A Song with a Great Display of Lyricism.
by Ken Jenie
During their on-record feud, Nas famously said to Jay-Z on his song Ether: “…and Eminem murdered you on your own shit.” Jay-Z having recently released his Blueprint album had a song on it called Renegade which featured Eminem, and though one can argue whose verse was better, a general consensus at the time said that Eminem’s had the stand out performance (perhaps even more so after Ether came out). I won’t argue whether or not Eminem’s verse was better; I think Jay-Z’s approach was equally compelling; but the MC from Detroit really did show why he is considered one of the greatest hip hop lyricists of all time.
First a bit of history about the track, Renegade was originally a song fellow Detroit MC Royce da 5’9” did with Eminem (who also produced the song) for his debut album. Royce’s label, Columbia Records, chose the song Rock City (which is also the name of the album) instead due to it being more catchy. Renegade floated around until Jay-Z contacted Eminem to do a song with him, and Eminem sent him this song. Jay-Z obviously liked it, recorded his verses over Royce da 5’9’s and Renegade then appeared on Jay-Z’s 2001 album, The Blueprint (great album, btw).
Content-wise, the song revolves around public and the media perception of music and musicians. Jay-Z describe how his music, a reflection of his environment and his upbringing, is interpreted as being “foolish” and one dimensionally only talking about “jewels” because those who critique it cannot relate like “thugs who have nothing”. Jay-Z stresses that his music brings pop culture “… closer to the block where they pop-toasters…” and so those who dismiss his music most likely do not understand or cannot empathize with the struggles people face everyday in the ghettos of America.
“Motherfuckers say that I’m foolish, I only talk about jewels. Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it? See, I’m influenced by the ghetto you ruined. That same dude you gave nothing, I made something doing what I do through and through and I gave you the news with a twist it’s just his ghetto point of view…”
Eminem’s verse describes the same theme. He basically explains the influence he wields as a popular musician, how the public and media has scapegoated his character for the action of the youth as well as their hypocrisy, and. In his first verse, he addresses his critics directly, and in the second verse he repeats the sentiment, but this time he makes sure that listeners know that he will continue being a renegade, proclaiming:
“I’m a motherfucking spiteful, delightful eyeful, The new Ice Cube, motherfuckers hate to like you. What did I do? I’m just a kid from the gutter making his butter off these bloodsuckers cause I’m a motherfucking Renegade.”
First thing I noticed, something that one could hear without even really listening to the lyrics, was the very complex flow. This particularly goes for Eminem, whose consistentmulti-syllabic rhyme patterns creates a cadence with a rhythm that really complements the song percussion. Jay-Z’s flow, equally impressive, takes a different route. Eminem ends each of his sentence/thought on the fourth measure/beat, which emphasizes the point he wants to address, for example
“Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit, maybe it’s beautiful music I made for you to just cherish. But I’m debated, disputed, hated and viewed in America as a motherfucking drug addict like you didn’t experiment?”
Meanwhile, Jay-Z has a bit more of a swing to his flow and sometimes places his punchlines in the first measure, or end a four bar scheme with a non-rhyming word.
“The renegade, you been afraid, I penetrate pop culture, bring ’em a lot closer to the block where they, pop toasters”
Stylistically, both approach the song in their own unique way. Now what makes them more than great rappers, but great lyricists, in my opinion, is how they manage to communicate their ideas clearly and thoughtfully while maintaining a complex rhyme pattern. Check out how how Eminem begins this rhyme pattern with the word “lucrative lyrics” (something that he rhymes through the whole verse, btw) and create his cadence not only by rhyming the 5 syllables, but also by rhyming individual syllables internally throughout this section of his first verse:
“Now who’s the king of these rude ludicrous lucrative lyrics? Who could inherit the title, put the youth in hysterics? Using his music to steer it, sharing his views and his merits, but there’s a huge interference, they’re saying you shouldn’t hear it. Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit, maybe it’s beautiful music I made for you to just cherish, but I’m debated, disputed, hated and viewed in America as a motherfucking drug addict like you didn’t experiment? Nah nah, that’s when you start to stare at who’s in the mirror and see yourself as a kid again, and you get embarrassed, and I got nothing to do but make you look stupid as parents. You fucking do-gooders – too bad you couldn’t DO-GOOD at marriage!”
It’s amazing how Eminem manages to deliver his thoughts so clearly and naturally yet have such a sophisticated technical rhyme-pattern.
A great lyricist can create rhyme schemes that are rhythmically pleasing, arrange words sensically and cleverly, and communicate thoughts and imagery – all of these stimulating the listener mind. Renegade is a great example of how great music can have layers upon layers of elements that one can peel and listen to everytime the song replays. Take a listen, and if you want to read a long as the song plays.
Check out the following video for a technical breakdown of Eminem’s verse on Renegade, and then enjoy listening to the song over and over again while catching all of the great lyricism!
“Renegade” ditulis oleh:
Jirapah singer and guitarist who is lactose intolerant. Ken enjoys the arts and is fascinated by the variety, and hopes mankind is curious about anything and everything. Cheers!