From Sky: Week Eight Response

rap

Noun

–a type of popular music of US black origin in which words are recited rapidly and rhythmically over a prerecorded, typically electronic instrumental backing.

a piece of music performed in rap style, or the words themselves.

That’s that Oxford shit.

Frank Ocean raps very rarely. His verses include “Super Rich Kids” on his Channel, Orange album, his murdering of Earl Sweatshirt’s “Sunday”, Tyler’s “She”, as well as his verse on the rap collective Odd Future’s track “Oldie”, and a year ago he released a single track, “Blue Whale”, which was entirely rapping. I promise you I’ve listened to every Frank Ocean track I could find.

Frank Ocean

I mean, every word out of that man’s mouth is glorious. To me, and I’d argue to many others, “Oldie” proved to the world that this kid, who, hot of the high critical praise of his freshman mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra, whose album Channel, Orange was slated to drop only a couple months later, could rap.

Here’s his verse. Go ahead. Listen.

Listening to Sail Out for the first time made me realize I’d been sleeping on Jhene Aiko. Sleeping hard. Of course I had heard her on Gambino’s tracks and back on Kendrick’s Overly Dedicated. I had liked what I had heard. I thought the girl could drop great hooks. I looked at her in the same way i look at a pop star. Think about Kelly Rowland. Miley Cyrus. They’ve done hooks in various rap tracks but I never look at them as having any real control over their involvement in it. So, I listen to her second mixtape Sail Out, then I scope all her features on Ab-Soul, Kendrick, Drake, Schooboy Q and J. Cole. After this I download her freshman mixtape, Sailing Souls. Girl can sing. I dig it.

Jhene

Then Music Monday’s come around and your asking me if what she does is rap. I can honestly say that idea had never crossed my mind until you introduced it.

I go back and listen to all again. I was even changing out Frank Ocean at night for Sail Out. Again–girl can sing… but rap?

You gave me three verses to examine. Kendrick’s verse in “Stay Ready”, Jhene’s verse on the “What a Life” portion, and Drake’s on “From Time”. Well I did. In my opinion they illustrate the diversity of various styles artists bring.

It’s clear Kendrick’s verse is rap as well as Drakes. Now, examining the lyrics only, Jhene’s verse looks as if it could be something rapped. But it isn’t. I listened to “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)” from Sail Out. Now that. That is a track where she comes dangerously close to rapping. The same goes few her track “Hoe (feat. Miguel & Gucci Mane)” from Sailing Souls, and “From Time” on Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. Did you notice I only said “dangerously close”. I do not believe Jhene Aiko is a rapper or that what she is doing on some tracks is rap. As I said, she’s close at times. There lines in “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)” that tell deep, intimate personal stories,

“‘Cus my brother was dying
And you gave me a shoulder to cry on
It was nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing”

much like rappers do. Her fourth verse in “What a Life” shows great flow and interesting rhyme schemes. Again, much like rappers do. There is one thing that is prevents classifying her as a rapper in my book–harmonic inflection in her voice. She is singing, not rapping. Does she have many of the elements that make her a rapper? Yes. But she lacks the biggest quality. They’re not rap songs their rap tracks. Why? Because rappers don’t sing. I’m not saying Bino isn’t a rapper because he sings, or Drake. They have released rap tracks where they don’t sing, they… rap. There is not harmonic inflection in their voices. They straight rap. Jhene has yet to do this. She has yet to put out a rap track. Therefore she’s not a rapper.

I would say that Jhene Aiko is as much as a rapper as Frank Ocean, but plot twist, Frank Ocean is a rapper. The verses listed about showcase his rapping. No harmonic inflection. Straight bars. Until Jhene can completely drop that harmonic inflection in her voice, she won’t be a rapper. Personally, I hope she doesn’t drop it. I love it. It’s what I love about her music. I don’t think of her any less because she’s not a rapper. I do however, no longer look at her a pop star either. She is much like Frank Ocean is, hard to nail down genre-wise. Frank sings, Frank raps. Jhene sings. Jhene sing-raps. Their genre? Hip Hop.

Isn’t taxonomy fun?

-S

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