Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Flowtation Device Presentz: "Lose Yourself" verse 2

Here it is, folx! I heard your clamorous cries! This may be my favorite verse of any rap song ever, what I refer to in my head for obvious reasons as the "O" verse of "Lose Yourself." (May be my favorite--these things are not set in stone or otherwise documented.) The string of "O" rhymes is staggering. Analysis to follow, but first--remember the key!


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 second verse of Eminem's "Lose Yourself"--starting at 2:00--while reading the lyrics as notated below.

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

* . * . * . * soul's / --esCA_PING_THROUGHthis / HOLE_THATisGAP_ING_ /

* thisWORLDisMINE_FORthe / TAK_ING_MAKE_MEking /

* . ASweMOVE_TOWARD_ / A .* newWORLD_OR_DERa /

NOR_MALlife--isBOR_ / INGbutSUPerSTAR_DOM'Sclose /

--toPOST_MOR_TEMit / ONlyGROWS_HARder * . /

HOmieGROWS_HOTterHEblows / --it'sALL_OverTHESEhoes /

--isALL_ONhim * coast / --toCOAST_SHOWS_HE'Sknown /

AStheGLOBE_TROTter * lone / --lyROADS_GODonLYknows /

--he'sGROWN_FARtherFROMhome / --he'sNO_FAther * he /

GOES_HOME_'N'bareLYknows / --hisOWN_DAUGHter * but /

HOLDyourNOSE_CAUSEhere--goes / --theCOLD_WAter * these /

HOES_DON'T_WANThimNOmo' / * he'sCOLD_PROduct * they /

MOVED_ON_TO(THE)next--schmoe / --whoFLOWS_HEnose--dove /

--andSOLD_NAda * and / SOtheSOAP_OP'raIStold /

--itUN_FOLDSiSUPpose / --it'sOLD_PARTnerBUTthe /

BEAT_GOES_ONdaDAdum / --daDUM_DAdah

My favorite sequence comes near the end at:

"they / MOVED_ON_TO(THE)next--schmoe / --whoFLOWS_HEnose--dove / --andSOLD_NAda"

Besides revealing Em to be the most Jewish rapper since Paul Barman (whose prospective subjection to this analysis gives me pause), this line breaks the repetitive beat pattern he's set up for much of the verse. Abstracted, that beat pattern looks like this (where _ is a syllable off the beat, -- is a syllable on the beat, * is a rest on the beat, and . is a rest off the beat):

* _ -- . --_--_ / * _-- .--_

Huh? (That looks a lot like my Dad's handheld electronic football game, circa 1982.) As in:

"--he'sGROWN_FARtherFROMhome / --he'sNO_FAther * he /

GOES_HOME_'N'bareLYknows / --hisOWN_DAUGHter * but /

HOLDyourNOSE_CAUSEhere--goes / --theCOLD_WAter *"

It's a pretty swingin' pattern! And then, in my favorite sequence above, he extends the pattern by inserting an extra measure ("he nose dove and sold") before the final trochee of "NAda." This is tricky stuff. Eminem inhabits his beat as confidently as any great jazz instrumentalist. Immediately after he's thrown us off a little bit with the displaced "NAda," he reels us back in, resuming the same pattern and parodying the pattern in the process:

"and / SOtheSOAP_OP'raIStold /

--itUN_FOLDSiSUPpose / --it'sOLD_PARTnerBUTthe /

BEAT_GOES_ONdaDAdum / --daDUM_DAdah"

That wordless "daDAdum / --daDUM_DAdah" functions on three levels. It completes the rhyme with "NAda" and "PARTner" and all the corresponding words that have come before. It completes the lyric about how "the beat goes on," how in life you can't tell a new story because it's all been said before and even our mundane lives wind up feeling like parodies of fiction. AND it abstracts the beat pattern that Em's been using throughout the verse. It's a purely musical moment that allows Em to wink at his audience and let us know he's placing us back into familiar territory. If it's not already clear, I LOVE THIS SHIT, when lines serve all sorts of purposes at once.

Of course, I guess lyrics usually serve some sort of "meaning + sound" function simultaneously. Rarely, though, do they revel in the simultaneity. Often in Dylan. (Kyle, remember at that Maynard Ferguson concert when I told you Eminem was the new Dylan? This is why.)

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