Should We Be Impressed By Eminem in Renegade?

Sometimes Eminem’s verse in Renegade is used by racists to prove that rap is “complex” and that it should be looked at as “real art”.  Probably stems from the fact that these ppl started off by listening to things that were not rap and they didn’t have the ability to contextualize rap music critically by putting value on things like “creativity” or “concepts”, historically/artistically etc.  Then the value of the music comes in the form of “technicality” and guys like Eminem who complain (in Renegade at least) about being too famous, become examples of “great rap music” or something. These racists show HOW COMPLEX Eminem is by showing his “intricate” rhyme patterns like the ones below:

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 5.57.16 PM

A 5-syllable rhyme pattern that spans multiple words {lucrative lyrics, youth in hysterics, views in his marriage, you shouldn’t hear it, food for the spirit…}.  A bunch of internal rhymes and assonance and other cool TECHNICAL things that don’t matter because Eminem is complaining about dumb things like being too famous.  It IS hard to reproduce as a rhyme pattern because of how many words are used and it takes HARD MATH and other algorithms to try and reproduce it.  It gave me incentive to try and venture into 5,6,7 syllable rhymes (still very new into that realm) and I’m attempting to try and do that.  I have a bunch of rhymes (~7k) at if you want to see.  Here are some:

troop to the era
loot to the spirit
lose to the lyric
dude with the fearless
deuce in my earring
duke and the merit
cruise like a steering
truce with the karat
loose i aint sparing
who gave us clearance
boom of the serum
blues if you hearing
drew in the parrot
use what you hearing
new and the sheriff

I wrote about Chicago Rap Gang Stuff

Gang references in rap is not new.  Rap beef is not new.  Any elements of rap beef crossing over to real life isn’t new.  But the specific intersection of the the 3, with the ability to view/understand it all digitally might be.  The YouTube-wave of Chicago rappers shouting out blocks and gangs in the songs, and their ability to gain fans within the city that are hyper-aware of all the references has created an interesting opportunity.

With good algorithms to detect these references and aggregate them, YouTube comments (!) end up containing a ton of interesting data.  Gang shootouts with respective positive and negative affiliation explicitly referenced, street corners mentioned, coded terminology thrown around and the ability to cross-reference a user’s posting history with particular songs they liked or commented on.  It’s weird new territory with weird ethical questions that need to be considered.  Perhaps better than I have already.

I wrote about it all at the link at the top.  Please read and share.

Jadakiss/Styles-P 4 syllable rhyme stuff

I guess ever since Volume 5 of the And1 series I’ve been a big fan of Styles P.  For one summer, I think this was the song we listened to the most.  Of course, most of the ideas meant nothing to me then (even now?) but it came out at a special time when streetball tapes were important and the music off those tapes reflected what was ‘hot’.  All of this before Professor ruined And1 basketball, streetball and the delicate intersection of the two for me.

All of that being not interesting, Jada and Styles both rhyme in cool ways.  My favorite thing they do is the 4-syllable rhymes with unstressed middle syllables where, usually, almost all of the words are 1-syllable in length.  For example:

I got shit that could wake up the deaf
that’ll knock down the door and break up the steps

Certain words like {up} and {the} are not stressed because they work mostly as function words (I guess).  This is essentially  a 2-syllable rhyme {wake+deaf, break+steps} and the middle words just carry rhythm and sound cool.  Important to note that all of these words are monosyllabic.  I think this is harder to do and actually sounds better.  Computationally, it takes a lot more work to combine four words together like this and for it to sound good/’make sense’.  It is easy to find instances of 2-word combinations that match the rhyme pattern above.  

