How Rappers Use Compound Rhymes to Make Poetry in Music

Finding Compound rhymes (also called Multisyllabic rhymes) in music today is very rare, especially in Pop music. Even where rhyming matters the most though, in Hip-Hop, only very basic compound rhymes appear.

Way back in 1979, “Rapper’s Delight,” by Sugarhill Gang was the first Hip-Hop song to make it in the Top 40s in the US. So the importance of this song cannot go unnoticed, but the quality, and lyricism of the song is just the foundation of what rhyming can be like in hip-hop. Here are some of the most recognizable lyrics from the song:

“Now, what you hear is not a test I’m rappin’ to the beat,
And me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet

The rhymes are at the end of each sentence and you come to expect it after each phrase. But fast forward 40+ years to today and you can see the complexity (some) rappers have now integrated into each line they write. Take a look at these lyrics from one of the best wordsmith’s ever to put a pen to paper:

Andre 3,000, Rapper/Co-founder of OutKast
Andre 3,000's verse, “Aquemini”

This is Andre 3000’s verse from the song “Aquemini,” by OutKast (his rap group with fellow lyricist Big Boi). I highly advise listening to the song because in order for these compound rhymes to make sense, they have to be said in a specific “flow.” As you can see, there are also Internal Rhymes, which means each line doesn’t only rhyme at the end of the phrase. The difficulty with compound rhyming (and internal rhymes) is the limited story telling that can be had while having to focus more on words that rhyme. But here you can tell he is talking about his beliefs, more than just religious, but also giving insight into his mind. He thinks different, only some can understand it, he thinks faith is up to each person, also what if aliens exist too?

The intricacy it takes to put this together makes for a song that is not that much of a club jam. Most people know Andre 3k is a great rapper (also Big Boi from OutKast), but his greatness is usually only recognized by other “Hip-Hop heads.” He’s what one would call, a rapper’s rapper. This is poetry. Carefully crafted to not just sound great, but to be analyzed, thought about, and learned from.

Another example of Compound Rhymes, comes from a more underground rapper, but yet again, another “rapper’s rapper.” This poet (rapper) is Royce da 5'9″, and the song we’re looking at is “Not Alike,” by Eminem ft. Royce da 5'9″. Take a look at the rhymes below:

“While these dudes tryna figure out how to do a freestyle as fly as me, I’m confused trying to figure out how to do Kapri Styles and Mya G“ — Royce da 5'9”

Almost word for word rhyming “a freestyle as fly as me,” and “Kapri Styles and Mya G.” These two bars were hard to catch while casually listening to the song, however. While Andre 3000 made it a point to rhyme triplets throughout the verse, Royce took the more traditional approach of just backing up the end of the line to rhyme more than once, instead of “Rapper’s Delight” saying beat and feet.

In the end, Compound Rhymes cause a rapper to have to take more time on lyric writing, with usually little recognition from the casual music listener. Great artists like Royce and Andre deserve to have their poetry shown to the masses, instead of the few Hip-Hop heads that drool over this type of writing. Hip-Hop is, in my opinion, the smartest musical genre there is, yet it can also be the dumbest, most nursery rhyme music ever created, too.

I/we applaud you two lyricist, and thank you for sharing your words with us.

Originally published at https://suchansuch.com on March 19, 2021.

--

--

Words, words, words.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store