Rhythm has been a part of human existence for millions of years. When the first men walked out of their caves, the first instrument they learned to play was percussion. The primal nature of rhythm is a reason why past warring armies had drum sections to stir up the passions of the soldiers before a big battle. Rhythm is a critical part of music in general. Without it, notes have no ending and songs don’t have structure. Hip hop artists and fans know how especially important rhythm is to their music. It is a part not only of the actual music and beats but also in the way a rapper raps. The main two characteristics of rhythm in a hip hop song are cadence and flow. Today we’re going to explain the difference between these two characteristics.
Cadence – Matching Vocals to Music
In its most basic sense, cadence is the rhythm of words and phrases matched to the rhythm of the beat. A good rapper with a good sense of cadence knows how to tie their words with the beat to make them seem inseparable. This is like the way a ship bobs on the sea between waves. The sea and the boat seem as though they are one as the boat floats on the water between the heights and depths of the waves. A good sense of cadence allows the beat to be on equal footing with the lyrics in expressing the message of a song.
Flow – You Know It When You Hear It
Flow is a much harder concept to explain. Sticking with the boat metaphor from above, imagine a large shipping boat plowing through small waves on the sea. This is apt for describing flow – it’s a more advanced way of using the rhythm of the lyrics to convey the message of the song. It plays with the little details of the beat, exploits structural and rhythmic tendencies of it, and completely masters them. Rappers who are able to rap using complex and fast-paced rhythms are often said to possess flow. In most cases, you just know it when you hear it!
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