Examples rhymes for ‘wake up the deaf’:

  • betrayed a contempt
  • break and confess
  • brain to forget
  • behavior and threats
  • changing the s
  • pacing the decks
  • gauging success
  • changing defense
  • painting attempts
  • retaining a sense
  • player selects
  • navy corvette
  • awaited with dread
  • latency when
  • occupational stress
  • gratefully stretched
  • hasten to bess
  • haman against
  • hastily said
  • behavior is set
  • betrayed a contempt
  • behavior condemned
  • betraying the best
  • behavior with men
  • base his defense
  • say it reflects
  • retaining a sense
  • changing defense
  • painting attempts
  • sailing from thence
  • occasional yelps
  • playing yourself
  • creating a head
  • later regrets
  • occasional sketch
  • patients with ed
  • gauging success
  • ladies respect
  • engage in pretense
  • awaited with dread
  • named a hotel

4-word combinations is going to require some boring programming and probably some math and stuff like that to do in a non-shitty way.  Here are some Jadakiss/Syles-P 4-syllable rhymes and what the COMPLEX RapMetrics algorithm returns as possible rhyme results:


Everyday I need an ounce and a half
S.P.; the only flower that you know, with a bounce in a half

One of the great opening bars from one of my favorite albums ever.  Again, same idea here; the rhyme is essentially {ounce+half, bounce+half} with two words in the middle to carry rhythm and make it a 4-syllable rhyme.  It is one of my favorite rhyme schemes and an interesting one because the OW sound is pretty rare in general.  Here are some computer generated rhymes for that scheme.  Notice, again, there are no 4-word combinations.  It is because it is actually harder to do computationally, and, in my opinion, harder to do as a writer.

Example rhymes for the rhyme scheme ‘ounce and a half’:

    • mountain of cash
    • mountain attracts
    • mountains perhaps
    • counted the stacks
    • down the attacks
    • crowded in fast
    • hours of hand
    • flower or grass
    • council advanced
    • hour is passed
    • flowery branch
    • powerful am
    • doubted this last
    • flower or grass
    • south of sudan
    • housing began
    • counter and slammed
    • powerful am
    • flowery lands
    • flowers and scraps
    • powerful stand

A really cool rhyme and actually probably has potential to be bent in other weird ways.


So I roll ’em up, back to back, fat as I could
You got beef with Styles P, I come to splatter the hood

Same basic idea except now the 2nd line has a 2-syllable word {splatt-er}.

Example rhymes for the rhyme scheme ‘fat as I could’:

      • philanthropy would
      • fabric that could
      • faster and looked
      • fantasy look
      • fabulous goods
      • diameter should
      • calendar full
      • classes secured
      • tangible goods
      • carryin books
      • salinger book
      • natalie woods
      • management would
      • happening hook
      • mechanical bull
      • family good
      • splatter the hood
      • allison pushed
      • gallagher took
      • chapter i look
      • galloping hoofs
      • strategy shook
      • daddy assured
      • haven’t you looked
      • masculine foot
      • kasparov could
      • natural looks

Another sweet rhyme.


Motherfucker understand it’s full service to you
I don’t smoke the weed if it ain’t, purple or blue

Again, from ‘Get High’, same 4-syllable rhyme with 2 unstressed syllables in the middle.  This time the first word in this ‘rhyme scheme’ is 2-syllables long instead of one.  Which is cool.  This is what the very complex RapMetrics algorithm returned as possible results for rhymes:

Example rhymes for the rhyme scheme ‘purple and blue’:

    • preservatives to
    • permanent rules
    • purposely moved
    • purchased a few
    • persons consume
    • preferred to commute
    • determining u
    • conservative coup
    • determining two
    • encircling blue
    • recurrence is due
    • purchase this new
    • certainly smoothed
    • uncertainty due
    • cursing the rude
    • circle ensues
    • permanent wounds
    • certainly huge
    • germans produce
    • preferred to commute
    • circular stool
    • earliest jews
    • heard to allude

This is a cool ‘technique’ and there are some really cool things that can be done with it.  It is actually harder to 4-syllable rhymes of only monosyllabic words computationally and I think it is also harder to do it well as a writer.  I guess it is the main points of this ‘article’.  Sometimes having to simplify language and use smaller words to convey meaning/rhythm is actually way harder to do.  The simplest Styles P lines have stuck with me for the longest:

Bitch think I don’t smile ’cause my tooth chipped//
Bitch, I don’t smile cause my heart chipped//

