Almost any beginner rapper knows how difficult it is to construct quality rhymes. To be a killer emcee there is a lot of work that goes into it: You need to find complex rhyme schemes, use stylistic devices, have relevant references (and the list goes on !) However, with these tips, you can get started on your journey to being a good emcee.
Have Rhyme Book: Everyone remembers that iconic scene from 8 Mile where B-Rabbit like an alien is jotting down rhymes in the back seat of a bus. Well guess what….it really helps !Be creative and try to rhyme as many words as possible. When you have a strong ammo of rhymes you can use, constructing verses is one step easier.
Break down multisyllabic words and find corresponding simple words that rhyme with each part. This opens up a wider pool of diction you can use in your raps. For example Stockholm (Stock/Holm > Chalk/Board, Rock/Thrown, Stock Bones)
Emulate your favourite rapper: For me personally, the greatest wordsmith ever is Eminem and I routinely study his flow, cadences and rhyme schemes to understand what makes his songs such killer concoctions. Eminem has a way of bend rhyming to make loosely rhyming words bend and fit perfectly in his schemes. Here are some songs that I feel really highlight his rhyming skills : Infinite, Sing For the Moment and Rock Bottom. These songs have a much slower flow than his current ones and are easier to follow. Find yourself an emcee that you really admire and breakdown their verses to see what you like about them or what makes them really unique.
The suspense rises as rapper/producer, ILL Tone announces that the music video to the title song of his latest EP, Up in My Head, drops tomorrow. This weekend, I had the opportunity to interact with him via an email interview and got a sneak peek into what the MC had going on in his mind.
You recently released an EP titled, ‘Up in my Head’, what inspired you to do this project? What message do you intend to convey with it?
Originally, I meant for the EP to be a full length album, but I relapsed while working on it, after having been clean from drugs for more than two years. I was so messed up that I couldn’t keep the project organized. I was trying to make the beats and write the raps, and was planning to engineer it myself. Around half the songs I’d been working on were centered around chemical dependency, so I decided to finish them off and to scrap the rest. Many of the verses describe my battle with mental illness and substance abuse, but also my journey to overcoming these obstacles. Am I Good Enough (one of the tracks on the EP), a testament to the self-doubt I felt while struggling, was a late addition. It was produced by a friend of mine, Dylan Sterling, who is now deceased.
You additionally announced that you are releasing the ‘Up in my Head’ music video on Wednesday. How do you feel about that and what are the responses you are hoping for?
Pretty stoked to release the video! It was shot and edited by Clicks by Klauss. He’s doing a lot of work on Vancouver Island where I live, and rightfully so. He’s a beast. I’m happy with his production. We’re gonna push this out to thousands of people and hopefully reach some new ones along the way.
I love the tracks in the EP and one particularly stood out for me: ‘Clubs n Drugs’. For me, it was a song with stellar punchlines and it also highlighted your ability to switch and rap in different cadences. More importantly, I know the song comes from a special place as you did have a bad relationship with drugs before and came out of it. What was that like?
It’s no secret that live music and substances, particularly alcohol, go hand in hand. It was always difficult for me to exist in the hip hop scene as a live performer while trying to abstain. When I’m in my shit, I’m a man of many vices. Back in the day, I relied heavily on chemicals to get loose. I thought they enhanced my ability to hype a crowd. Since cleaning up again, I’ve learned that I was lying to myself. I’m at my best without all that stuff. Everyone else can do as they do, but I, too, will do as I do.
You have also headlined for some really proven and tested MCs ( Some may even call them GOATs) for eg. Talib Kweli, Xzibit and Rakim to name a few. Did you have a chance to interact with them? What was that experience like?
Actually, when I opened for the three MCs you just listed, I didn’t get the opportunity to interact with any of them. Those were great shows, though. Xzibit, especially, brought a pretty ridiculous live set. I rocked that opener with a huge Movember ‘stache, which was hilarious. I did, however, tour in Europe with the Beatnuts and got to know them pretty well. Solid dudes. JuJu and Les were really cool and the tour was a lot of fun. Back when I was living in Vancouver, I hopped on a lot of bills with a lot of legends and often got the chance to chill. One night, I slayed a soundcheck with Tha Alkaholiks, I met Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and was once schooled on some shit by Fredro Starr from ‘Onyx’.
On a recent post you mentioned that, when you opened for Xzibit, some individuals passed some inquisitive looks to you because you don’t fit the image of a rapper to them. But as you proved your lyrical capabilities, all judgment was forgone. The irony is that currently, we have a set of rappers (loosely defined as ‘mumble rappers’) who look real thug but don’t add lyrical value to their raps. On the other hand, there are generic-looking MCs who are lyrically amazing. What do you think of this direction in which hip hop is heading: a direction in which imagery is valued more than the craft of MCing.
