Coolio: Gangsta’s Paradise
This 1995 rap song is so famous that even I (with a fairly longstanding aversion to the genre!) am familiar with it. It has a verse-chorus-verse structure: the verses are rap against a bass line, drums, and simple synth line playing repeated notes on the beat, and the chorus is sung with backing vocals. It has a laid back tempo, and the whole song is based on four chords of a minor key: VI, IV, V, and I. I think the simplicity of this structure along with the catchy rhymes and distinctive synth line is probably what made it so successful.
Eminem: Bad Guy
This is a more recent song, released in 2013, and uses a lot more electronic/synthesized instruments as well as sound effects such as sirens and doors slamming. It has a similar verse-chorus-verse structure to Gangsta’s Paradise though, and also has a fairly laid back, walking pace tempo. Interestingly it is also in a minor key and is based on almost the same chord structure (IV, V and I). The lyrics contain swear words and quite confrontational language, which seems in keeping with the aggressive stereotypes of the rap community. The second section of the song changes to a kind of rap/singing hybrid (it sounds like shouting but on an identitiable pitch).
50 Cent: In Da Club
This song takes us back a decade or so to 2013. The very beginning of the song is the epitomy of what I dislike about the genre – the constant repetition makes me want to literally cover my ears to stop the noise! This song is again in a minor key, and the lyrics contain swear words and direct refererences to sex. I think this is the least imaginative of the songs I’ve listened to, there is almost no development of the music at all. The only really distinctive feature is the syncopated drum and bass line, coming in before the beat.
The lyrics (if they’re called that in rap) are given a lot of importance in this genre, both for their rhyming quality as well as the content itself which is often delivering a strong message about something. The overall impression these songs leave me with is definitely one of aggression, and I find the repetitiveness of some of them mind-numbingly irritating.