Understanding raps.

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by aaqucnaona, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    I recently have developed an interest in Eminem [dont worry girls, I am available] and I love his raps. His voice, especially brought out in Love the way you lie and Not afraid is indeed good.

    But I have a problem. How the hell am I supposed to make out the words and understand them? I can handle most accents [except jamaican/black] and neutral [news, documentaries, commentators] accept is a breeze. But I simply cant catch more than 50% of a rap. Whats worse [actually better from a art perspective] is that most raps have a good amount of subtext.

    So how do I make out the words, understand them and enjoy the song?
    I would so not want to read the lyrics and remember them every time I listen to a song.
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  3. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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  5. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    @Ct - Thanks for that link, but is there something I can do? Reading lyrics and listening to the song a few times works, but that doesn't really help me understand or make out words when I actually listen to a rap [especially new or amateur], which is what I have in mind.
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  7. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    On most sound systems, one has considerable control over the audio and can adjust the volume, bass, treble and mid-range to emphasize the elements you most want to hear.

    This hasn't worked for you?

    Sometimes headphones are helpful, and speakers also make a huge difference in sound reproduction.

    I understand what you are saying, though, and that is also my complaint with some music. I want to be able to hear the words. I'll look up the lyrics, though, because once I know what the words are supposed to be, it seems to help my ear learn to pick them out in future. :shrug:
  8. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    Art isn't supposed to be understood in one sitting.

    But honestly, lyrics are usually the last thing I hear in a song. I'm a musician and tend to listen to the musical elements. Which is probably why I usually find rap to be uninteresting.
  9. Imperfectionist Pope Humanzee the First Registered Senior Member

    If you don't understand it you just aren't cool enough, that's how that works
  10. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    That is why I posted the link to the lyrics site. It will at least let you see what the actually lyrics are so that you can understand them even if you can't hear them when they are being "rapped". Rap is a music unto itself and does take allot of time to understand what it is they are saying and what they mean. I feel that by studying what the lyrics are at least I have a "grasp" of what they are trying to get across but sometimes I still am confused. :shrug:
  11. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    Words and expressions that one may not use in their own everyday conversations can be hard to make out in music or raps. That's why looking at the lyrics, even just once, will aid one's comprehension and improve one's ear, at least in my own experience.
  12. Shogun Bleed White and Blue! Valued Senior Member

    Lemme guess, you watched 8 Mile?

    They WERE good until they got overplayed

    Lol I know what you mean by "you are available"

    Kim (Gave my nightmares the first time I heard it)
    Space Bound

    Here are some of my favorite Eminem songs:

    When I'm Gone
    Like Toy Soldiers
    Lose Yourself (Best Ever!)
    Till I Collapse
    Cinderella Man (Fav atm)
    8 Mile

    Eminem pronounce most of his words properly and end his words unlike most rappers. You just have to get used to the beat, speed, and articulation. I've listened to rap for a long time now, I still get it wrong sometimes, because he sometimes changes the "tone" of the words to make it smooth and make it rhyme.

    Eminem is actually easy to understand in contrast to most rappers. BoB and Eminem are probably easiest to understand.

    Listen and get used to it, over time you'll start understanding.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Interesting comment. I'm much too old to be a rap fan and I've never lived within ten miles of the milieux they rap about, but I have no trouble understanding the lyrics.

    Is it the accent (pronunciation) or the dialect (vocabulary and grammar) that confuse you? There's a lot of urban slang in rap lyrics; not only might you not know the specific word they're using to describe a thing or an activity, but you might not even have any idea what the thing or the activity is! Much of it is in AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) dialect, which has many grammatical quirks as well as a specific accent, and quite a few words of its own.
    I'm not sure what you meant by that. AAVE is quite different from Jamaican English. It's quite possible to understand one and not the other.
    It should be. That's American Standard English, a fusion of the Los Angeles and New York accents of the 1940s and 1950s, when virtually all radio and TV shows were produced in Hollywood and Manhattan. As every home eventually got a radio and TV and there was 24-hour programming, children learned English as much from broadcasters as from their parents, so regional accents began to soften. When I was a kid in Chicago it was very difficult to understand somebody from Alabama. No one from the South could have ever run for President: 3/4 of the country couldn't understand his speeches. Today the difference is minor. The same is even happening to the British/American divide. I found it almost impossible to understand the dialog in British movies in the 1950s, but then Monty Python, the Beatles and Masterpiece Theater came along, while at the same time they were getting all of our movies, music and TV too. So now there's not so much difference between Standard American and RP.
    You make rap sound rich and dramatic. It's not much different from mainstream rock'n'roll. Rockers are not all Sheryl Crow and rappers are not all Eminem.
    It's like learning another language: it just takes time and perseverence.
    Read the lyrics while you're hearing the song. Do that a few times and then the next time you'll remember it. Do that with a few songs and the vocabulary, grammar and accent will start to sound more familiar.

    Play the songs on YouTube, that way you can play one several times, and start and stop it. I suppose you'd need two screens, one for the YouTube video and one for Lyrics.com.

    Oh wait! There are a lot of YouTube clips that display the lyrics instead of the video. Look for those. Just type in the name of your song plus LYRICS and see what you get.
  14. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    You just have to spend a lot of time listening to rap, and eventually you'll get good at tracking the lyrics. Part of it is learning all of the various slang and cultural references (both of which feature very heavily in rap), part is familiarity with accents and styles. Eminem tends to go pretty fast, but also enunciates very clearly, has a vanilla accent, and sticks mostly to well-known pop-culture references. A lot of rap makes heavy use of references to earlier (and more obscure) hip hop recordings, so it can be easy to get lost until you've spent a while listening to the genre and built up your knowledge.

    When I started listening to rap I could barely follow any of the lyrics (mostly listened to the production - Bomb Squad for life!!), but after a few months I found I could follow tracks I'd never heard before without any trouble. These days, I find it strange and amusing that many adults (like my parents) simply cannot discern what's being said at all, while other groups will not have the slightest difficulty following all of the lyrics the first time they hear them.
  15. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    My message to the audience when my bid for Karaoke King goes badly.

    (Every Wednesday night at Jim Bob's 10-Pin BBQ and Disco. Be there or be a square.)
  16. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    Its sensory priming - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priming_(psychology)

    This vid is intresting, it discusses satatnic words in backwards songs and how priming affects their audiblity- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T_jwq9ph8k
  17. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    @ Fraggle

    Its the accent, the dialect is not a big problem. The accent would be ok too but raps make words faster and their pronounciation changes as per the rhyme and rhytum.

    A few questions [off topic, but not worth making a thread]-

    1. In this song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5-yKhDd64s&ob=av2e
    You can hear eminem speak in his normal voice and between lines "before I lay 'em" and "you ain't take" his normal "rap" voice kicks in. What exactly is the difference?

    2. In his "bagpipes from bagdad" he pronunces Bagdad as "beg dead" not the way its supposed to sound locally "Bug daud". The same thing happens for many middle eastern and south asia words when westerners say them. Why is this so? {Then there is this, politically incorrect or maybe just funny - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrNBVUzN464}

    3. I dont know anything at all about linguistics per se. Any basic introductory book you can suggest?

    Ok, so continuing,

    My point was that I have mild trouble with heavily accented english.

    I have hardly listened to any other rapper than Eminem and I have heard much of any rap either.

    I guess so, I am new to raps, after all.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  18. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    No, I am downloading it now.
    Btw, Till I collapse was the first Eminem song I heard [in the MW2 promo] and then Love the way you lie and not afraid convinced me this guy was worth listening.

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