In this post I will be discussing and analysing the genre of Hip Hop music (Rap), its origin, the elements used in its production and I will also analyse one Hip Hop track called “The Motto” from drake featuring Lil Wayne.



Rap music (Hip hop) is said to have originated from the African American communities of South Bronx, New York City in the early 1970’s. It was introduced by DJ Kool Herc (Clive Campbell) a born Jamaican Dj who migrated to America and brought with him his Jamaican culture of huge sound systems where he organised, hosted street and hall parties and patrons who attended the events (Lewis, 2006; Zuberi 2003).

Kool Herc always melded percussive sounds from older records with new records to keep a continuously flowing of music (mixing) as he entertained his fans. Using his two turntables and a mixer (sound system) to mix tracks at his sister’s back-to-school party, DJ Kool Herc tried something new which gave birth to Hip Hop. He extended an instrumental beat (breakbeat) and started ‘toasting’ or talking over the records (MC’ing) to engage and entertain the crowd which marked the start of Hip Hop music (Laurence, 2014).

He was later on joined by other pioneering Africa-American deejays such as Grand wizard Theodore, Afrika Bambaataa and grandmaster Flash who formed a group that transformed hip-hop from music to a culture that changed the all music industry. The group introduced, developed and contributed to new skills that transformed Hip Hop music into a cultural movement. For example turntable manipulation (turntablism) also known as deejaying, Breaking ( Breakdancing), Emceeing,  and Graffiti art. All the above skill made up to what known “The fours elements of Hip Hop” (“The national museum of hip-hop”, n.d.).b-boy

Hip Hop Productions

Hip Hop production goes way back in the 1970’s where DJ’s used to play different breaks from different records for Mc’s to rap on at parties. They would get different live musicians mainly percussionists to play over a looping break beat and form original music which Mc’s could rap too. (Laurence, 2014).

This was all occurring live on stage until 1979 when “The Sugarhill Gang” opened another door for rappers to starting releasing their production on vinyl as the group’s (“The Sugarhill Gang”) “rappers delight” song that was recorded and produced on vinyl took rap music to mainstream when it went into the US top 40’s in 1980. (Lynch, 2014)

All song was produced using samples taken from different songs such as of “Good Times” song by chic where they lifted (ripped) and used its groovy breakbeat which was incorporated with others samples. “Not only was Chic’s disco groove used without permission but Big Bank Hank’s verses — including the line “never let an MC steal your rhymes” — were allegedly stolen outright from Grandmaster Caz of the Bronx hip-hop group Cold Crush Brothers” (Lynch,2014)

In 1980’s-1990’s, sampling ( an act of taking samples and snippet of audio from other sound recordings) became extensive in the hip hop production and the technique started to be used by many producers to create new music. Dr. Dre and DJ Yella of the NWA (Niggaz with Attitude) Rap group were among the producers that too sampling to the next level as they used sampled Jazz and Funk records, layered them with melodic elements to create tracks for their Straight Outta Compton music album that made the group gain much recognition and commercial success. (McGrath, 2011; Grant 2007)scratch

Today due to Technology, digital samplers both hardware and software have been inverted which have made sampling easier than it was before. So a lot of Hip Hop producers are making tracks from samples which they ripped off other audio sources, creatively engineer (pitch shift, reverse, speed up and distort) them and make new sounds using the sampled sound in virtual instruments.(Newton, 2008)

Today’s Hip production is still based mainly old techniques that were introduced by the DJ New production techniques such sampling short drum break beats from different records, scratching where needle dropping such as were introduced to Hip Hop by DJ’s as competition become big where each wanted to show their strengths Rapping/Emceeing in hip hop when rhythmic and rhyming speech or poetry is spoken or sang in time to a music beat. As rapping became more popular and the number of DJ’s increased, competition started to occur where dancing (breaking) battles from different groups to see who can produce a better production to the

Sound of Hip hop 

Rap music has always been composed of minimal sounds in its production as it originated from the ghettos and poor suburbs of New York city when producers never had enough money to afford music instruments which were expensive. Using samples ripped off records was the only way to make new songs. But as technology started improving and rap music got commercial producers started making money off music which they used to purchase new instruments (both hardware and software) then they started creating new and clean sounds.

The few instruments used to produce rap music include Drum beats, turntables, synthesisers and vocals (htmb,2015).


This has been the foundation or the heart of rap music. Rap started off with just playing a drum beat loop which is mainly composed of a kick drum and snare drum and bits of percussive hi-hats playing.  The old school hip hop has drum beats that are heavier and it sounds distorted as they were samples played off drums machine such as E-mu SP-1200 and Akai MPC60 while are other drum samples were ripped from a record.akai-mpc-renaissance-600921

But the genre today has cleaner drum beats used which are most of the time are digital samples downloaded from sample packs. They get layered with other samples to give them the hardness and punchiness to stand out in the mix. Other drum samples that get layered are Loud crispy snare drum (both samples and synths) with harsh hand claps are layered to produce a harsh snare sound (Veeger,2014).

In the current sub-genres of rap music mainly trap and grill music, producers has turned back to bring up the sound of the old sound rap music by using 808 drum sample which  they creatively engineer and incorporating them with electro synths sounds to create new production.


In rap music, synthesisers have played a big role to shape the genre where it is now as they have been used to create melodic sounds, bass lines, percussive sounds and even sound effects. In today rap music production, we can hear heaps of new sounds that have been generated from using of virtual instruments which have replaced real instruments and hardware synthesiser. Many young Hip-Hop producers are using  virtual instruments to create any sort of sound they produce and incorporate it in the genre which has made rap music to sound very different with heaps of complex and simple sounds compared to the old  Hip-Hop.

