Author: Robert Komaniecki
Publication details: Society for Music Theory, Volume 23, Number 4, December 2017
Abstract: This article is a study of the ways in which collaboration is signaled in the delivery of rap lyrics. I begin by describing the importance and prevalence of unified flow in music released by rap groups during the genre’s formative period in the 1980s and early 1990s. I follow this with a discussion of the continued importance of unified flow in tracks released by solo artists featuring guest rappers—a practice that has increased in frequency since rap’s inception, while rap groups have become less widespread. To illustrate this point, I analyze several songs that feature guest rappers, each exhibiting a level of flow cohesion that is exceptionally marked and uncommon when compared to most lead/guest rapper relationships. I conclude with some possible reasons for collaborative flow in rap music, as well as a discussion of unity as a theoretical concept. An understanding of the importance of unified flow in shared rap tracks enhances our understanding of the nature of collaboration and musical identity in rap music—a vital endeavor as music theorists strive to become increasingly conversant in the musical idioms and styles of hip-hop.