Jump to content

Would it be correct to classify rappers as "singers" by definition?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Now, I'm not saying there aren't rappers who can truly sing. Surely, there are some who can.

But I am talking about rappers as a whole. Would you classify all of them as "singers" per se? Sure, we can pull out the official Webster's definition of "singer" and make it apply, but I believe you guys know what I'm talking about.

It seems I can rarely have this discussion with others without them inevitably trying to shift it into a race issue, which is a deplorable tactic, in my opinion.

Your thoughts?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 58
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I think rap follows the same rules as singing, though it is not as melodic as I prefer. A rapper must train to breathe properly for extended phrases. Articulate clearly. Speak on pitch, even if the back-up is just drums. Drums are actually tuned to a pitch or pitches.

That being said, my favorite rapper was not a singer, and never sung on pitch. He was not trained to sing. His previous job was dealing drugs and being a "manager" for ladies of the evening. The one and only .... Tone Loc.

"Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina" are masterpieces.

Since then, he has turned his life around, found religion, and does voices for kids cartoons and children's programs. Rap gave him some legitimate success that turned him into a productful citizen. The ultimate irony - he plays the police detective in "Ace Ventura" Pet Detective."

Have I cleared it up?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had two incidents recently where the topic came up, and it was unfairly shifted to race and words were put into mouths. It got a bit ugly, frankly.

I and two other friends were having an acoustic jam a few weeks back. One of the guys is black, and he asked the other if he was into any rap music. He said "no, I prefer music where there's actual singing." That's where the crap hit the fan. The friend who is black insisted ALL rappers are singers. I and the other friend disagreed. Then it shifted to race.

Another incident was with a female friend. Her 17 year old son just finished recording his rap CD.

She was telling a female friends of hers about it, and I was present. She said "I'm so proud of my son, he's a great singer." The friend of hers expressed her opinion that he was not a "singer", but a rapper. She took it as an insult. The friend never said he wasn't talented or had no skill, but the mother went through the proverbial roof.

The friend of hers is also a big Andrea Bocelli fan. The mother then said "my son is just as much a singer as Andrea Bocelli is!!"

I thought that was going a bit far, myself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, yeah, I think many bring race into it, unfairly. Even though there are white rappers, I think some view it as a race thing and some of those viewers are not necessarily white.

My wife and I went to see the theatrical release of "The Last Boy Scout" with Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans.

When we were there, we were just about the only white people in the audience and that is not an exaggeration, nor was it a problem for me. I would have to write another book length post to show why that is not a problem.

The audience is carrying on all through the movie, especially cheering on Damon.

In the movie, the bad guy says to Bruce, "Just once, I want to hear you scream in pain." Bruce Willis replies, "Play some rap music."

Aboslute silence, you could hear a pin drop. And I just about can bet that if he had said, play some heavy metal or some country music, (since Bruce is actually a hard-core blues man,) the audience would have cheered and guffawed uproariously.

To me, the line would have been just as funny with any other genre. Hey, I like classical music. He could have said "classical" and I still would have laughed. Because it's about the character in the story.

So, in my viewing experience of the movie, I did not bring racism into it. Others did. Those who were offended about a joke which mentioned rap music.

And I am afraid racism is still rampant and you don't want me to get started on the problems with that, trust me.

I don't listen to much rap because I have a personal preference for strong melody. But my favorite rapper was not melodic. But he had the feel, the story to tell, and that is what counted.

On the other hand, I never understood the big attraction to Slim Shady. But hey, people like what they like and it sells.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My favorite rapper of all-time is Lauryn Hill. Almost every one of her verses with the Fugees was amazing.

No matter what album, she was always consistent and her verses were often deep and had meaning.

She's started off as a singer when she was young

Looking back, I'm not sure if her background as a singer (and her raspy voice) drew me to her.

I'm not even sure if she applied singing techniques to her rapping. Back then, I didn't know anything about singing. But I felt she had something that most people didn't have even though I could never figure out what it was. She was one of the few people that could both sing and rap. Often in rap songs, the singing parts are done by a featured artist or background singers.

Some songs I liked:



Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the movie, the bad guy says to Bruce, "Just once, I want to hear you scream in pain." Bruce Willis replies, "Play some rap music."

Aboslute silence, you could hear a pin drop. And I just about can bet that if he had said, play some heavy metal or some country music, (since Bruce is actually a hard-core blues man,) the audience would have cheered and guffawed uproariously.

I remember that scene...haha. And yes, I agree they probably would have responded differently had it been another genre mentioned.

I think the vehement reactions from defenders can be attributed to their assuming that others are saying there's no skill or talent involved.

Another exhausting topic of argument is "are DJ's musicians?", which I've had no less than a gazillion times in the last ten years.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If someone is pulling the racecard because you/anyone doesnt considering rapping singing. Thats basicly spitting on the whole Issue of equal rights/human value despite of color,gender,nationality.

And that person is à spolied brat who is oversensitive and isolated from reality.

À Singer is often times called so because he fronts a band.

