Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Flowtation Device Presentz: "Lose Yourself" verse 1

It's a typographical system for notating rap lyrics! I want it to visually reproduce what you hear, so that it makes sense when you read along to the song. This'll have two ramifications:

1. It'll be easier for jerks like me to learn the songs and annoy our wives.

2. It'll visually organize the song, allowing for technical analysis and appreciation.


CAPS = syllable on beat

small = syllable on offbeat

* = beat without syllable

. = offbeat without syllable

/ = barline separating groupings of (usually) four beats

-- = beat bearing second half of "carryover" syllable (syllable with duration of more than one half beat)

_ = offbeat bearing second half of "carryover" syllable (I'm finding this hard to put into words) (just look at the example)

STRESS or stress = syllable with unusual vocal stress (I still haven't gotten the hang of deploying these consistently)

(parenthetical) = syllable with duration of less than one-half beat; pickup syllable

To experience the system in all its glory, you should play the first verse of Eminem's "Lose Yourself"--starting at 0:54--while reading the lyrics as notated below.

first verse and chorus of "LOSE YOURSELF," copyright M. Mathers, J. Bass, L. Resto, for educational and appreciative purposes only, courtesy the fabulous

* . * . * hisPALMS_(uh) /

SWEATy * . KNEES_WEAK . / ARMS_AREheaVYthere'sVOmit /

ONhisSWEAterALreadY . / MOM'S_SPAghetTI he'sNERvous /

* butONtheSURfaceHElooks / CALM_ANDreadYtoDROP_ /

BOMBS_ * . BUTheKEEPS_ / ON_FORgetTINGwhatHEwrote /

--down--theWHOLE_CROWD_ / GOES_SOloud--heO_ /


KIN'how?-- . EV'ryBODy's / JO_KIN'now--theCLOCK'S_ /

RUNout-- . TIME'S_UP . / O_VERblaow!-- . SNAP . /

BACK . TOreALiTYoh / --thereGOES_GRAviTYoh /

--thereGOES_RABbitHEchoked / --he'sSO_MADbutHEwon't /

--giveUP_THATeaSYnope / --heWON'T_HAVEitHEknows /

--hisWHOLE_BACK'StoTHESEropes / --itDON'T_MATterHE'Sdope /

--heKNOWS_THATbutHE'Sbroke / --he'sSO_STAGnantHEknows /

--when(e)GOES_BACKtoTHISmo / --bileHOME_THAT'SwhenIT'S_ /

BACK_TOtheLABaGAINyo / --thisWHOLE_RAPshitHEbet /

TERgoCAPtureTHISmoMENTand / HOPEitDON'T_PASShim-- . /

YOUbetTERlose /

--yourSELF_INtheMU_ / SICtheMO_MENTyouOWN_ /

ITyouBETterNEverLETit / GO_ * youONlyGETone /

--shot--doNOT_MISSyour / CHANCE_TOblow--thisOPpor /

TUniTYcomes--onceINa / LIFE_TIME_YOUbetTERlose /

--yourSELF_INtheMU_ / SICtheMO_MENTyouOWN_ /

ITyouBETterNEverLETit / GO_ * youONlyGETone /

--shot--doNOT_MISSyour / CHANCE_TOblow--thisOPpor /

TUniTYcomes--onceINa / LIFE_TIME_

In the remarkable and difficult example above, look at the sequence about halfway (starting with "Back to reality") through the verse where every bar starts on the first offbeat. Eminem manages 10 (plus 2 almost) bars of exactly the same syncopated rhythm, along with internal "o" "a" "ee" rhymes and ending "o" ryhmes that rarely repeat a syllable. This is a remarkable achievement, reminiscent of an instrumental soloist who finds a great pocket and rides it for a while as the excitement escalates. Then, look how he breaks the sequence the same way he got in--by placing "BACK" on the one. I am more wowed by his elegance than ever before.

In addition, I now realize Eminem's remarkable knack for making offbeats seem like strong beats (assuming I analyzed the song correctly). I now recognize that Eminem is capable of great legato phrasing, whereas I usually think of rap as a very staccato form. This sort of analysis takes a long time, but it's addictive and the analytical possibilities are numerous.

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