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The primary purpose of this post is to mine the many ears and brains who discourse on this forum about the following: I'm looking for examples of beats from the hip-hop repertoire that involve oscillation between two chords. I'm primarily interested in exploring the relationship between this "category" of beats and the lyrics/subject of the song. If you are interested, please share any examples you can think of that fit this description, particulalry ones where the two chords (and perhaps the non-harmonic elements that go along with them) reflect or support the text/subject of the song.
What do I count to be hip-hop? What do I count to be "two-chord oscillation"? Well I don't know if I can say exactly, but if you think the example fits what I'm looking for (even if there is a shred of a chance that it might fit the description "two-chord oscillation in a hip-hop song"), please share it. I'd rather have more examples and end up finding that some of them aren't what I'm looking for than have nobody respond because they don't think the example they have in mind would work for me. I realize that harmony and tonality in hip-hop (and pop music generally speaking) is finicky; and in hip-hop there's absolutely an argument to be made (one that I would agree with) that harmony is not the most significant musical feature. But I'm becoming interested in it, so what's the harm?!
The example that has piqued my interest and that you might base your own example-sharing on if you have anything in mind is Kendrick Lamar's "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" from his 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city. The beat throughout this song oscillates between two chords that can be construed as "i" and "VI" if one considers F minor to be the more important chord (I hesitate to use the word "tonic" here). What I find expressively significant about the harmony of this beat is the way it supports the subject of the song: although within the album it seems like the song is about Kendrick's dad pleading Kendrick's mom to leave him alone and "cut [his] mother@#!$ing oldies back on," Kendrick Lamar has said the song actually expresses his feelings towards people in his life all wanting to have creative control over his writing and production process. It's as if "i" (the F minor chord) represents the reailty of things–many people trying to befriend Kendrick and influence his style without considering that they might be annoying him–and "IV" (the Db major chord) represents the way Kendrick wishes things were–relaxed, happy, vibing. The non-harmonic elements of the beat reinfornce the way that the DbM chord feels like a relaxed escape: it lasts a longer amount of time that the Fm chord and rhythmic activity is somewhat suspended as the the DbM chord arrives.
If you can think of any examples, I would really appreciate hearing about them. Or if you have any critical thoughts about this approach to rap, I would love to hear those as well.
MM Student, Indiana University
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