5 Rules for Rapping in Public


So by now you’ve probably already seen the world’s no. 1 “Ni**as in Paris” fan/caroler. It’s too bad the Watch the Throne tour has come to an end, because — given the statistics, and Kanye himself showing some Twitter love — odds are at least even that homey would get recruited to perform a rendition or two (or eleven) at a live show. I’ve watched the clip enough times my brain now recalls this guy’s ad-libs before the song’s actual lyrics (If you escaped what I’ve escaped / OOOOOH, LET’S GO JAY!!!)

But in seeing the video go viral, I’m sort of surprised this level of PDA for a song isn’t seen on public transportation more often. We’ve all seen the movie scenes and sketch-comedy moments where someone is really pouring their heart and soul into their favorite song before [record scratch] someone sees them and they turtle back into their shell. Why so shy? Why are more of us not going HAM like this guy? Sure, not everyone has the bionic right knee required for the full cardio workout, but when a high percentage of your average rush hour crowd is marching with buds in their ears, I’d expect a few more lost-in-the-moment karaoke sessions to pop off. Even if purely accidental (*winks at camera*).

It’s the end of the year, though, which means this viral has set the bar for next year’s first meme of the moment: Intentionally or Unintentionally Rapping in Public. Too many catchy hooks out there to be moving around in silence. So here are a handful of tips to plant in your subconscious so that as you turn up the music you don’t turn off the world.

Song Selection: At the risk of never hearing what Kanye would sound like if possessed by the devil (1:19), I dare say “In Paris” is not a great song choice here. (1) It’s too popular. You want to go recognizable with your Public Karaoke Playlist, but not the most played song in America right now. (2) It’s too NSFW. Too many n-words and b-words and MF’s for the kids watching your show. It might not have the same sizzle, but this clip would be so heartwarming if he were doing “Made in America” instead: “Sweet Brother Malcolm, Sweet Queen Betty … ” is still screechable, and leaves everyone a little more comfortable on the commute.

Volume/Sound Check: Hmm. Here’s the thing: I do think the average trip on a subway or bus is eerily silent for a people obsessed with social media. We yapper away on Facebook and Twitter, but mum’s the word in person? So while it’s tempting to say “keep everything to a whisper level and respect everyone’s personal listening space,” I think turning it up and challenging the boundaries of our comfort zone is justified in this case. But … This guy probably needs to dial it down to eight or nine from 30. A safe rule of thumb is the volume should be high enough so everyone at your end of the car can enjoy, but not so high that you are teasing the folks at the opposite end who can only hear but not see you.

Rap or Dance: On the similar grounds of pushing the envelope — but not too far — you can safely choose to harass people through audio/rapping or the threat of being danced with/on. But not both. Choose what the music is making you do before you leave the house.

No eye contact: You’ve already got a captive audience — there’s no need raise the stakes by serenading anyone directly. Treat it like a concert, look around the crowd, but don’t fixate on anyone. Unless you’re about to propose or something, which falls under a different set of guidelines.

Don’t block any doors: You can interrupt some folks’ quiet time with little to no repercussions — but if you’re blocking an open door, making someone late, be ready for beef. And not like Common vs. Drake beef.

OK. That’s it for now. Look forward to seeing your show!

Filed Under: Hip Hop-Ology, Jay-Z, Kanye West

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