Rappin’ with Rap Seminar (Interview)

Rap Seminar provides an innovative analysis of hip hip lyricism. Roberto Santos is the driving force behind this creative process. I think hip hop artists can find this information very useful in improving rhymes by measuring the strength and weakness in their skill set. As we look to propel the culture forward, I feel it’s imperative we shed light on useful tools and resources that will enable one to maximize their rap abilities. Rap seminar has granted us an interview to help us gain a better understanding of their lyrical analysis process.



Tell us about your mission and professional background.

The mission of Rap Seminar is to educate people about the art of lyricism, and shine light on the literary techniques emcees use in their songs. I have a bachelor’s degree in English, a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing, and am a tenured English professor at a Community College in Texas. Beyond these things, though, I’m a die-hard Hip-hop head using my education to advance Hip-hop culture by acknowledging its contributions to the literary arts.

What services do you provide?

Rap Seminar provides lyrical analysis services in a variety of areas, for a variety of audiences. For professional emcees, we analyze lyrics and provide data that quantifies their literary techniques, as well as the types of rhyme and amounts of rhyme per bar, verse, or song. Aside from our lyrical analysis services, we also create lyric images for artist’s merchandise, and offer Giclee archival art prints of the charts and images we create for emcees so they can be framed and displayed in the home, office, or recording studio by the emcees themselves or their fans.

Is your analysis used to improve artist’s lyricism?

Our analysis aims to identify the techniques that emcees use the most, and by doing this they also become aware of the techniques they use least. At the end of the day, providing emcees with knowledge of themselves should help them grow in some way, or at least give them ammunition they can use to brag about their skills. Aspiring rappers and Hip-hop heads are also bound to learn something from the analysis that we publish because the detailed nature of our work really does reveal the skill sets of emcees. Another audience we’ve found is the academic Hip-hop audience. Different professors and graduate students from across the US have been reaching out for data on various emcees, and it’s been super dope seeing that these analyses do more than educate emcees. They have also seeped in to the academic realm to aid students and educators in deepening their understanding of rap and Hip-hop culture in general.

Here are some example analysis graph’s provided by Rap Seminar

Graph definitions

  • Allegory is a story poem or picture that can be interpreted to have a hidden meaning  or a moral
  • Allusion is an expression used to call something to mind
  • Polysemy is multiple word meanings
  • Epistrophe is the repetition of words at the end of successive clauses or sentences

How do you recommend artists to use the analysis for improvement?

We recommend artists use the analysis to identify what they do most, but also to identify techniques they use least. Aside from that, taking the time to read what we write about emcees allows artists to get ideas, and to learn from what other wordsmiths are doing with their bars.

Who had the highest numbers since your inception? Give us a bit of insight on how they achieved that score.

Off the top, I would have to say that Kool G Rap has one of the highest rhyme counts at Rap Seminar with over 100 rhymes in 16 bars. We had an artist named HoTT that spit 172 rhymes in just 28 bars, which was crazy. Phantasm from the Cella Dwellas had a bar or two with 13 rhymes in them, but I would have to say that Wordsworth, Sean Price, and Jamal Gasol used the most diversity of literary techniques. Each of them have more than 9 literary techniques in the verses that we analyzed.

What we’ve learned is that when emcees achieve super high rhyme counts they usually do this by having very few individual rhyme schemes. In other words, they rhyme a ton of times with only one or two rhyming sounds for the entire verse. Kool G Rap, for example, rhymed one or two sounds in the middle of his bars and another sound at the end of each bar for 32 bars and this uniformity allows his rhyme count to skyrocket. Put it this way, the more diversity of rhyming sounds that exist, the lower the final rhyme count tends to be.

Are you conducting live seminars? If not, can we expect one in the future?

We held our first live lyrical analysis workshop at a place called “Fab Lab” in El Paso this July. For the first event, we analyzed “Triumph” by the Wu-Tang Clan, and searched for all of the literary techniques in the world. It was a super ill afternoon, for real. We’re hoping to continue the live workshops. We are also compiling a series of write-ups and videos created by professional emcees. We’re calling it the “Keynote Cypher.” These videos and write-ups will inform Hip-hop heads about different rap theories and methodologies so that the community can have a space to exchange their unique approaches to spittin’ bars. Stay tuned!

Weekly Rap Gods would like to thank Rap Seminar for their insight. Your contribution to the culture is definitely innovative and appreciated.