Deconstructing 50 Cent

I’m sure if I was this age (22) the time 50 Cent was hot I would’ve brushed him off and thought his music was trash.  I’m too jaded to get into the Drake/J.Cole/Kudi even though I’m sure I would’ve been a fan if they were hot when I was in middle school.  I’ll be a fan of 50 Cent for life because his words were the theme music to my life for a long time.

50 Cent, statistically speaking, is an interesting case study.  He’s talked often about the fact that there’s deliberate structure in his music which a lot of people confuse with simplicity.  When we say structure, we refer to, in this case, 16 bars-Hook-16 bars-Hook-16 Bars.  Or something similar to that nature.  This is a proven formula in writing for Hip Hop although there are many cases where structure is abandoned for artistic purposes like in Reasonable Doubt.

50 Cent is pretty extreme in a lot ways.  First of all, his SWP (syllables per word) score of 1.20 in Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is the 2nd lowest value we’ve seen over a whole album (DMX being the lowest at 1.18).  This suggests that his music most likely can have mass appeal.

Referencing back to 50’s style, one thing he’s mentioned before was the attention he paid to meter in his music.  That is, he’s very careful in the amount of syllables he puts into each line.  If this is correct, then the amount of syllables in consecutive lines A and B should be similar if not the same for most 50 songs.   The metric to test this claim is called End Pairs Even (EPE) which measures the percentage of rhyming couplets in which the first line is no more than 15% shorter or longer (in syllables) than the line after.  Generally speaking, this metric doesn’t tell us too much. but ideally it’s a rudimentary measure of flow.

As expected, 50 Cent ended up scoring extremely high on Get Rich or Die Tryin’.  In our database, only Nelly beat 50 Cent’s score of 0.60 (who, incidentally, also averages a low syllable/word score of 1.23 and is also very, very popular).  This combination of low syllable per word score and high EPE seems like a great combination that creates real marketable artist that can create mass appeal.

If you’re still reading, my point is simple:

High EPE (measured as consecutive lines are withing 15% of length in terms of syllables)

+  Low SWP (simple word usage)

= 50 Cent/Nelly prototype.

This is the kind of artist who can really sell.  The contextualized Why is a complex case study into the culture of music-buyers that I won’t get into in this blog.  I’m sure it’s something Cornel West or one of those guys can tackle.  I just know it works.  Call this Musical Engineering.


3 thoughts on “Deconstructing 50 Cent

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hanad from Overlea, Hanad from Overlea. Hanad from Overlea said: <–Inspired by yer thing on 50 Cent today. @Tahero […]

  2. Hussein says:

    I’m old enough to have hated on 50 when he first became big. Sure the songs on Get Rich are all very listenable, but I felt (and still do) that the majority of that was due to the Dre and Em beats and overall production. I never really considered him a good or even interesting rapper. I guess that comes off in the paper..? =P

  3. rapmetrics says:

    He’s also amazing at constructing hooks. 4 or 8 bars and usually with a End Pairs Even score of 1. He’s got a really good sense of meter and time. As an artist he’s not that great, but as a student of making music to be consumed by the mass he’s amazing.

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