Diseño: Jennifer Ancizar
Diseño: Jennifer Ancizar

Hip hop, beyond flow

7 minutes / Raydel Obrador Evora (Prófugo)

19.08.2020 / Articles

I remember a television program where they interviewed a group of artists who stood out as leaders in the reggaeton genre, and the presenter asked the group: "What is flow?"

Several answers were given that my memory does not remember, however, one I do not forget. One of the exponents, with a naive smile but very sure of himself, said: “The flow is…” and began to move a hand, his wrist, his elbow and his shoulder successively, like a wave.

There is a variety of terms that are used to describe expressions related to the artistic and that characterize a way of manifesting or a certain technique. In the case of hip hop, some of these concepts are of Anglo-Saxon origin, due to the beginnings and development of this culture. However, in popular speech, many of these words are used without people being fully aware of their meaning, sometimes altering or impoverishing the idea they express.

What is flow, groove, break, beat? How to distinguish between the different skills when comparing several artists? What does one have that the other does not have: more flow, better lyrics, powerful beats, less groove?

On the one hand, flow —whose translation into Spanish is associated with flow, march, manar, run—, musically it has a lot to do with the way a rapper, to cite one example, expresses his speech. This is closely related to a series of vocal techniques such as intonation, the duration and intensity of sounds, the projection and administration of the air, the sense of time related to a complex natural metric from a poetry that preserves a writing discipline. All this, added to the sonorous timbre, the intention and the emotional bond of the message that is transmitted, forms a style of the exhibitor during his performance.

In the history of Cuban rap there are many examples of artists with a very attractive flow, some names such as El Prosa, Ruzzo, Anderson, Funky, Poeta Lírico, and the EPG groups, Explosión Suprema, among many others who with their style could be mentioned. they have set a pattern in the memory of island hip hop. Although flow is used to highlight qualities of the singer, it can be conditioned by the characteristics of the beat, understood in its slang as a background or musical background. Similarly, alluding to one of its meanings (beat), digital composition and recording programs make use of this term to indicate and mark the tempo / rhythm of the work or what many call the speed of the instrumental, and it is measured in BPM (beats per minute).

The movement that a beat causes is also determined by the groove, which represents the variations in time and intensity between the elements of the piece. By alternating the rhythms, delaying and advancing notes, some strong, others weak, the musical performance and the listening become more interesting. From this point, a difference can be established between works programmed exclusively in software and those executed by instrumentalists, the latter taking on a lot of life since never will a performer be as analytically and precisely accurate in its execution as a computer, although the search for perfection , through the practical control of an instrument, recreates the pleasant inaccuracies that delight our auditory perception.

This is how the way of enjoying music was revolutionized years ago, at the hands of DJs, when they began to repeat musical sections where generally only the drums and, on some occasions, the bass were heard. The best cuts or breaks had the most striking grooves, being cyclically reproduced (loops), and forming a kind of attraction that led to the emergence of new beats.

The ear and listening process are intuitive, yet educable. Learning to decipher the skills and structures that make up the most complex techniques of hip hop culture (sometimes seemingly easy) can become quite a subject. See the case of singers, rappers or MCs (Masters of Ceremony), who use the microphone to communicate.

Sucede que a veces hay creadores que aún dominando el flow y teniendo un interesante discurso, no conquistan a las audiencias. ¿Cómo puede ser posible, si cuentan con sugerentes letras, un ritmo acertado y una buena entonación (aunque muchas veces básica)? Pues se debe a que la mayoría de los artistas urbanos que destacan sobre el resto poseen además un buen desarrollo de la comunicación, tanto desde la psicología aplicada a las letras como desde las maneras de grabar y ejecutar su música en vivo, con lo que les sacan un extra a los conocimientos anteriormente descritos. Ejemplo de músicos que han descifrado estas habilidades son Papo Record y Rxnde Akozta, por citar un par, y se trata de un aspecto fundamental que no en todos los casos se logra desplegar de manera autodidacta.

Al mismo tiempo, la calidad del discurso se relaciona con la educación vocal del intérprete, lo cual en la música urbana es poco mencionado. El rap puede convertirse en un ejercicio auto-instruido pero existen prácticas que nos permiten una mejor emisión. Por ejemplo: saber cómo mejorar y manipular el uso del sistema de resonancias que da a la voz su color, timbre, riqueza y amplitud; adiestrar la respiración costodiafragmática, así como la dicción, la articulación, y muchas otras experiencias que se cultivan incluyendo la salud vocal, como sucede en el caso de los locutores, actores y demás profesionales de la voz. Pabelo, del grupo Ley de Thalion, es un buen ejemplo para ilustrar todo esto.

However, the most relevant urban exponents have not only known how to make use of oral and written language, but also gestural, graphic and visual, such as clothes, hair and other symbols. Of course, in certain degrees of eminent popularity, communication variables can be directed from and towards a business point of view, integrating personal selling, advertising, promotion, marketing, sponsorship and public relations.

As a consequence, this generates a role model among those creators who yearn to indulge in renown and notoriety, personalizing patterns and a belief system around the idealized successful artist. Although it is true that many famous virtuosos "have not gone to school" to achieve their goals, it is also true that the overcoming and education of the subject in which a subject wants to specialize are necessary to raise the competencies of each one. , whether in business, production or any of the areas that affects the quality of a designed product. 

Today there are theses, databases, conferences, books and articles that reveal the transformative nature of hip hop as a sociocultural phenomenon. That is why it is important to know and educate ourselves on its elements, beyond what is seen and what is heard, in order to establish a better relationship with the public and be more complete artists. 

Raydel Obrador Evora (Prófugo)

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