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3- Segmentation and Phrasing in Hip-Hop Flow - Ben Duinker, McGill University

9:00 AM, Sunday 26 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   11:00 AM to 11:30 AM (30 minutes)
This paper investigates notions of segmentation and phrasing in the rapped vocals—commonly referred to as flow—of hip-hop music. Flow unites several aspects of hip-hop vocals: lyrics, poetic line, rhyme, vocal rhythm, and metric patterning. Ohriner (2016, 158) writes that rhyme, syntactic closure, or performance-based breathing patterns can be used to partition a passage of flow, but suggests that these criteria might each produce unique segmentations of the same passage. I test Ohriner’s suggestion in this paper, exploring how partitioning passages of flow using segmentation criteria of rhyme, poetic line, vocal rhythm, musical meter, or lyrical syntax can produce unique or overlapping segmentations, depending on the passage.

Krims (2000, 49) asserts that hip-hop flow styles began to increase in overall complexity around 1990. Through several song examples ranging from 1979–2000, I demonstrate how this increase in complexity can be seen through segmentation. Songs from the 1990s seem more likely to include passages of flow that, when partitioned according to the aforementioned criteria, reveal unique segmentation patterns. Such a scenario complicates efforts to define what constitutes phrase of flow. Adapting the work of Rothstein (1989) for use in a non-tonal context, I propose a method of how a phrase of flow might be defined. Recent scholarship on hip-hop flow has illuminated aspects of narrativity, identity, and statistical (corpus-driven) analysis; comparatively little work exists on the relationship between flow and form. Engaging with this relationship can provide further insight into the nexus of hip-hop music: the intersection of lyrics and rhythm.
McGill University
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