Oh man, I think it’s ridiculous that sounding and looking as ridiculous as possible has become what some people consider “ridiculous”. I used to say, “That shit is ridiculous!” when something was crazy-lyrical or whatever. Now I find myself saying, “That shit is ridiculous,” when something’s actually just ridiculous, as defined in the dictionary. I’m not too in touch with what’s happening these days and I’m sure that good rappers still exist, but some of what I’ve heard is just objectively terrible. And just for the record, nobody judged me too hard on that occasion.
Do you have any other projects in mind ? What might they be about ?
Well, unfortunately, I’ve got a legal thing that could result in me going away for a while, but I’ve got another EP fully written and ready to record. It’s my best material yet. Planning to sit on it until shit blows over. And there’s a second new EP in the works that flows as a story about the exact situation that I’m in currently. I don’t wanna give too much away!
Any closing comments you would like to add?
Major thanks to everybody listening and major thanks to all the people in my network who have been helping me stay clean and sober. Without my supporters, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I’ve been doing. To my family, too, I love you.
To learn more about ILL Tone please visit : ILLtone.bandcamp.com
For latest updates about the rapper and his music follow him on:
“I would like Arts, Entertainment and Music to be part of Vancouver’s COVID agenda. To work towards something we can do safely as opposed to something stopped completely.”
Bo Henrik, a Vancouver-based RnB artist, alongside many other street performers, is challenging the City of Vancouver’s ban on busking by bringing (the proverbial) it to the streets. The demonstration will be held on Oct. 2nd and instead of raising picket signs, these artists will perform live in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery from 3 pm to 6 pm.
Social distancing and street performances
As of Sept. 8th, the City of Vancouver declared a “temporary” ban on street performances and busking due to “public health and physical distancing requirements”.
Henrik challenges this idea by sharing an instance of how he and his band had successfully organized safe and socially distanced live show events. During the summer, Henrik and his band had toured all around Vancouver and Kelowna where they had performed a total of 20 outdoor live shows. “We did those shows very safely, we ensured social distancing the same way other business or other events that are safely held right now are. We made sure people used masks, hand sanitizer, and stayed six feet away from other groups.”, says Henrik. He goes on to add that there was not a single case of COVID 19 from busking events and it is hypocritical to open restaurants, bars, and schools and at the same time ban street performances.
Live Performances vs Social MediaLive-streaming
Henrik says that the difference between performing live shows on the street and performing live on social media platforms is big. “[With Busking] it is very clear whether or not people like it. Either people stop [vibing to your music] or they don’t.”, says Henrik, “ It is a very genuine thing. It is very grounding.”
When it comes to livestreaming, Henrik says that it is a good platform where an artist can experiment with his craft and be a little more intimate with their audience. They can share things that they traditionally would not. “But what livestreaming does not offer is a feeling of togetherness and a human connection you get from experiencing live music with other people.”, says Henrik “and to get that feeling of connection […] you don’t need to be too close. You can do it safely.”
Artistry too is a profession that is affected by COVID 19 as the shutting down of clubs led to a massive lack of gigs available.
Therefore it is imperative that we support the idea of busking as it adds innovation and creativity to Vancouver’s music scene and more importantly it is also an alternative source of income for these affected artists.
Kr$na releasedhis latest single Say My Name on Monday, Sept. 14th where he provokes Muhfaad and Emiway to ‘say his name’ instead of sneak dissing him. This song is not just a battle rap reply to his competitors but it also highlights Kr$na’s acumen and his smarts in the rap business.
Kr$na might just be the key for Desi Hip Hop to gain international recognition. There is one simple reason for this: Kr$na can rap bilingually. Apart from Brodha V, he is the only mainstream rapper that uses complex rhyme schemes while rapping in English. Most importantly he makes sense!
Emiway too has previously rapped in English and has impressive collaborations with western artists like Dax and Macklemore. He does have a unique voice and sound but he still cannot appeal to western audiences as there is still a language barrier. Moreover, when he tries to rap in English it sounds like syllables are thrown around to make rhymes work just for the sake of rhyming. It sounds completely non-sensical and lazy.
Kr$na on the other hand did something revolutionary in Desi Hip Hop. He released Say My Name in both languages, Hindi and English. He is aware of the advantage he has over his peers and by creating two versions of the same song, he opened himself up to a much wider audience. Subsequently, highly acclaimed Youtube reactors like No Life Shaq and Scru Face Jean took notice of this English version and made reactions to it. With this, Kr$na has tapped into a whole new audience. He is now seen by the same people who watch reaction videos of songs by Eminem, Royce da 5’9, Yelawolf, Jay-Z etc. To some degree, he has gone beyond the Desi hip hop scene and is competing in the international arena. It is needless to say that this was just pure marketing genius.
