Examples of Figurative Language in Rap Songs

Figurative languages are words and expressions used in poems and songs to convey various meanings and interpretations from the literal meaning. Figurative devices play major while writing. From music to books, literature is all around us. Many people, however, would not think to include rap music as literature. Rap music challenges the way we view things in a different light. Rap is actually the life of the streets with anger, joy, and hatred towards society. In it, we get glimpses of society and the way to believe in God also. Rappers lyrically engage internal rhyme, clear imagery, repetition, and blunt imagery through lyrics. While most of the rap songs are filled with profanity, illicit messages, and vulgarity, here you will find clean rap songs suitable for the young ones. Here are a few examples of figurative languages in rap songs:

Stereo Hearts – Gym class heroes

Make me your radio
Turn me up when you feel low
The melody was meant for you
Just sing along to my stereo…
If it was an old-school fifty pound boombox.

In the above lines, lyricist has used metaphor while comparing a heart and a stereo, which means that he wants to be as close to the girl as music. Love is personified because love is not a living thing; hence, it cannot die. There is also an exaggeration of how heavy a boom box is.

Diamond – Rihanna

Shine bright like a diamond
Shine bright like a diamond

Find light in the beautiful sea, I choose to be happy
You and I, you and I, we’re like diamonds in the sky

You’re a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy
When you hold me, I’m alive…

Palms rise to the universe, as we moonshine and molly

In the phrase ‘You’re a shooting star I see’ there is a metaphor. A person is compared to a shooting star without using like or as. The very first line has a simile. The singer is comparing a person’s character (shine) to a diamond’s brightness. There is a repetition of ‘shine bright like a diamond’ several times. In the phrase, ‘As we moonshine and molly’, the sound of /m/ is an alliteration. ‘When you hold me, I am alive’; it is a hyperbole because of exaggeration.

Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice

Ice ice baby
Ice ice baby…

Bum rush the speaker that booms
I’m killin’ your brain like a poisonous mushroom

You better gain way
You better hit bull’s eye
The kid don’t play

Onomatopoeia is here because the line, ‘bum rush the speakers that boom’, has the sound of a speaker playing music. In verse, ‘you better gain way, you better hit bull’s eye’, the sound of /y/ is repeated. Hence the ‘y’ sound is a consonance. In the same line, the imagery (hearing) can also be found. Later in the line, ‘too cold, Too cold’, there is imagery and repetition of the phrase. In ‘your brain like a poisonous mushroom’ the singer has used a simile. He compared his brain to a poisonous mushroom.

Kick push – Methew Chacrellah

Since the first kick flip he landed
Labeled a misfit a bandit cucump cucump cucump…
So he kick push kick push kick push kick push coast…
My man got a little older became a better a roller
Yea no helmet hell he’ll end up killing himself
Is what his momma said but he was feeling himself

In the phrase, ‘cucump cucump cucump’ is an onomatopoeia, where the singer has described the sound of the skateboard. The sound of /h/ is alliteration in ‘Yea no helmet hell he’ll end up killing himself’. Skateboarding and also the entire song is an extended metaphor for life challenges. The repetition of the line ‘he kick push kick push kick push kick push coast…’ is a dominating in the whole song.

Glory – J. legend

The movement is a rhythm to us
Freedom is like religion to us
Justice is juxtapositionin’ us

That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up…

We’ll cry glory, oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

In the lines, ‘the movement is a rhythm to’ the movement is compared to a rhythm or music. There is a simile in ‘freedom is like religion to us’. Here the freedom is compared to religion. The line ‘that’s why Rosa sat on the bus, that’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up’ is an allusion. The repetition of the word ‘glory’ can be found in every stanza of the song.

Happy – Pharrell William

I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way

Huh, because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof…

Here come bad news, talking this and that

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy

There is a simile in ‘clap along if you feel like a room without a roof’. The person is compared to a room without a roof. A room without a roof is also an extended metaphor for sadness or abandonment. Personification is used when he says ‘bad news talking this and that’. Metaphor is used in the line, ‘I’m a hot air balloon that can go to space’. In the whole song the repetition of ‘because I’m happy’ is quite clear to stress on the word happiness.

I Can – Nas

I know I can
Be what I wanna be…

No fun ’cause when she reaches for hugs, people hold their breath
‘Cause she smells of corrosion and death

Careful, ‘fore you meet a man with HIV
You can host the TV like Oprah Winfrey…

In verse, ‘You can host the TV like Oprah Winfrey’, there is a simile. A new host is encouraged to be like the famous TV host, Oprah. ‘Cause she smells of corrosion and death’ is an extended metaphor for the negative personality of the woman. Repetition of ‘I can’ stresses on ability and ambition.

Dynamite – Taio Cruz

I came to dance-dance-dance-dance (Yeah)
I hit the floor ’cause that’s my plans plans plans plans (Yeah)
I’m wearing all my favorite brands brands brands brands (Yeah)

We gon’ go all night
We gon’ light it up
Like it’s dynamite

In verse, ‘We gon’ light it up, Like it’s dynamite’ a simile is used. Here the music and merriment are compared to dynamite. The same line is also a hyperbole as they are not going to light up like dynamites.

Hot line Bling – Drake

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
And I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing…
Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor
Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before
Why you always touching road?
Used to always stay at home, be a good girl

In the verse, ‘why are you always touching roads’, we can find hyperbole because there is an exaggeration of thoughts. There is the rhyming between bling and thing, many other rhyming words can be found in the song. Personification is used in the line ‘Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor’.

Survivor – Destiny’s child

When the beat-boom-boom-pat-pat like that, ya heard me?…
You thought that I’d be weak without ya, but I’m stronger
You thought that I’d be broke without ya, but I’m richer
You thought that I’d be sad without ya, I love harder
You thought I wouldn’t grow without ya, now I’m wiser!
You thought that I’d be helpless without ya but I’m smarter
You thought that I’d be stressed without ya, but I’m chillin’
You thought I wouldn’t sell without ya, sold nine million

Here the starting phrases are all in repetition. For example, ‘you thought’. There are also Onomatopea as words like ‘pat’ and ‘boom’ are used. The song also has imageries that provoke our senses.