Again, I agree with what you're saying there, Neg.
I think the great thing about Rakim was that he just had an incredible voice. That, he just seemed to have an inherent understanding of the effect of the sound of words, aside from analysing things on a rhyming/syllable basis or their underlying meanings/allusions. And then you combine that with his impeccable sense of rhythm. A commentor on this
article (which is pretty poor to be honest) sums it up perfectly:
I dunno… I think this example actually shows a weakness in your analysis — if the God MC isn’t ranking highly then you’ve gotta be missing some variables.
First of all, I don’t think “Paid in Full” is actually that strong or consistent as an album – it was thrown together in a hurry, wasn’t it? It seems pretty obvious to be a couple of brilliant singles and a bunch of weaker filler.
More importantly, it looks like your analysis focuses only on rhymes — how many syllables there are, how many of them are rhyme syllables, etc. But to my ear the remarkable thing about Rakim is how he makes music out of things besides rhymes. And that’s chiefly due to his timing, delivery, charisma, and sound choices.
Some examples from “I Ain’t No Joke,” probably his best song:
“Even if it’s jazz or the quiet storm
I hook a beat up, convert it into hip-hop form”
Your analysis would consider these weak lines — only words of one or two syllables, only one rhyme (which consists of only one syllable and appears in the most predictable location). But it’s magical, thanks to the way he says “I hook a beat up” (and plays with those percussive consonants).
“They think that I’m a new jack, but only if they knew that
they who think wrong are they who can’t do that”
NOBODY has timing like that. R dances around the beat in a way that’s hard to quantify.
Still, it might be worth looking at number of enjambments — that’s something you could quantify, where Rakim might be an early standout. Or not, but still worth analyzing.