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In the "rapping" prosody of slam poetry, the term flow describes the rhythmical shape of rhymed poetic language. This principle of flow has been developed by Nuyorican poets like Maggie Estep, Dana Bryant, Sekou Sundiata or Amir Sulaiman as well as German rap poets like Bas Böttcher. Flow is one of the so-called skills of good rappers and describes their ability to create a rhythmical shape of poetry, which is central to the production and reception of rap (Kautny 2009, p. 144). Kautny distinguishes between Off-Beat-Flows, in which the rap voice has a correspondingly high proportion of off-beat accents, and on beat flows, in which the rap voice places the accents comparatively more strongly on the basic strokes of the accompanying pattern and emphasizes the count time 4 with a rhyme. While off-beat flows are often associated with newer rap styles emerging from the 1990s (Crimea 2001: 43, 49), on-beat flow is considered a trademark of 1980s old school rap (ibid.), especially when it is associated with a sing-like melody design. In addition, with Bas Böttcher, some of his Gedichte are extremely driving and almost danceable through the interplay of rhythmic regularity and deviation, freedom and attachment.

Another way of shaping the flow is the double-time, borrowed from jazz music practice (Pfleiderer 2006: 253), which in rap, however, is not created by doubling the basic tempo of bass and drums at an unchanged tempo of the chord changes, but only by the accelerated tempo of the rap rhythm compared to the constant accompaniment patterns. Usually the rap voice then accelerates from a 16th to a 32nd tempo. Another characteristic is the melody, for example with US rappers of the 1980s (Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel) or in the rap style of German rappers of the 1990s (Die Fantastischen Vier, Fettes Brot). It is also important that the flow is generally linked to the rhyme, which is why we also speak of "rhyme flow" (Kautny 2009, p. 144). Rhymes can be positioned as off-beat or on-beat rhymes on different accents of a rhythm (Pfleiderer 2006: 322) and thus combine sound syllables with bar, meter and rhythm: in Iain ‘Ewok’ Robinson, for example, these are internal rhymes.


Kautny, Oliver: Annäherungen an das Phänomen Flow, in: Felix Hörner/Oliver Kautny (Hrsg.), Die Stimme im HipHop. Untersuchungen eines intermedialen Phänomens, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag 2009, S. 141—170.

Krims, Adam: Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity (= New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism). Cambridge 2001.

Pfleiderer, Martin. Rhythmus. Psychologische, theoretische und stilanalytische Aspekte populärer Musik. Bielefeld 2006.