A (sloppy) script to find ‘narrative’ rap songs

One of the most important rap songs that I’ve heard is this song by Eyedea.  It’s about a dude that is a painter.  He keeps having a dream about his body on the ground, seeing it from a bird’s-eye point of view.  There is a loud noise that he can’t quite make out in this dream.  This dream keeps bothering the dude and he starts to become less fun to be around.  One day, when he’s at the art gallery he frequents (for inspiration/ideas) he sees a painting.  In this painting,  a person is on the ground, on a runway, with an airplane beside the body.  The airplane propellor is spinning and this noise matches up with the noise from his dreams.  He starts to go crazy because this painting is describing his dream. He is the creator and the subject of the art at the same time.  He starts to think that maybe his whole existance is nothing more than a character in some ‘cosmic painting’.  And that maybe every character ever created believes he/she is alive.  Of course, this is probably just a psychelically-influenced concept but Eyedea is always cool enough to distance himself from these things by saying “Just a theory, I don’t know what it means.  But that’s the story of the man who trained himself not to dream “.

Anyways, why this particular song and a few others in Eyedea’s catalog are powerful to me is because the characters don’t have names and Eyedea doesn’t tell the story from his POV.  Rather, he is a sort of observer of these things and he uses 2nd person pronouns (the main character referred to simply as he in this story).  Eyedea is a supporting character (something that requires a lot of confidence to do, I think) and the only instances of ‘I’ in this story support the idea of Eyedea being just a secondary, supporting character:

His experience was one I couldn’t comprehend
‘Till I stopped being detective and listened to him as a friend

Anyways, these are some of my favorite stories.  And so I decided to script something to find songs that exhibit these kinds of patterns with respect to distribution of pronouns (more you/he/she/they than i/me/myself).   The idea being, are we able to find narrative-y philosophical song that describe the world by use of 2nd person pronominals?  A few returns after using COMPLEX ALGORITHMS to find songs that are similar to Eyedea’s Color My World Mine.


1. Nas – Black Zombies

Nas talking about societal stuffs through the conspiracy theory “Do you believe?” lense.  Was actually my favorite Nas song at one point I think.


This song apparently is urging people/you to be gr8 and to try hard and not to be petty/bad.  Thinking that there are religious undertones but I’m not sure.

3. Big L – I Don’t Understand It

One of the unintended consequences of this script is that it returns battle rap-ish songs.  In this song Big L (who is unbelievably overrated) says that you/other mc’s suck and he doesn’t understand why other mc’s suck.  Don’t really understand how carving out a career saying, essentially, ‘I am dope on the mic’ could elevate someone to being great but it is cool.  I was looking for straight narrative raps or philosophical things that try to deconstruct society/ppl with this program and it sucks that ‘2nd person sucker’ raps filter through.  But it’s cool.

4. MF Doom – Mordern Day Mugging

Fractured story by the GOAT MF Doom where he talks about mugging people.  Starts with a quick introduction about a smart guy who turns to a life of thieving (and rapping) and most of the pronoun usage in this song seems to come from Doom describing how to rob people and how people react to muggings.

5. Danny! – Stay Away

A manual where Danny! tells us about his home city and tells the listener, YOU, to stay away for a bunch of different reasons.


There are about ~1000 songs in the database that use the YOU technique thing a lot and if you want to listen to those songs please click here.

Troy Ave Through The Numbers

There’s a rapper from New York right now that is getting buzz for being a rapper from NY getting buzz.  His mixtapes are all coke-oriented but he really is just a nice dude that wears nice clothing and drinks nice alcohol and smokes weed.  His rap persona isn’t much more than that.  In the video above, he is talking about moving drugs across state lines which is a rap meme lots of (specifically NY) rappers have used so that their drug kingpin stories could never really be checked out.  Nobody from Connecticut/Maryland/Ohio can verify these stories and so it is a part of the brand/mythology when told in songs.  Or something.