Ive heard the same phrase uttered about




"no i prefer actual singing"

Rappers dont count as singers because

1. Most Times not backed by à band

2. Dont use legatolines and then our Brain dont Connect it to singing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pitch and rhythm are common to speach, rap and singing. Since speaking is not singing, you can't draw the conclusion that rap is singing just because it has pitch and rhythm.

From the viewpoint of someone who doesn't like rap (but has enjoyed som Outkast, cLOUDDEAD and one DMX-song)

- A lot of rap is monotonous with a large emphasis on rhythm. You'll find that in singing as well.

- To some extent rap refuses to relate to harmonic and rhythmic context. It has its own flow on top of whatever music is going on. I find that rare in singing.

My assessment would be that a lot of rap is consistent with singing in that it has a fixed (repeated) melody or flow relating to a specific harmonic and rhythmic context, but some is legitimately considered rap despite it not relating to the context. So I would say that most rap is some kind of singing but rap as a concept is not. Or rap is not any specific rapper might be.

A pure rapper (someone who doesn't use pitch relative to the harmonical context) can be a good singer like Bob Dylan can be a good singer - it's in the ear of the beholder. But that's a general issue with using individual experiences to assess aesthetic quality. If at least two people diasgree then the singer is both good and bad at the same time and categorising him/her as one over the other becomes pointless (don't get suckered in to a democratic crtieria of truth that follows the majority opinion). You need objective/inter-subjective criteria to assess quality independent of individual experiences and those aren't for laymen. (And there's no guarantee that those make sense either.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course you may argue about the definition of "singing" and it's a little bit similar to the discussion if things like growling are actual singing.

But I would agree with Jens that it is mainly about perception. For me, singing has rhythm and melody (which is similar to Jens legato argument), rapping most of the time only has rhythm. While there are pitches in speech, they are usually not percieved as "melody". If you would play the melody of a rap verse on a piano it would sound totally strange, more like rhythm than melody, even though it has pitches.

Of course techincally there are shared basics. But in terms of that we also share basics with athletes (mostly breath management) or preachers (resonance, breath) for example.

Somewhere I heard a definition of singing that kind of made sense to me. Someone said that it is actually the cartilage tilt (CT) that creates the perception of singing in most peoples ears as opposed to speech mode, if you want to define it from a perspective purely coming from phonation. Rappers usually don't use CT.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, according to the definition outlined in one of the most respected encyclopedia, then rap is singing.

But of course everyone is entitled to have their own definitions.

That definitions is basically as general as it gets. By that definition even usual speaking could be entitled as "singing". It basically has two parts:

1. production of "musical" tones

2. the production is done by the human voice

The second part is basically true for any sound humans can make with their voice, so the key to this definition must lie in the definition of "musical" tones. So to consult the same encyclopedia for that matter:

musical sound: any tone with characteristics such as controlled pitch and timbre. The sounds are produced by instruments in which the periodic vibrations can be controlled by the performer.

That some sounds are intrinsically musical, while others are not, is an oversimplification. From the tinkle of a bell to the slam of a door, any sound is a potential ingredient for the kinds of sound organization called music. The choices of sounds for music making have been severely limited in all places and periods by a diversity of physical, aesthetic, and cultural considerations.

So, it is basically saying what you are saying, too: What is "musical" is basically up the the individual, and thus, what is "singing" is up to the individual, too. The definition doesn't mean that rap is singing, because it is up to your personal definition and aesthetics, if you describe the sound of rap as a "musical" tone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My question is: does it matter? What will classifying them either way change?

Yes, apparently, I did find it to "matter", and what it could potentially "change" is how each is classified. But thanks for trying to invalidate my thread. I appreciate it.

Of course techincally there are shared basics.

Ah, there we go, and this is where I believe we start in making the distinction between the two. Recognizing there are shared elements, but realizing it doesn't make the two interchangeable. (If we were to follow dictionary definition of what a "singer" is, we could almost twist it to include auctioneers.)

Just as bending over and picking up bags of groceries doesn't necessarily make anyone who does so a weightlifter, though there are some "shared basics" involved.

Thanks to everyone for their input. I had faith you guys would be rational and articulate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess rapping is as much singing as death metal grunting and screeming is, or Tuvan throat singing, or chanting, or Scat from the old days.............

Either way there is an Art to it. If not done correctly even those who love rap will think it sucks.

I do prefer a melody line with at least 8 different pitches.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

to me, it all depends on the song...

some of them are just guys and gals with pent up aggression trying to be poetic....(and failing at it).

using wonderfully engaging lyrics such as

"my hoe this," "my hoe that," "that bitch this," "my bitch that."

w.t.f. is this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eminem and Drake both had and still have vocal coaches. There are some rapper with horrific technique and other who would probably out-do most singers in that "speaking" vocal range.

You will notice that the best rappers have a dynamic speaking voice... not monotone and usually have some kind of resonance. Another interesting fact is that many rappers with sound technique actually sing in some songs (even eminem) and don't sound bad at all.

I actually do rap sometimes not because I want to become a rapper it's because as singers we forget to train the speaking voice!!! Something rap can come-in very handy for :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...