Mumble Rap: This Ain’t That!
By Khalil Amani
I don’ took all I’m gonna take! These young hip-hop heads tryna play musical gymnastics and somersault Mumble Rap into the pantheon of rap genres by saying certain old school rappers gave birth to this genre—they’re trying to bridge that gap between Mumble Rap and what rappers like Busta Rhymes, Twista, Jaz-O, Bone Thugs & Harmony, Eminem—and even an early Jay-Z were doing. I’m not buying what they’re trying to sell and I’m not having it!
The term “Mumble Rap” was first coined by Wiz Khalifa in June of 2016 when he was on a radio station. He said, “We call it mumble rap. It ain’t no disrespect to the lil homies. They don’t want to rap…”
Don’t say I’m an old-head for stepping on your new-jack toes. I actually like some of the Mumble Rap I hear. I’m no old prude who can’t keep up with rap’s ever-evolving sound. Do what the fuck you do, rap music! Rappers like Young Thug, Future, Desiigner and Lil Uzi Vert exemplify this sub-genre of rap music known as Mumble Rap. They are thee quintessential Mumble rappers.
If you listen to old people, they’ll tell you that they can’t understand any of rap’s genres. They’ll tell you that rap music sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Have you heard some old people say this? I have. It’s because they don’t understand the music—and the music wasn’t made for them. Old people’s ears aren’t trained to understand rap music—the slang, ebonics, regional dialects and colloquialisms. Rap, like Rock & Roll is a young person’s musical genre. I’m 57 years old, but I’m an anomaly—a middle-aged aberration from the norm, because most people my age don’t know who Lil Yachty or Desiigner are. I’m a fan of rap music simply because it was my generation of teenagers that founded rap music. Its rap till the def!
They say, “No man is an island,” but I’m telling you, Mumble Rap has no predecessor! A nigga once said that Busta Rhymes is the “Godfather of Mumble Rap.” First off! GTFOHWTBS! Busta Rhymes is arguably a Top 5 rhyme-spitter—ever! Would you put Busta Rhymes in a battle rap with any Mumble rapper—or would you put Busta Rhymes in a rap cypher with any Mumble rapper? Hell fucking no! Therein lies your answer! Busta Rhymes has nothing in common with a Mumble rapper, save (except) the fact that you have to listen to both with a critical ear; the Mumble rapper because he raps like he has a dick in his mouf and the rapid-fire rapper because he says more words than the Cerebral Cortex (brain) can over-stand.
Now let’s examine, for a moment, the word “Mumble.” Mumble is a verb and a noun meaning, “To say something indistinctly and quietly, making it difficult for others to hear. To mutter, murmur, a quiet and indistinct utterance.” This defines perfectly how the human ear hears Mumble Rap. Conversely, when you hear a Busta Rhyme rap, you don't hear murmurs, mutters and quiet utterances. He gives you rap with the volume turned all the way up!
Real musicians—meaning people that know music theory—people that can read and write music and play instruments—people such as myself, who know music terminology
(I play violin and saxophone and read sheet music)—we can hear and understand the difference between what Desiigner and Future does with their words versus what Twista and Busta Rhymes do with their words. Mumble Rap “slurs” and the rapid-fire lyricism of Busta Rhymes and Twista are all about articulation, annunciation—or, in musical terms—Staccato, which means that with Busta Rhymes, each word is sharply detached or separated from the next word. The fact that Busta Rhymes can say many words in rapid succession—that his words escape the ears and cerebellums of some listeners does not make him a Mumble rapper. The difference betwixt the Mumble Rapper and the Rapid-Fire Wordsmith is the difference between a musical Slur vs. Staccato. A Slur runs notes—or sounds—or words together. A Staccato separates words and makes distinctions between notes—and sounds—and words.
Mumble rap is no more than a ghetto Beethoven’s Glissando—music terminology meaning a continuous slide upward or downward between two notes.
Only a non-musician would try to fuse Mumble Rap with the rapid-fire wordsmithing of Busta and dem! Take a listen to the intricacies and subtleties and wordplay of rhymes-spitters who can rap fast and then listen to the slowed down tempo—the almost juvenile dumbing down of Mumble Rap. Listen with your mind and you’ll understand that Mumble Rap ain’t even a bastard child—and less than a stepchild—yea, a nomad and a gypsy who has no lineage to the rapid-fire, spitfire stylings that Busta Rhymes gives us. No! You’re just reaching for a bloodline to justify this non-lyrical rap genre called Mumble Rap. "Molly Percocets." Shit is catchy in the club, but don't you ever fix yo' mouf by claiming Mumble Rap's kinship with real rhyme-spitters like Busta Rhymes, Jaz-O and Twista! Because Mumble Rap? This ain’t that!
Eminem's Rap God is another example of STACCATO LYRICISM. No mumbling even if you can't keep up with what he's spitting. Listen!
Khalil Amani--old-head with a new-jack swing. Follow on IG @khalil_amani