The notes in Bebop and the lyrics in Hiphop both mean nothing without a syncopated rhythmic cadence.
Syncopation : “a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent in music caused typically by stressing the weak beat.”
Syncopation is important in Black music because Blacks were strong in areas where they were expected to be weak. In Hiphop, you are not a dope MC if you do not have a strong rhythmic concept to your flow. I don’t care how lyrically brilliant you are.
It’s the same in Bebop. I don’t care how many 8th or 16th notes you can effortlessly string along in your lines. Without a syncopated rhythmic inflection, your lines mean nothing.
The “triplet” feel is the driving rhythmic undercurrent in both Bebop and Hiphop. Tap into the tribal rhythmic code and you unlock the mystery of the Black American musical aesthetic. The sounds and voices may have changed over the years, but the DNA of the Black rhythmic code has remained in tact. All music does not have to pay deference to this rhythmic code, just Black American music.
Free Jazz is a misnomer. There is no way for Jazz to be free, for the moment you call it Jazz you’ve already put the music in shackles.
The objective of a loop in Hiphop is to isolate a rhythmic pattern and make it recur as to induce the listener to a trance like state. In Bebop, all of the instrumentalists have an individual linear identity thus forming a constant contrapuntal conversation. In Hiphop, the primary linear voice is the MC who flows atop the rhythm section which typically employs a loop pattern as backdrop.
So, in many ways, Hiphop is a return to the New Orleans tradition of the linear solo voice on top of the circular rhythm section. The linear/circular dynamic has been an important motif throughout the development of music as a medium for at least the last century.
For example, the first commercial recordings were phonograph cylinders then later gramophone disks played by a needle.
Circles and lines.
The ride cymbal pattern, (a Black invention) which is central to swing rhythm, is carried out with stick (line) to cymbal (circle).
Check out Papa Joe Jones playing the ride cymbal pattern on the hi-hat.
The advent of the compact cassette also followed this trend as tape is a line and the tape head is a circle.
Musical notation itself is written in a series of lines and circles.
The compact disc came along and usurped both the vinyl album and the cassette but did not break the circle(disc)/line(laser) trend. Soon, the physical disc will be obsolete and all info will be digital which is based on a binary format – 0s & 1s (circles & lines).
Earlier I discussed rhythmic syncopation, but there is also what I have coined “harmonic syncopation” as well. Playing the blues is what I would call “harmonic syncopation”. Now harmonic syncopation can be where you start and stop the notes as well as the pitch of the notes themselves.
The Blues is not a form, it’s a feel.
Just as rhythmic syncopation places emphasis on beats in between beats, harmonic syncopation emphasizes notes in between notes.
The first scale we typically learn in school is the C diatonic scale. C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.
The bluesman typically favors notes in between that scale. They are the blue notes. Db-Eb-Gb-Ab-Bb.
I don’t believe it to be a coincidence those notes the bluesmen favor are on the “black” keys in the diagram.
Now an interesting thing happens to the acoustic waveform when one plays those blue (dissonant) notes. . . .
The more dissonant (blue) a note is, the more asymmetrical (syncopated) the pattern in the waveform.
The swing (or shuffle) feel is very primal to human nature.
The heart itself swings in a syncopated pattern.
It is not metrically even.
There is a lope in the beat or a shuffle.
The typical heartbeat would be notated as this:
…which is the traditional rhythmic underpinning of all Black American music.
A classic example of the Blues Shuffle is. . . .
Jimmy’s left-hand is organ bass is mimicking the primal sound of the heartbeat.
A heartbeat, a shuffle, and the blues in Hiphop:
An EKG is used to record the heartbeat. . . .
An MPC is used to record Hiphop beats…
That is all, for now.
- Nicholas Payton