Vocals (Rap/Emceeing)


Rapping/Emceeing in hip hop has been defined as rhythmic and rhyming speech or poetry that is spoken or sang to a music beat. This started off as an act of DJs playing music at the same time motivating crowds by speaking over music. As rapping became more popular DJ introduced Master of ceremony/act (MC) who would speak rhyming words in time with the rhythmic tempo of the melodies that were played by the DJs (History of hip hop music,”1997). “Performers spoke while the music played; these were originally called MCs (Master of Ceremonies or Mic Control- ler) and, later, rappers. These early rappers focused on introducing themselves and others in the audience, with some improvisation and a simple four-count beat, along with a simple chorus.” (Michael Newman, pp. 402)

When rapping because popular, rappers started using more complex rhythms, flows, lyrical content and concepts in their music. This is when we started hearing the use of metaphors, similes, strong messages delivered in rap music using hardcore tones of voices. Rappers such as Tupac, Notorious Big and Nas were among the great act who delivered song message to the public through rap music. “All we know is violence, do tha job in silence. Walk tha city streets like a rat pack of tyrants” Lyrics by 2Pac Shakur. 2013 (VeloLyrics,2015).

Song analysis

“The Motto” Drake featuring Lil Wayne

The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards - Show

onstage during the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on January 31, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

“The motto” is a hip-hop song by a Canadian recording artist “Drake” featuring an American rapper Lil Wayne “Young money”. This song was produced by T-Minus, released on 29, November 2011 and it was a success for the rapper as it sold 3 million copies and was nominated for the best rap sold at the 55th Grammy awards.


The track was produced with minimal instruments as most of the old school Hip-Hop had. The instruments used are 808 kick drum, claps, moody bass, hats, Synth and vocal of drake and Lil Wayne.

Kick and Bass

The 808 kick drum has a presence of low-end frequency which makes it sound heavy and punchier. It sounds to be layered with a moody bass synth that is side chained to it because the bass is loud but when the kick is playing its reduces volume allowing the kick to cut through the mix.  The layering of bass and kick drum has been introduced in hip hop music through its sub-genre called Trap music. Trap music originated from southern states of America, it uses low-end sounds that can be felt such loud kick 808 bass sound and snappy snare drum. The samples used in the genre originates from the TR-808 Drum machine. It also uses aggressive synths sounds that represent its background of the south. Where young adults use trap music to talk about the street life and hardship they live by daily also to express their anger toward the injustice system of the US government (Pepin,2014).Roland_TR-808_drum_machine

I believed the kick and the hats used in this track were sourced from the TR-808 Drum machine which they compressed to make them louder and pumping in the song.Both the kick and the bass are positioned in the centre of the mix.

Snare drum and Claps

They used a loud grimy, snappy, rhythmic snare drum which is layered with a clap to give it a sharp sound and compressed making it loud it the song. It plays rhythmic pattern with variations accompanying the melodic bass in the song and has a dry Reverb that gives it the short space sound.

The song has two types of claps which were used to produce the song. The main clap plays loud on every second beat of the song. This sharp and loud clap has a medium reverb used on it and is panned to mid left of the mix.

The other clap is the alternating clap which is automated with a panning (auto pan) effect that is moving from left to right in the mix. The alternating clap has been distorted to make it sound dirtier in the song keeping the sound of Trap music which is associated with dirty sounds. The clap also has reverb and delay used on it. Lastly, the clap has a low volume which makes it playing in the background of the mix.


The track has loud repetitive open hats which change patterns throughout the song. They have reverb applied them and they are heard will space sounds has if they are being played in the open space.


Both Drake and Lil Wayne lead vocals are positioned in the centre with a medium volume level that keeps them blending in the mix. The song also has backing vocals of Lil Wayne that are panned both to the left and right of the song. The used a bandwidth eq on them where both the high and low frequencies are cut off to make them sound like one was speaking on a telephone (telephone effect).There backing vocals and bit of the lead vocals have delay effect applied to them which make the backings repeat with echoes bouncing back after.

Lyrical content

“Getting paid, we’ll holla whenever that stop / My team good, they don’t really need a mascot / I tell Tune ‘light one, pass it like a relay’ / YMCMB, you n—as more YMCA,” Drake raps. Meanwhile, Lil Tunechi throws a couple lyrical jabs and indecipherable rhymes at his haters. He rhymes, “Talk stupid, off with your head / Money talks and Mr. Ed / I’m so Young Money / Got a drum on the gun and a desert bunny.” (Fitzgerald,2011)

According to the lyrics of the song, drake talks about the rich and high standard life  he lives.  The theme of the song “YOLO” which stands for You only live once proves that he doesn’t care and won’t regret the discussion he makes because he got enough money and his leaving a good life.

This phrase is used much by the young adults as it became used away enjoying life to the fullness with regret of what happen as they believe in YOLO. I believe this at the same time was drake’s target market for this track as what he signing about is enjoying like abundantly.

Today’s young purveyors of YOLO do indeed appear to be trying to work it right, though what that means is up for debate. Eble’s students illustrate its typical use, as a carefree tag to explain an impulsive choice: “You want to park illegally in this spot? YOLO!” “Should I buy these shoes or pay rent? YOLO!” The word has also found favor as a verb, as in this Yelp review of a Jersey City pizzeria: “All the times I come home after a night of YOLO-ing, I crave a delish slice to soak up the booze and sober me up.” (Zimmer, 2012).


In this blog, I have analysed the Hip Hop genre, talked about it origination, the sounds used in its production and I have analysed Drake’s “The Motto” Hip Hop song featuring Lil Wayne.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s