Abstracthiphop Vocal Techniques

Abstracthiphop is a sub-genre of experimental hip hop. It focuses on beats that lack drums and feature looped, jazzy samples. It is reminiscent of early 2000’s grime but has become more popular due to the close-knit group of artists who are involved in it.

Abstract Hip Hop: Vocal Techniques

Many abstract hip hop songs use a style of vocal performance that is primarily pitch-based and heavily syllabic. It is a vocal technique that is rooted in black diasporic traditions of expressive performance, such as those discussed by Zora Neale Hurston and Amiri Baraka.

Example 2 shows a rapper, Tech N9ne, rapping on the word “drinkin'” in his track “Victory.” He performs rhyming syllables with pitch-based correspondence, but also incorporates several pitches from near-the-end of his vocal range to create an exaggerated declamatory flow (see note 1). As the song progresses, the rapper progressively increases the pitched quality of his vocal pitch from line to line.

As an expression of black subjectivity, hip hop is a potent and pervasive force in contemporary black American life. It has been a powerful force in fostering social and political consciousness, providing information about contemporary events, and contributing to personal growth.

The ethos of hip hop encompasses four expressive practices: deejaying, break(danc)ing, graffiti writing, and emceeing. This “four element” model, however, sometimes gets supplemented by additional elements like beat-boxing (see Chang 2005; Ewoodzie 2017).

While hip hop purists may consider a variety of other expressive modalities to be part of the “hip-hop” ethos, these four practices–deejaying, breaking, graffiti writing, and emceeing–are the ones most commonly referenced as synonymous with or connected to the genre of hip hop music. The resulting emphasis on these four elements has led to an ardent fan base among those who appreciate these musical and aesthetically distinct forms of expressive practice.

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