When ScHoolboy Q teased “Numb Numb Juice” on Instagram, he was understandably excited. The single's release marked 980 days since he dropped his last album, Blank Face LP, and what better way to mark his return than with one of the best hip-hop songs of 2019?
“Numb Numb Juice” features Q's signature word warping, delivery, and versatile flow, but what can we make of his technicality? Let’s break down the rhyme scheme of his first verse:
Some takeaways from the above:
- The verse is nine lines long and contains 88 words
- 63 of those 88 words are unique, or 71.2%
- 47 of those 88 words contain significant rhymes, or 53.4%
- All words in the verse are either single syllable or disyllabic
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Upon closer inspection, Q employs several rhyming techniques, including compound rhyming (kickstand/big fan), multis (got all kinds of/not your driver), but none more interesting than his “bending” of words.
For example, on paper, answer and ganja should be perfect disyllabic rhymes. However, Q distorts his pronunciation of ganja so that it perfectly matches up with the following end rhyme, remind ya. Another example is the way he intentionally pronounces her as hɑ, twice, to maintain the same end rhyme scheme for bars four through eight.
As observed by journalist Rebecca Haithcoat in 2012, Q has a “penchant for stretching vowels like Silly Putty.” By manipulating words he can stretch himself technically and diversify his rhymes—so he need not rhyme models with bottles like every other MC—which affords him an avenue to continue established schemes longer than he could otherwise.
With an increasing number of artists sacrificing wordiness for melody in the mainstream market—adversely affecting hip-hop’s collective vocabulary—are rhyme schemes still of value in today’s climate? The short answer is yes, of course.
The better question: why is hearing a well-crafted rhyme scheme so satisfying?
This attraction stems from our infancy and how we’re familiarized with literacy concepts. As noted in Australia’s Early Years Learning Framework, “Playing with rhymes helps children learn about sounds. It is an important part of tuning a child’s ear to the rhythms and sound patterns of language.” Just about every popular nursery rhyme utilizes the ABAB “traditional” or the AABB “couplet” rhyme scheme format, which trains our unconscious minds to follow along with artists’ patterns.
As rhyme schemes get more comprehensive and theoretically smoother, so too does the listening.