Pitch, Motive, and Non-Alignment in the Idiomatic Phrasing of Melodic Rap Verses

Devin Guerrero, Texas Tech University

Current analyses of hip-hop vocals tend to focus on elements other than pitch and phrase. Adams 2020 states that "nearly every definition of phrase focuses on some coordination of melody and harmony; thus, given that hip-hop normatively lacks melody and often has minimal harmonic motion, 'phrase' would seem to be an inapplicable construct." However, the increasingly popular genre of melodic rap complicates this observation.1 Since melodic rappers engage pitches in their verses, descriptions of phrase should engage pitch. Duinker 2021 presents five segmentation rules for defining phrase in flow. This paper introduces a sixth segmentation rule—pitch patterns—built on Komaniecki's (2021) analysis to show how the use of distinctly pitched motives contribute to an idiomatic sense of phrase in melodic rap verses. This new rule allows for examination of grouping and displacement non-alignments of flow and beat layer.

1Not to be confused with Krims 2000's "sung" category of flow