I for one believe that this is a well-thought-of chess move on Kr$na’s part and by doing this he sets himself apart from his competition.
Tell me what you think in the comment section below, can Kr$na get international recognition for Desi Hip Hop ?
A summary of the ‘Laws of Human Nature’ by Robert Greene
Law # 2 Transform your Self Love into Empathy
Premise : All of us lie somewhere on the scale of narcissism. We constantly seek the rush that comes from people paying attention to us. In a way it makes us feel worthy.
Dilemma: There is only a finite amount of attention one can dedicate towards someone or something. The ‘attention’ shown towards you exists only for a moment and people largely do not care after a certain point.
Solution: To cope with the scarcity of attention available, people form images of themselves early on. It is something they can latch on to when they feel some sort of inner turmoil. Understand where does each person (that you are dealing with) lie in the ‘narcissistic’ spectrum and in turn you will get a better understanding of the image they create. (Greene, 2018, pg. 42 – 43)
Tips for Mastery:
Know the narcissism spectrum and where you lie on it.
Deep Narcissistsoperate at one end of the spectrum. They lack a coherent sense of self or ‘image’ to latch onto when faced with turmoil (a.k.a they lack self-esteem). (Greene, 2018, pg. 43)
Functional Narcissists are at the halfway mark (most of us belong to this category). At this point, there is some degree of narcissism involved but there is a coherent sense of self to latch on to.
We must achieve to be Healthy Narcissists. These are people who are scarcely affected by the ‘hits’ of attention they get. They do not rely on it and can recoil quickly from tumultuous situations that prick their ego. (Greene, 2018, pg. 47 – 48)
We must strive to master both, Visceral and Analytic empathies. Visceral Empathy is an attempt to understand the emotion that influences people’s intentions. On the other hand Analytic Empathy is to use data from speech, body language and other external factors to analyze and dig deeper. You need to analyze enough to get an insight into childhood trigger points of the person. It is based on the fact that people’s emotions leak into speech and expressions.
Work towards developing these empathetic skills.
Interact with more people. More people = More data.
Pay attention to ‘direct feedback’ and ‘indirect feedback’. Direct feedback is when people verbally confirm or negate the ‘thoughts’ or ’emotions’ you guessed. Don’t ask them explicitly for feedback but be skillful in your approach. Indirect Feedback is from the rapport you have built with the person. The more ‘comfortable’ they are around you, the more proficient are your empathetic skills. (Greene, 2018, pg. 50 – 53)
A summary of the ‘Laws of Human Nature’ by Robert Greene
Law # 1 Master your Emotional Self
Premise: Everyone believes they are rational but people are guided by their base emotions (i.e ‘hunger for power, attention and money’) as it soothes the ego. This is known, as what Greene (2018) defines as, the Pleasure Principal.
Dilemma: Human beings have to focus on something. They have a need to worship and direct their energies towards some object and for most people it is their ego.
Solution: Try not to focus on the ‘ego’ but on Nous.
Nous as what I understood is the natural order of things. It is the universe in its most absolute and factual form. It is the world when we do not look at it through the lens of emotions. (Greene, 2018 , pg. 19)
Tips for Mastery:
Know the types of irrationality. Greene (2018) describes Low-grade irrationality as one that stems from the subconscious impact by moods and emotions. They are responsible for most of your biases. He defines High-Grade irrationality as one that results from an aggravation in emotions. It makes you excited and reactive.
Know to what extent you have these Biases:
Confirmation Bias: We tend to look for evidence that supports our existing beliefs.
Conviction Bias: If your belief in something is strong, it must be true.
Appearance Bias: What you ‘see’ is the absolute truth.
Group Bias: The belief that you are not impacted by your social spheres or groups. The misleading thought that all your beliefs are formed on your own accord.
Blame Bias: The skewed belief that you actually learn from your mistakes. In reality, one’s ‘introspection is limited’ and blame sways towards ‘circumstances, others or momentary lapses of judgment’.
Superiority Bias: The belief that you are more rational and ethical than others. (Greene, 2018, pg. 29 – 31)
Understand Trigger Points from Early Childhood. When pressure is applied on a trigger point it inflames the emotion and results in high grade irrationality. Learn to step back (either literally or mentally) and dig deep into the reactive feeling you had. It helps if you record it in a journal.
Understand your experience with Sudden Gains or Losses. Unexpected gains boost our ego and make us repeat a mantra that might not exactly work and a sudden loss might induce an irrational fear in us.
