Breakdown: Hilltop Hoods’ Rhyme Scheme on “Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom”

We break down the rhyme scheme on Hilltop Hoods’ 2012 record “Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom.”
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Hilltop Hood's Rhyme Scheme on "Rattling The Keys To The Kingdom"

The Hilltop Hoods lay the foundation for Australian hip-hop as the first Aussie rap act to be embraced by a mainstream audience. Often, we couple such success with compromise, but the Adelaide trio was uncompromising in charting their path, becoming trailblazers in the process.

The Hoods—consisting of DJ Debris, Pressure, and Suffa—push themselves as musicians and writers, which is evident in their body of work, particularly on songs such as their 2012 single, “Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom.”

The song, which premiered seven years ago this week, is a masterclass in technicality. So much so that we couldn’t help but breakdown verses from both Pressure and Suffa.

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Some takeaways from Pressure’s "Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom" verse above:

  • The verse is 16 bars long and contains 168 words, or 10.5 words per bar
  • 121 of those 168 words are unique, or 72%
  • 133 of those 168 words contain significant rhymes, which is 79.2% or 8.3 words per bar
  • With 179 significant rhymes, Pressure averages 11.2 rhymes per bar
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Some takeaways from Suffa’s "Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom" verse above:

  • The verse is 16 bars long and contains 177 words, or 11.1 words per bar
  • 129 of those 177 words are unique, or 72.9%
  • 124 of those 177 words contain significant rhymes, which is 70.1% or 7.75 words per bar
  • With 171 significant rhymes, Suffa averages 10.7 rhymes per bar

In contextualizing the above numbers, we find that the verses have the highest rhyme-to-word ratio of any breakdown we have published thus far. Furthermore, Pressure rhymes 1.07 times for every word in his verse, which marks the first time the in Breakdown series history an emcee has delivered more significant rhymes than words (runners-up are Suffa with .97:1, Chance with .946:1 and Andre with .905:1).

How is Pressure able to include more rhymes than words? Exactly two-thirds of his words are monosyllabic (only one syllable) and the rest are two, three or four syllables. Pressure rhymes multiple syllables of the multi-syllable words in most instances, which means words like telepathy account for four rhymes. This result isn’t an anomaly either; Pressure rhymes every syllable of the 14 three and four-syllable words in the opening eight lines. 

If we take his opening two lines as an example, Pressure uses seven multi-syllable words and rhymes every single syllable for each one.

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In discussing this breakdown, rap analyst Derick Collins remarked that talented MCs often have to break the rules of grammar to deliver the best rhymes possible. 

“Plus, balancing that with writing a coherent sentence makes it all the more challenging, thereby rewarding,” he theorizes.

This particular observation is true of lines such as “Like them pourin’ the Boron on the core on the shore of Fukushima.” Grammatically speaking, there should be no "the" before Boron, but Suffa deliberately includes this gratuitous grammar to maintain the three-syllable multi grouping he constructs for lines 7-10:

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If artists opt for crafting complex combinations of rhymes over making grammatical sense, it can take away from the art of rhyming and ultimately sound awkward, forced, or even lazy. That said, Pressure and Suffa open their verses with back-to-back seven and eight-syllable multis, respectively.

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Perhaps the best example of striking that technicality-grammar balance is during Pressure’s verse, where he raps:

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Not only are those two perfect nine-syllable multis adjoined, but those 18 syllables read correctly in syntax, without Pressure bending, slanting, or manipulating the words in any way.

To see the two most dense rhyme schemes in the young history of #RSBD, catch the Hoods—who were voted the “Best Australian Live Act”—during the European/North American leg of their world tour next quarter, as they rattle the keys to their kingdom.

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