[Song Samples Contain Explicit Lyrics]
Well, not extreme in the angry, offensive or scatological sense. Rather, extreme in the idea of two opposites of the same measure. Fat — skinny, tall — short… Except the extremes I’m interested in involve the speed of rapping/rap delivery. The speed of a rap has a profound impact on the feel and style of a particular track. Double-time rapping over a laid back funk groove can sound visceral and uplifting – no matter how banal or evil the lyrics; meanwhile, a slow, laid back rhyme can be hypnotic and pull you even deeper into the sound and vibe of the music.
Let’s start with the fast stuff. While East Coast rappers are often known for complex rhyme schemes, West Coast cats love their slang (foshizzle, flambostulatin, yadadamean), and Southerners play to the strength of their unique accent and culture, the Midwest is undeniably the home of quick rappers. This track by Do or Die is a good example. One of the most popular fast rappers got his start on a Do or Die track — Twista. His style and delivery made him a popular guest rapper in the 90s, and this track really shows off his abilities. I can’t forget my hometown of Kansas City and our local hero Tech N9ne. His track Midwest Choppers exemplifies fast rapping. If you listen closely to the production you’ll also hear the heavy influences of Southern and West Coast producers in the Midwest sound. Here are some other tracks with notably fast raps: Blackalicious – Alphabet Aerobics, Sleep – Introduction, Busta Rhymes – Break Ya Neck, Beatropolis & Shing02 – Embrace, DJ Vadim – Kill Kill Kill.
I’d be remiss to skip the UK when discussing fast rappers. The worlds of grime, dubstep and garage have their own share of fire spitters. While they may not be focused on quickness alone, their rhythmic intensity and ability to flit between double and single-time is notable. Check out this track by Dizzee Rascal or these tracks by Plastician and The Bug for good examples. But they’re not the fastest MCs in the UK. This is the territory of drum & bass MCs like Skibadee, Eksman, and Shabba D who pioneered a double-time, consonant heavy delivery that fits perfectly with the fast tempos of drum & bass. This track featuring Skibbadee, Shabba D, MC Det and MC Fearless showcases a bit of their style. The UK Rap/Electronic scene is evolving at breakneck speed and is well documented online with videos of great MC battles and performances by all the cats I mentioned.
Now in terms of slow rapping, the title undoubtedly goes to Houston for their Screwed & Chopped sound. This is a method of remixing rap music pioneered by Houston artist DJ Screw. Screw took cassette tapes, dramatically slowed them down, and added tons of reverb, delay, scratching and sound effects. Here is an original DJ Screw production. It’s immediately recognizable by the ridiculously slow tempo and freakishly deep vocals. However, the rapping speed is based on studio effects — so perhaps this title should be accompanied by an asterisk…? Check out these other super-slow Screwed & Chopped tracks by artists OG Ron C, Big Pokey & Lil Keke, and the Screwed Up Click. Stay tuned for more on the Houston sound in a future post – there’s much more to cover from this city!
The mainstream rapper with the slowest natural flow is probably Young Jeezy. His style is deliberate, simple and strikingly sssslllloooowwwww. Jeezy is able to pull it off without sounding too boring — probably due to the depth and uniqueness of his voice and the fast subdivisions of his beats. Check out his track Standing Ovation for a good example. Here are a few other notably slow rap tracks 30 Rocks by 8 Ball & MJG and You’re Everything by Bun B.
Is there somebody I missed? Yeah I know I didn’t include the Guinness World Record holders — as theirs is more of a technical feat whose purpose is speed, not music. But is there anyone else? Perhaps there’s a Screwed & Chopped scene in Tuvan, or a crazy fast rapper living in the Australian Outback? Let me know!
PS – speaking of Australian rap – this track by Diplo makes me smile!
Chris Horgan [Senior Music Analyst]
[Song Samples Contain Explicit Lyrics]