The School of Flow
As I am tuning back into hip-hop, I am impressed with the way young rappers stepping up their flow. They can rhyme slow; they can rhyme fast. They can rhyme inside the beat; they can rhyme ahead of the beat. Their expansive flow made up for their limited lyricism. Here are a few recent albums with crazy flow.
T.I. is the veteran of flow and his recent Paperwork is the proof. The album kicks off with “King,” in which he starts out slow then progresses into speedy delivery. The opener is so hypnotic that you wish the track never ends. Strong contenders include the political “The National Anthem” and the emotional “Light Em Up (RIP Doe B).” As with T.I.’s previous works, Paperwork is distracted with tracks for the radio and the strip clubs.
Without guest appearances, J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive provides an interrupted experience from start to finish. While he goes hard on “Fire Squad” criticizing white artists for stealing their shines, he becomes a softie on “Wet Dreamz” reflecting on his first love. Cole can rhyme and sing his own hooks, but he still needs to improve his storytelling.
Under Pressure is Logic’s debut showcasing his flow. In the last 20 seconds of “Gang Related,” he spits like a machine gun sweeping the street. His cadence is clear and his flow is breathless, but his storyline could be more vivid.
The opening “Dark Sky” off Big Sean’s third studio release, Dark Sky Paradise, show off his flow (frome slow to fast) as well as his tone (tenor to baritone). “Paradise” is laced with profanity: “I always want to fuck that bitch / Thank you God I fucked that bitch.” Damn, where can I find a God like that?
As with most rappers, misogyny seems to be the easiest target. Although I can’t relate to most of its content (drug, sex, gun, and lifestyle), I still enjoy hip-hop for its art. And flow is one of the elements I love.