Anyways, Troy Ave is okay.  But, at this moment, it’s very evident that all of his buzz is manufactured by street-wear twitter people and the rap blogs/sites associated with these people.  He is getting lots of views (8 self-shot videos with 20k+ views) but once you look closer, you’ll see that these hits might be the product of courtesy views or views by people that have been told that this is a cool artist that other cool people are checking out.

For example, his latest video, at this moment, has 120,000 views with only 20 comments.   Another video, De Facto, which sells the idea that he is ‘next up’, overtly and subliminaly, has 140,000 views with 33 comments (at this moment).  Chiddy Chiddy Bang Bang, another video about nice clothing/alcohol/drugs, has 130,000 views and 43 comments.  This trend is consistent.  Troy Ave is a cool rapper that cool people are listening to and convincing other cool/potentially-cool people that they should also be listening to.  A Ponzi-scheme of coolness, maybe.  Or something.

Anyways, here is a fancy table of the comments:views ratio for Troy Ave vs. some other young, cool-ish rappers:

Danny Brown – 0.299

Joey Bada$$ – 0.207

A$AP ROCKY – 0.184

Action Bronson – 0.188

Troy Ave – 0.0204

And in chart form:

So, yeah.  Good evidence to suggest that Troy Ave is manufactured buzz, at this moment.

Interview with Respect-Magazine

Hip-hop has always been a contentious conversation, an everlasting discussion of GOATs and WOATs, Ws and Ls. Taste is just opinion in practice, to be sure; but underneath all the lip-flapping and one-upping, there’s gotta be more than hot air. In an era where fact checkers can veto the bullshit with a quick Google search, you can’t just speak on how you feel – you have to back it up.

Numbers don’t lie, and Liban Ali Yusuf’s got the data. As a graduate student studying computational linguistics, the 24-year-old Waterloo, Canada native runs the website RapMetrics, a statistical take on hip-hop’s most persistent debates. It turns out that certain lyrical factors are measurable – so does that mean certain criticisms are incontrovertible?  

RESPECT. sat down with hip-hop’s Malcolm Gladwell to find out what linguistics can teach us about rap, and what that says about Drake’s self-obsession.

I said some insightful stuff here and the interviewer Nick Harwood is a super cool dude and was very nice to talk to.  Please read if you 1) Love RapMetrics or 2) Hate RapMetrics or 3) Don’t really have an opinion and don’t care about RapMetrics.

RapMetrics vs. [The Palmer Squares]: A (potential) bi-weekly series of Man vs Machine

The Palmer Squares is a group out of Chicago of two young white guys that rhyme well in cyphers and are distinguishing themselves from the group of Youtube cypher people by being slightly ‘darker’ (without having a horrorcore-y, ugly aesthetic) than the normal lyrical/miracle loser.  These guys rhyme in cool ways, I guess.  They put lots of stressed syllables together and actually forced me to slightly change how I search for word combinations.  It was a good thing because now I have more 4+ syllable, double initial-stress words in the corpus.

Anyways, in an email I got, a person kinda broke down their rhyme patterns:

The general idea being that they are carrying one big rhyme scheme R1:{go Snake Plissken, go Blake Griffin, OJ Simpson, rotate rhythm, whole face crimson, Cocaine sniffin, snow flake glisten} throughout and use some assonance here and there {so don’t hate, James Lipton, ain’t listening} and so on.

It’s kind of a cool rhyme and so I decided to find a shitload of rhymes that go with it.  If you go to you can see the above scheme with the computer generated rhymes.  Here is a screenshot of 10 random rhymes with the scheme (over 6000 in the database for this scheme):

