe there are 5 things that make an emcee stand out and set them a part from the rest of the crowd.
1. Their ability to tell stories
Usually the story is their own but even when told through the eyes of someone else they have an ability to paint vivid pictures of details and emotions that translate and ring true. This is something I believe Lecrae is doing so well at right now. Christian rappers have often been dull. Preaching at you instead of to you. In essence, Bible-Bashing. In my eyes what Lecrae has done is elevate Christian hip hop by telling you his story. And his story is an interesting one. Most people have interesting stories but how you tell them makes a huge difference.
If you think you don't have an interesting story then learn to tell other peoples stories.
2. Their ability to make it rhyme
It's one thing to be able to tell a story. It's another thing to make that story rhyme. Rhyme has that sticky ability to make something new sound true and stick to you like glue. That's why we Love Dr. Seuss.
Legend has it, that when rapper Rakim use to write his rhymes he would draw a line down the middle of the page. And when he got to the line he would try to make the words rhyme. This helped him perfect his internal rhyme style that made him famous. And also added a new flavour to Hip Hop.
3. Their dedication to the craft
Continuously practicing what they do makes them formidable even on their worst days.
When Tupac was in the zone he would write 3 songs a day. Even writing while he was on the toilet. Jay Z use to read a rhyming dictionary every night.
4. Their desire to connect
Most have a strong desire to connect with their audience which make them really good at breaking down barriers to your heart and mind. Making you feel a personal connection, even though you may have never met them in real life.
I have never met Eminem, but through his music I know that his daughter (who he loves dearly) her name is Hailie, His Ex-wife's name is Kim and they have a love/hate relationship. He has battled drug addiction and can be painfully insecure. So basically, he is a human being trying to make the most out of life and therefore we can connect with his tragedies and triumphs.
5. Their boldness to constantly ship
"Great artists ship." it may not be perfect but at least it was put out there for the world to see. Instead of fading into obscurity.