Regionalized flow in the hip-hop golden era
Dudney, Dan D
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In this thesis, I use the concept of flow––which consists of all the metrical and articulative components of a rapper's rhythmic delivery––in order to understand how the voice participates in the construction of place-based identities in rap music. The hip-hop golden era (ca. 1988-1994) provides a valuable site for the exhibition of these vocal styles. This study posits a "regionalized flow archetype" that emerged during the hip-hop golden era by the eminent rap artists that represented one of four main geographical regions of the continental United States. These regions are, in order of their chronological emergence into the national mainstream rap scene, the East Coast, the West Coast, the Dirty South, and the Midwest. Positing the four stylistic archetypes will be accomplished by extracting trends and tendencies in the flows of rappers within each region through the component-based methodology proposed by Kyle Adams in his 2009 article, "On the Metrical Techniques of Flow in Rap Music." Through this process, I uncover a distinct style of flow within each geographical region. The East Coast flow is characterized by a complex employment of metrical parameters, sharp vocal delivery, and rare occurrences of expressive timing generally over a faster tempo. The West Coast archetype is characterized by a simple employment of metrical parameters, slurred consonants with open vowels, and a laid-back vocal delivery over a mid-range tempo. The Dirty South flow is characterized by a drawled and harsh vocal delivery, frequent occurrences of behind-the-beat syllable placements, and a simple employment of metrical parameters over a slower tempo. The Midwest flow is characterized by a rapid-fire, dense, and highly-syncopated vocal delivery, using pointed consonants with open vowels and rare expressive timing generally over a slower tempo. In this study, I also speculate some possible environmental forces within each geographical region that may have given rise to certain manipulations of flow. I conclude by discussing the Internet's effect on the regionalized flow archetypes and how rappers after the golden era may employ them in order to authenticate themselves within the rap mainstream.