It’s common rumor in the world of poetry that no word rhymes with the word orange, or to say the least, it’s extremely difficult. One day though, my friend was introducing me to the talent of an individual I thought I’d never take to, let alone so formally study the work of. We came across the following verse in a song:
And I thought, hey—Eminem did it. He rhymed three words orange. How? Well actually, he explains it himself in a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper:
If you’re taking the word at face value and you’re just saying ‘orange’, nothing is gonna rhyme with it exactly. If you enunciate it and you make it more than one syllable—o-range—you could say like ‘I put my o-range, 4-inch door hinge in sto-rage, and ate po-rridge with Geo-rge—you just have to figure out the science to breaking down words…
Further in the interview, when asked about a habit of reading the dictionary when in school, he said:
I just felt like I want to be able to have all these words at my disposal in my vocabulary at all times whenever I need to pull them out.
He revealed a box full of assorted paper scraps, on which he jots down words and phrases for future keeping and use. The poetry really, is in his way of working with words.It reminds me of something Matt LeBlanc said in a Friends episode:
PHOEBE: “Happy hanukah, Monica! May your Christmas be snowy, Joey! Happy New Year, Chandler and Ross. Spin the dradle, Rachel!”
RACHEL: Pheebs, that’s great! But y’know umm, Rachel doesn’t rhyme with dradle.
PHOEBE: I know but it’s so hard! Nothing rhymes with your stupid name!
JOEY: What are you talking about? Lots of things rhyme with Rachel. Bagel. Mail. Jail. Bail. Able. May-pole.
Deviating from the norms of treating a particular term a particular way, he shapes words by breaking them down and using all the parts to create something new, much like moulding clay into a form. The aspect of his work that my friend highlighted, that was most fascinating is a sort of gradient that runs through his songs. It’s the way he creates movement and progression by very subtly introducing new words, interchanging them with existing ones and changing the rhyme pattern. At the beginning of the example below, the words ‘enter’, ‘inter’, and ‘in the’ rhyme together, but by the end of the verse, you find yourself with ‘fit to’ and ‘hit you’ rhyming together. Meanwhile in between, at least 20 rhyme changes have occurred.
Referring back to his own comment on enunciation, another characteristic of his songs is that much of the rhythm comes from using word syllables to his full disposal. In the verse below, he does something interesting starting with only a part of one word, the three syllables “a-li-ty” from reality.
He then carries these syllables out through the verse shifting them so that sometimes they occur as a part of a word (a-li-ty), other times a single whole word, (gravity or rhapsody) and yet other times the syllables are scattered into several words (back’s to these), and additionally sometimes the syllables overflow into the next part of the sentence (mad, but he).
This variation not only creates activity and movement, but when paired with the other syllable he accentuates in between this recurring ‘a-li-ty’ motif (the onomatopoeic “oh” sound in bold below), the combination of the two syllable treatments creates a very live, active arrangement, producing rhythm and tune against a steady background beat.