Monday, February 27, 2012

All About The Beat

I am as big a fan of hip hop beats as I am of rap and hip hop vocals themselves. Whether other hip hop fans share my opinion or not, there is obviously a strong connection between vocals and beat on just about any track. However, whether they mesh well or contradict each other is another story (Nate Dogg?).

For anyone else who has ever thought or wondered about the kind of impact a beat has on rap lyrics, I decided to put up a side-by-side comparison of Yung Joc's "It's Goin' Down" with a remix of the track by mashup duo The White Panda. The track starts with the instantly recognizable synth riff of Owl City's "Fireflies" before the rap intro starts with producer Nitty introducing us "to another motherfucker out my squad...go by the name of Joc." Already there is a disconnect*; it grows further especially during passages such as:

"Catch me in the hood posted at the sto
Pistol in my lap on the phone counting dough
If a girl choose let her do her thang
Just like her mama nice ass, nice brain"


"If ya got a problem say it to my face
We can knuckle up any time any place"

The Owl City sample is perhaps the polar opposite of Nitty's original beat: innocent and full of poppy synths and bell chimes. The first casual listen to "Fireflies Goin' Down" gives the listener that impression as well, until he or she really pays attention to Yung Joc rapping about how much swag he has--at that point the song just becomes comical. Anyone else have similar or opposing thoughts on the relationship between beats and vocals? What kind of value do remixes and mashups like this have in the hip hop community, if any?

Song links:

Yung Joc - It's Goin' Down (original)

The White Panda - Fireflies Goin' Down (Owl City vs Yung Joc)

*Props to White Panda for a mashup that is fun to listen to, albeit doesn't make much sense from a lyrical/musical perspective.


  1. I never really thought of connecting the beat and the words in this way. You bring up an interesting point. In my opinion, the beat makes the song. if the beat is bad, then the song is almost always bad as well. The beat is the first things that draws the attention of the listener. for this reason I think mesh ups or sampling of other beats is a good thing because I like to hear how somebody knew added their own style to a familiar beat.

  2. Rhythm and lyrics are created for a particular song, however, so many rhythms have the same beat, (i.e. 125, 130, etc) that the lyrics can be switch out onto different rhythms rather easily. Yet just because a lyric can fit another rhythm does not necessarily mean that it should be placed there. There are two pretexts that it must pass.

    First, the rhythm and lyric must sound good together. What is music if it does not sound pleasant to people's? White Panda's mash-up of "Fireflies Goin' Down" passes this test. The rhythm and lyric fit well together; there beats match up. Another example of this is DJ DoYou's remix, "Stuntin Like Mufasa" where the lyrics of Lil Wayne's song "Stuntin Like My Daddy" are placed to the rhythm of the Lion King's "The Circle of Life." Once again, this song passes the first test, as the rhythm and lyrics sound great together. If the listener did not pay close attention to the words, the person might think that the two were made for each other.

    This however leads to test two. The rhythm and the lyrics must make sense together. This is where many mash-up's fail. White Panda's mash-up at first glance sounds flawless together, but upon listening closer, the listener realizes that it makes no sense for the rapper to be singing about violence, money, and sex to an innocent and light rhythm. The same can be said for "Stuntin Like Mufasa." It is ridiculous for Lil Wayne to say:

    "Can't see you lil niggas, the money in the way
    And I'm, I'm sitting high, a gangsta ride blades"

    while the melody to "The Circle of Life" from the Lion King, a children's movie is playing. If the listener listens closely, these lyrics do not fit with the melody as is the case with many other rap mash-ups.

    Other than simply enjoying the song, displaying the common beat that listeners enjoy, and showing the talent of the masher, these mash-ups do not serve much of a purpose.

  3. Couldn't the point of the mash-up be comedy? Couldn't that make sense?

    To say that if you listen close to Stuntin like Mufasa "the lyrics do not fit with the melody" and that they don't "serve much of a purpose" is simple-minded. For one, because Disney made people think African music is "children's" music, doesn't mean that entertaining wholesome children is the only appropriate use for it. But that's beside the point.

    Making sure the music matches the rapping in tone and content is not the only way to do a song. What about when Jay-Z used a sample from Annie? Surely that served a purpose.


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