This was a fun little project to do.  If you want me to put RapMetrics vs [Your Fav New Artist] as a post on this blog you can email me at liban.aliyusuf [at] gmail dot com and I will maybe see how the computer does against another interesting verse.  For now here is a partial list of ~250 rhymes that go with the rhyme scheme R1:

go day livin
go day women
go day fixing
go way systems
go gray women
ol’ same visions
own wayne singing
smoke based printing
own day stricken
own my day thinking
whole state missions
cold day women
gold escape killing
gold chains linking
whole dayin in
yo face thickened
no way pimpin
no way pimping
old game systems
yo named dillon
yo named system
coach way pimping
coach away thinking
mo’ strange piercing
won’t stay hittin
snow today women
gon make children
fo space system
yo snake bitten
yo lake dillon
yo face thinking
yo day chicken
dope chain swingin
gon straight trippin
hold name william
know they save millions
spoke came pitching
those days wilson
whole way pimpin
old face victim
blow stay hittin’
blow today women
blow rays glinting
oak lanes linking
slow brain prison
go shape system
know unnamed infant
know named system
own age pimping
own aged villain
clothes days drinking
clothes days killed him
shows paint systems
gon’ stay pimpin
whole plate which in
yo day women
bone day fishing
know snake bitten
know gaze drinking
own paints women
own pain gripping
cold brain vision
cold grain gripping
cold rain thickened
dope estate bringing
hoe faced women
hoe remains chillin
coat detailed billing
whole freight shipment
whole eight hidden
whole blake griffin
whole kapi in
whole make million
yo aged villain
go great kingdom
go say pimpin
gon play kissing
home same living
they eight missions
close save lisbon
code made millions
flow che pimpin’
flow straight trickin
flow tape thickens
flow may fish in
gautreaux case system
hold faced nixon
jerome gave symptoms
joan plane fixed in
joan unnamed infant
ngo named william
o made millions
oh days drinking
slow saleswomen
whole page listened
wo play tricks in
closed main fishing
co weightlifting
co hey livin’
co straight snitchin
co raisin him
co freight shipment
co state switching
co scales thickened
co got eight million
co his great mission
cone strange kingdom
cone scales thickened
cone waste kingdom
cone his nails clicking
cone rate quickened
cone remains sticking
cone shaped thinking
flow takes shipping
folk named winston
know save millions
know stay winning
know stay distant
knows faiths living
knows came pitching
knows eight pilgrims
knows her name written
knows her gaze flicking
oats playbill from
oats delays bringing
composed estate children
home create christian
mon pain killing
clothes straight snitchin
cold remain chillin?
cold stay christian
cold tape thickens
cold chain swingin
cold eight missions
cold freight shipment
cold game chicken
cold weyl theorem
cold chains linking
cold delayed hearing
cold paved kitchen
cold failed children
cold makes shifting
cold days killed him
cold his name written
comb straight trippin
exposed plate brimming
flow all day fishing
flow now champagne spillin
flow like straight trippin
flow weyl theorem
flow contained chicken
flow humane instinct
flow saintship in
flow scales thickened
flow changed since in
hold jane england
hole named william
hopes make instant
known plain buildings
low day fishing
low days ‘ mission
low day stricken
mode gain given
old exclaimed lincoln
own gray women
own day stricken
own days killed him
exposed state prisons
loans made kingston
low gave dickens
nodes jail thinking
ol clay women
old face william
old face thinking
old way systems
own framed building
post jane england
roads straight pimpin
roads straight trippin
show case system
shown weightlifting
shown day fishing
shown straight chillin’
shown main fishing
shown eight hidden
shown strange chilling
shown his great mission
stone states building
thrown face sinking
vote may fish in
home lay blinking
joan late wisdom
joan plate which in
old play clinton
oaks day women
oaks day clearing
rohde change serum
rohde eight fishing
rohde lain hidden
rohde changed here from
yost came sigmund
alone days killed him
both save children
both great dictum
both great written
both create fiction
both re smearing
both failed children
chose eight kingdoms
foes lay near in
fold delayed hearing
go stakes sticking
gross named system
hoped grace william
old remain hidden
old make children
old pale children
rolls make million
show his escapism
show face flinching
show rain thickened
show obtain here in
show haines mission
show same kitchens
show his name written
show brave things in
sole my day thinking
sole this game villian
sole great hidden
sole no great buildings
soul named dillon
soul named winston
strokes make instant
ho changed since in
holds straight pissin’
jo make million
jo make children
loaf delayed shipment
loaf play kissing
loaf play tricks in
low eighth inning
low his escapism
low freighting in
low spaceship from
low delayed hearing