Metric Ambiguity and Flow in Rap Music: A Corpus-Assisted Study of Outkast's "Mainstream" (1996)


  • Mitchell Ohriner Shenandoah University



corpus studies, rap music, flow, T-Mo Goodie, Outkast


Recent years have seen the rise of musical corpus studies, primarily detailing harmonic tendencies of tonal music. This article extends this scholarship by addressing a new genre (rap music) and a new parameter of focus (rhythm). More specifically, I use corpus methods to investigate the relation between metric ambivalence in the instrumental parts of a rap track (i.e., the beat) and an emcee's rap delivery (i.e., the flow). Unlike virtually every other rap track, the instrumental tracks of Outkast's "Mainstream" (1996) simultaneously afford hearing both a four-beat and a three-beat metric cycle. Because three-beat durations between rhymes, phrase endings, and reiterated rhythmic patterns are rare in rap music, an abundance of them within a verse of "Mainstream" suggests that an emcee highlights the three-beat cycle, especially if that emcee is not prone to such durations more generally. Through the construction of three corpora, one representative of the genre as a whole, and two that are artist specific, I show how the emcee T-Mo Goodie's expressive practice highlights the rare three-beat affordances of the track.




How to Cite

Ohriner, M. (2017). Metric Ambiguity and Flow in Rap Music: A Corpus-Assisted Study of Outkast’s "Mainstream" (1996). Empirical Musicology Review, 11(2), 153–179.