Diamond Rings / Pretty Things, Rap Time

Posted on February 4, 2012


As my exciting, brain killing convalescence winds down I’ve had the time and inclination to sort through a few things kicking around in the hopper.  And lo and behold, I have half of the new Triumphal Arches record done!  Slick!  Who knows when I’ll complete it, but it shouldn’t take too long, as per usual.  This one has a few different wrinkles so far… a seven minute arpeggio driven thing about Helen Keller (sort of) and a hot new… rap!  Yes, you read that correctly.  It’s called Jazz Standards.  I’m so happy with it, or at least curious as to whether anyone besides me thinks that it’s cool, that I offer it to you good people.  Give it a listen!  I hope you dig it.

Jazz Standards

I’ll say some things about this little track.  First off, I’ve had the idea of attempting to lay down some rhymes circulating in my head for some time.  However, I don’t actually like rap or hip hop that much (I know there’s a difference, I just don’t know what it is), owing primarily to the generally moronic and (worse) boring subject matter.  Maybe it’s old fashioned of me, but I can’t acclimatize myself to bitches and hos and all that.  Whither chivalry…  Anyways, I do like some rap – namely Public Enemy.  And maybe a few other things, but that’s about it.  That’s my frame of reference.  Nonetheless, I wanted to give it a try.

Chuck D - the baddest MC there ever was, according to me.

However, I wanted to use the vocal style, but not the attendant genre conventions, both in terms of the music and the subject matter at hand.  This meant trying to concoct something rap-able musically that still sort of sounded like me and most importantly using my own voice.  This is so damned difficult!  I don’t know why it is exactly, but my god is it ever hard to lay down some lyrics without:

  • being aggressive for no reason
  • boasting about oneself
  • pretending to live in a world of drugs, street crime, prostitution, and other junk
  • emphasizing every third beat in a 4/4 rhythm

And mostly it’s really really difficult to pull off without putting on a black voice while not then sounding like some elderly sitcom character spouting garbage like “My name is X and I’m here to say”.  You know what I mean.  So I set out to not do any of these things, and especially to use my own voice, which was not at all easy.  I think I succeeded.  That doesn’t mean that I succeeded overall, only that my experiment was a formal success.

Musically I was inspired by, of all things, Janelle Monae’s Tightrope.

Janelle Monae - sweet pipe, fancy feet, fellow concept album creator, and babe. What's not to like? Maybe she should drop me a line.

God damn that is a good little tune.  Of course Janelle is just a marginally better singer than me, maybe, but still…  I love the repetitive bass and simple beat that is pretty much relentless for the whole song (save for the key changes – really?  why do that? mea culpa: I hate key changes, maybe because I don’t understand music very well).  I wanted to try something similar, but without sampling somebody else, so I fired up the bass and sampled myself.  Sometimes you can hear little clicks when it repeats.  Nice editing job by me.  I also put together a drum kit that sounds kind of like it were sampled from an old record, and let it rip.

Naturally I couldn’t resist adding piano, strings, and weird digitally distorted guitars.  Come on, who could?  In comparing the two for writing this article I realized that my tune is really slow.  Wow!  I guess my usual plodding style held out.  Next time I’ll crank the BPM.

So there you have it.  Thoughts?

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Posted in: Music