Look out for pressure moments. Only in a high pressure situation does one’s true nature ooze out. Most of the time, people conceal their true identity with a mask. Look at how you operate under stress. Learn to master your ‘mask’ in a moment of intense pressure and see how people act in these moments.
Watch out for inflaming individuals. These people have a ‘larger than life’ image and trigger powerful emotions in others. See through this mask and understand the reactions they bring about in yourself and others.
Understand how your vision, emotions and behaviour changes with different groups you hang out with.
Accept people as facts. You can’t easily change their beliefs. Treat each person like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle; you have to figure out their strenghts and ‘rough edges’.
Increase your reaction time. Try to take couple steps back, calm down and then formulate a reaction. A helpful tip is to role play with yourself how you would react to particular situations. (Greene, 2018, pg. 32 – 40)
If you have walked through Vancouver and have not seen this man, you aren’t a true Vancouverite. Moreover, if you have seen him but walked past him, you aren’t a real hip hop stan. From producing to rapping, this man is making massive gains in the hip hop community and I had the opportunity to have a quick chat with him.
Sam Chimes is a Vancouver based hip hop artist who represents the genre in its rawest sense. He is a rapper/producer who operates with the ethos of an entrepreneur. He owns the Sam Chimes Production Team that aspires to bring a new wave of positive consciousness into the genre.
Positive Consciousness in Rap
From N.W.A, in the late 80s and the 90s, to Griselda today, hip hop hasn’t had a dearth of ‘gangsta’ lyrics. In an era where the imagery of ‘being strapped’, ‘cockin’ gats’, and ‘taking shots’ are prominent tropes, Sam chips in with pure positivity.
“The message I am trying to put forward is ‘live your dreams, don’t back down’”, says Sam. He says that the journey in achieving success is never easy and it can get difficult sometimes but that he would never back down. It is that energy, that he wishes to translate into his music and moreover to his audience.
He says, “As artists, we can be giving out energy but it is another thing to know how to harness that energy and recycle it.”
Rapping, Producing and Current Projects
Sam explains how rapping and making beats are both conducive to his growth as an artist. He says, “One of the things I want to do, which I am gradually going to get more into is making a full song. You know like, writing, making a beat …. and then working on my execution.”
He has recently undertaken a new project, Beat a Week, where he produces a new beat and releases it every week. The beats are inspired by the best and the worst times he had experienced while on World Tour and he is eager to share those feelings with his fans. “So I have gone through two world tours”, says Sam, “I had many experiences through them. The best and the worst of times …….. I want to get these concepts and put them into the music that I make.”
He also adds that street performing and reaching out, face to face with his audience, is a huge part of his marketing but due to the COVID pandemic and the restrictions that followed, he found more time to hone the craft of producing. He says that nothing deters him from moving forward. “I feel like there is my ‘physical’ point of view, where there are these things that I can’t control like COVID but then there is also my ‘God’ point of view. At any given time I feel like I’m always in the right place at the right time”, he adds.
Apart from the Beat a Week, he is also currently working on a project titled, Livestream of Consciousness. He says, “Think of it as a channel. And within channels we have programs. The first program is the pilot and my pilot was the one-year celebration of my music video. At another time we would have the promotion of something else.”
Black Lives Matter and the recent incidents of police brutality
With the recent events surrounding racism and police brutality, Sam addresses how the Black Lives Matter movement has impacted him. He says, “I think that it is a good thing this [the BLM movement] is happening …. I am very grateful for the awareness going out.”
He goes on to say that it makes him nervous when ‘everyone’ is participating in the movement as he feels that not everyone has a ‘good heart’ at one time and that there is always a ‘yin’ to a ‘yang’. But overall, he is appreciative of the traction the movement is getting.
He goes on to narrate an instance where he himself was a victim of racism. “I was busking one time and there was this older guy coming out and screaming racist stuff over at Burrard station when there were not a lot of people there. I had to look him in the eye and when he came over, [there was this] almost sort of primal instinct.”, says Sam
Regardless of such experiences, he feels that everyone still does have ‘good’ in them, including ‘racists’. He says, “I want to listen to them. I want to know what is their rationale. If there is no rationale, I am just going to cut you off.”
On Jun. 29th, he had hosted the one year anniversary of his music video, Great Full, on the Livestream of Consciousness where the proceeds from the ticket sales were donated to families affected by police brutality.
Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic and the events of police brutality, the artist is still hopeful for the future. “I just want to see how the world turns out over the next year. It is going to be different. Somethings will be worse and somethings will be better. That’s just the way it goes.”, says Sam.
To know more about Sam Chimes , his projects and upcoming events, check out : samchimes.com.