Breakdown: Tierra Whack’s Rhyme Scheme on “Unemployed”

What stands out the most about Tierra’s rhyme scheme is how she positions her rhymes.
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Breakdown: Tierra Whack's Rhyme Scheme on "Unemployed"

Women are underrepresented in the music industry, and it’s been this way for centuries. According to a study published in March by the University of Southern California, “17% of artists in 2018 were women.” If that statistic alone isn’t staggering, Hip Hop By The Numbers recently tabulated that only six of a possible 324 Top 10 hip-hop albums on the Billboard 200 since 2010 came from women—or, 1.9%.

Earlier this month, after an out of touch producer and record executive cast aspersions on every female emcee, women in hip-hop became a trending topic on social media. To help dispel any confused sentiments about the talent and ability of the genre’s most impressive female practitioners in 2019, I've decided to focus my attention on Tierra Whack, a 2019 XXL Freshman and Interscope Records signee.

Known for flexing during Instagram freestyles, Tierra’s technicality is undeniable on the latter verse of her most recent single, “Unemployed.” 

This skillset is evident in the following breakdown:


Some takeaways from Tierra’s "Unemployed" verse above:

  • The verse is 16 bars long and contains 224 words
  • 140 of those 224 words are unique, or 63%
  • 98 of those 224 words contain significant rhymes, or 43.75%
  • With 128 significant rhymes, Tierra averages eight rhymes per bar

What stands out the most about Tierra’s rhyme scheme is how she positions her rhymes. Each bar/line of music can be measured in four-beats. For example, a two denotes a half-bar and a four marks the end of a line. To highlight the structure of the latter half of her verse, I've noted each beat in the example below in red superscript:


In the above excerpt, we see there are 20 combinations of the oʊ (e.g., oh) and ə sounds (e.g., er). Tierra delivers the oʊ-ə multi on every offbeat, which is the second and fourth beat in a bar of four-four time, except for the second half-bar of each quatrain sequence—Tierra opts to omit this multi in both instances for the sake of her flow.

From a listener's perspective, Tierra’s verse is satisfying because of its structuredness. Beginning at infancy, we are familiarised with musical concepts, including rhyming—which I explored in a previous breakdown. During this time, we develop an ability to hear a musical beat and recognize patterns, or rhythms. So, by delivering multis on each offbeat, rather than interspersing internal rhymes or merely focusing on end rhymes, Tierra can establish a more condensed and predictable rhythm for the listener to track and enjoy.

Very cool.