Abstracthiphop is a genre that has emerged in the underground hip hop scene since the early 2000s. The genre eschews many of the conventions found in hip hop, such as braggadocio and everyday problems, and instead favors extensive metaphors and symbolic word choice.
Abstract rappers often use techniques that are based on pitch intonation, which is the ability to alter the tone of your voice at specific moments to create a rhythmic layer within your flow. These patterns are referred to as “pitched rhythmic layers” and are commonly used by rappers in order to establish musical parallelism between the different phrases that make up their verse.
For example, Tech N9ne, in his track “Drinkkin’,” demonstrates this technique by creating a pitched correspondence between two-syllable rhymes and rhyming syllables. Each rhyming syllable is created by a distinct, higher-pitched vocal pitch. The effect is that the rhyming syllables stand out against the rest of the verse, and they also create a contrast between the mid-range “base” flow and the high-pitched rhyming syllables.
Similarly, Jay Rock, in his track “Vice City,” employs this technique by following Kendrick Lamar’s exaggerated declamation in several lines. However, after a few bars of speaking end-rhymes in the same low range, Jay Rock changes his vocal pitch, and speaks a few syllables high in his falsetto range to separate these moments from the rest of the track.
These techniques are a means by which rappers are able to distinguish and affiliate themselves with their local cultural production. In this way, they are able to create an “aesthetic legitimacy” that is marketable in their respective communities. In this sense, they are able to navigate the challenges of segregation in the music industry and remain competitive for limited resources and prestige.