As much as I enjoy Hip Hop for Beginners, I simply don't have the time properly promote this blog and Rhythm And Prose at the same time while working. All three are suffering for it, and one has to go. When I feel like Rhythm And Prose has reached its full potential, this blog will be back.

For now, check out Rhythm And Prose for everything hip hop.

When most people talk about hip hop, they talk about sex, drugs, money, violence and rappers. It's easy to see why: that's 90% of what rappers talk about to. But what gets lost in a lot of conversation the actual art of rapping. Contrary to popular belief, there's a lot more to it than just talking over a beat. Some of the main parts of rapping:
  • Flow & Rhythm
  • Rhyme Schemes/Patterns
  • Metaphors, imagery and allusion
  • Freestyle
I'll probably add quite a bit to this as the series goes on, but those are the basics. There isn't a lot of agreement on even what all of those things are (I've seen a lot of people use the words "flow" and "freestyle" in different ways).

Check back Monday, and I'll have the first of the series posted.
Hip Hop for Beginners - Hip Hop Quotables (Common)

 Envisioning the hereafter... listenin to Steve Wonder
On a Quest for Love like the Proceed drummer
I strike like lightning and don't need thunder
Inhale imagination and breathe wonder

Common - One Day It'll All Make Sense - Invocation
Classic Rap Albums: Nas - Illmatic
In 1994, gangsta rap had firmly established its grip on mainstream hip hop. The b-boy freestyle raps of Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, and CL Smooth, among others, was dying out. Rap music was knee-deep in gangsta mentality and materialism, and that mentality only sinking deeper into the genre. The music also started to change - specifically, the emphasis moved from the rhythm of the vocals (the flow), to the beats and hooks.

Illmatic was released right at the end of that transition, and you can hear it in the music. In a lot of ways, Illmatic is the perfect bridge between those two eras. It's the last great 90's freestyle album - the focus is clearly on how Nas approaches the music, not so much the music itself. But thematically, Illmatic was a 90's gangsta album through and through: Nas was mainly concerned with money, drugs, prison and the struggle to get ahead. It's easy to see how the diferrent creative influences in hip hop affected Nas' musical mindset, and Illmatic is the perfect bridge between two completely separate eras in rap music.

From the same dirt, from the hills of my ancestors
The naked rows and the fields where the pain festered
I wonder where the hole came from
In the deeps of my heart, make me yearn for the drum

Hip Hop 101: The Top 10 Hip Hop Songs for Beginners

It's not a coincidence that all five of these song were made before 1995. Hip hop came into prominence in an era of unprecedented musical exposure. 1987-95 is often called the golden age of hip hop, as this was the period where people really didn't know what rap music was or could be yet. It had yet to settle on a formula, and so rappers and labels were constantly exerimenting to see what could work.

This produced an enormous variety of sounds in the mainstream music. That variety still exists, and in many ways, has been expanded upon. However, the mainstream musical outlets have mostly settled on a format for reliably selling hip hop, and that's led to a more monolithic sound on the radio and TV.

That doesn't mean that today's mainstream rap music is bad, by any means. But all of these songs are examples of popular rappers trying things that hadn't been done yet, and succeeding tremendously. That means that these songs have established a template for everything that came after them.

Hip Hop 101: The Top 10 Hip Hop Songs for Beginners

Note: Hip Hop 101: The Top 10 Hip Hop Songs for Beginners is part of my ongoing Hip Hop 101 series for Hip Hop Beginners.

I don't know what the top 10 hip hop songs of all time are, but that's not really the point. If you're just getting into hip hop, however, there are a huge variety of sounds to choose from. I tried to get as many of those into this list a possible, but as with any list like this, there are always going to be some serious holes. I stayed away from songs that everybody has heard (somewhere, Dr. Dre is pissed), but still fairly mainstream.