Breakdown: Chance The Rapper's Rhyme Scheme on “Paranoia”

The pièce de résistance is the closing couplet.
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Due to the marketing genius that is the re-release of Chance The Rapper’s back catalog on streaming services, which serves as promotion for his upcoming “debut” album, we’re revisiting one of his technical triumphs from Acid Rap: fan favorite “Paranoia.”

As he did on the record's thematic sequel, Coloring Book’s “Summer Friends,” Chance reflects on his personal experience as a Chicago native and the hopelessness that can permeate a city that was once dubbed the murder capital of America (which it isn’t). Fortunately, Chance’s poetic flare somehow simultaneously lessens and magnifies the magnitude of his situation.

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Some takeaways from Chance’s "Paranoia" verse above:

  • The verse is eight bars long and contains 92 words
  • 61 of those 92 words are unique, or 66%
  • 65 of those 92 words contain significant rhymes, or 70.7%
  • With 87 significant rhymes, Chance averages 10.875 rhymes per bar

The first half of the verse is dominated by four sounds, namely: the eɪ sound (e.g. stay), the ɔ sound (e.g. for), the ʊ sound (e.g. hood) and the ɑ sound (e.g. watch). The way he groups these sounds into a variety of multis is particularly interesting. To illustrate this, we’ll sort the multi patterns by syllable count and variety:

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To analyze even further, strictly speaking, savior and baby boy don’t rhyme. However, Chance breaks up savior into three syllables and bends both multis phonetically in order to make them work.

The pièce de résistance, though, is the closing couplet. While articulating the feeling of helplessness among the youth in the hood, Chance crams 35 rhymes into just two lines.

Chance's condensed rhyming is composed of lots of internal rhymes, as well as multiple instances of two, three, four and five syllable multis. For example:

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Here’s hoping Chance’s self-professed “literary knack” is as omnipresent as ever on his forthcoming debut.

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