Have you ever been listening to a rap song and wonder why all of a sudden one line usually after four bars in a verse will sound slightly different than the next four bars and so on? This difference you are hearing is called the “timbre” as it is the change in the rapper’s voice from a “tired” voice to a “fresh” voice. This change occurs because the majority of rappers record their vocals using a technique know as “punch’n”. This means they will only record four bars of their rap at a time so that they will always have a “fresh” voice as opposed to a “tired” voice as most rappers would sound raspy and tired by the time they recorded a whole sixteen bar verse. Some rapper’s with very complicated rhyme patterns may even “punch’n” certain lines, for example, when T.I. uses his “mad as hell” flow where he sounds like the cookie monster he will “punch’n” what sounds like almost every line! Why do rapper’s do this?
The main reason for this is “breath control” or lack thereof and secondly a “lazyness” on the part of the rapper to properly structure their rhymes for adequate breathing. One of the worst breath controllers in rap music is Kanye West. His first album, “The College Dropout” is littered with breath control issues and has the most obvious “punch’ns” ever heard. Take the track “Jesus Walks” an otherwise great track topically, but vocally, the punch’ns are almost at every other bar:
You know what the Midwest is?
Young & Restless
Where restless Niggaz might snatch your necklace
And next these Niggaz might jack your Lexus
Somebody tell these Niggaz who Kanye West is
I walk through the valley of Chi where death is
Top floor the view alone will leave you breathless Uhhhh!
Try to catch it Uhhhh! It’s kinda hard hard
Getting choked by the detectives yeah yeah now check the method
They be asking us questions, harass and arrest us
Saying “we eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast”
Huh? Yall eat pieces of shit? What’s the basis?
We ain’t going nowhere but got suits and cases
A trunk full of coke rental car from Avis
My momma used to say only Jesus can save us
Well momma I know I act a fool
But I’ll be gone til November I got packs to move I Hope
You can even hear Kanye gasping for breath by the end of each line before the punch’n as if his vocal “cadence” is going to fuck up at any moment. I think Ye is aware of this problem as on his current disc “Graduation” he fails to “fully” rap, in fact most of the time, he just says a line takes an annoying ass pause and then says the accompanying rhyme. Take “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”:
I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven
When I awoke I spent that on a necklace
I told God I’d be back in a second
Man, it’s so hard not to act reckless
To whom much is given, much is tested
Get arrested, guess until he get the message
I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny
And what’d I do? Act more stupidly
Bought more jewelry, More Louis V.
My mama couldn’t get through to me
The drama, people suing me
I’m on T.V. talking like it’s just you and me
I’m just saying how I feel man
I ain’t one of the Cosby’s, I ain’t go to Hillman
I guess the money should’ve changed them
I guess I should’ve forgot where I came from
This is why you probably feel sleepy listening to this song and other records on “Graduation” as Kanye’s inability to manage his breath control leaves the listener’s ear fatigued from having to pause every line. I think Kanye’s problem is that he really does adore Jay-Z like Fifty said. LOL. Not only in a big brother sorta way, but because Jay-Z is one of the best breath controllers in Rap history period. His breath control abilities are likely largely attributed to his beginning’s as a “fast” rapper and former member of the now defunct Fuschnikens (not true, don’t write me).
See with Kanye recently saying “he’s the best rapper” right now, it really makes heads in the know scratch their head because Ye has the worst breath control in the game ever. To be considered “the best” in the same vein as a Rakim, Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie, (dare I say Lil’ Wayne?) is the ability to have pleasing breath control so that listeners can sing along. What most of you sucka mcees reading this lack is breath control. After all this is music, something that is sonically felt by the ears, the image and hype is all MTV if you know what I mean. Now go tighten up that flow foo!