Assignment 18: Engaging with Rap Music

When creating lyrics, one of the first things I did was write down words that others and myself associate with Arizona. Words relating to atmosphere, environment, weather, culture, and lifestyle were common themes among most of the words. Then I must have listened to “Empire State of Mind” on loop about 6 times before I even started writing lyrics. I chose to adhere to an AABB rhyme scheme to make it more entertaining to listen to. I chose to insert only a few blips about myself towards the beginning and end because I wanted the lyrics to more reflect AZ life. Then I just plugged in my buzz words from early and started forming phrases around them. I sort of just “felt” the rhythms and had a loose connection to Jay-Z’s. Every two lines, I would rap it over the song to make sure the words fit well with the beat.

The musical problem I was working to solve was to convey my thoughts and feelings about AZ and sense of place through lyrics over a certain beat. In solving the problem, much like what students would experience, I was faced with several elements to consider. I first had to consider my lyrical content, and the value behind each of my selected words. Then I had to consider articulation and diction. Which words should slur together, and which should be more staccato and disconnected? Should my words be more clear here, or more muddled? How much monotone should I use? Where should I put accents and emphasis? Those are some sample questions I was considering. In this process specifically, I think students would learn quite a bit about creative writing, style (rap), rhythm, diction, articulation, and musical expression. With creative writing and musical expression, students would learn how to bring their thoughts and feelings to life through a written and auditory mediums. Students engaging in this activity would also be more accustomed to the rap style, and its various nuances. Oftentimes students either love or hate rap, and I believe it would show the students who aren’t fond of it how much goes into it and broaden their appreciation for it. Lining up rhythms with a beat is an important skill to have when creating and performing rap, and students would gain more rhythmic opportunities and experiences in such a project. Having to consider articulation and diction when performing lyrics to rap also allows students to more deeply explore those vocal-musical elements.

In order to create and execute this type of project at a high level of quality, one would need to have a solid understanding of the rap style, and be able to identify (aural) and replicate (performance) them. That includes form, tone, instrumentation, lyrical content, and other stylistic nuances. One would also have to have a solid understanding of interpreting accompanimental rhythm and tempo (aural), and being able to express lyrics over that (performance). Having a good ear and being able to shift within chord changes for effect (aural) also would benefit the creation of such a project. Comfort with the creation and execution of a rap song (performance) would also greatly help to do this project at a high quality.

After engaging with this project, I am curious as to how to get shy students in on the performance aspect. As a shy/former shy student, it is terrifying to have to do something alone in class. Even in groups, something as vulnerable as a peer performance of a verse of a rap can be extremely daunting. Besides buddies/groups, and framing it in a different light (such as “poetry set to music”), what are some other options for involving more students to perform, especially the shy ones? In creating their own version of a rap beat, I think students will gain all of the experiences gained in normal rock/pop songwriting experiences, except framed in a different context. The dimensions of music covered will largely be the same (dynamics, instrumentation, texture, articulation, etc.).

“AZ State of Mind” (Verse 1), By: A-Man

Straight outta Scottsdale, though I’m not rich

Middle of suburbia, like without a hitch

We in the desert, all sun and sand

Palm trees power lines, no water all land

Dried up and thirsty, we all want the beach

Here in the valley, all your goals within reach

Cultural diversity, the best food: Mexican

Speaking with others, learnin’ that lexicon

Winter and nights, the weather is better

Throw in some rain, and we’ll feel much wetter

Quenchin’ that thirst, don’t you ever forget

Don’t drink and drive, you know you’ll regret it

Lookin’ for a good time?, hit up Mill

Try to have a good time, it will rain your bills

I enjoy it here, got me some chill friends

I’m not that cool, but here the fun never ends

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