Auto-tune Rap is Automatic Crap

October 23, 2008

As a straight-edge suburban white guy who just started getting into rap and hip-hop over the past two years, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. Now, thanks to Sirius radio, I think I have a pretty good grasp on the current state of hip-hop. I can now pick out artists and songs that I like and dislike, but more importantly, I’m breaking it down and learning what is is about these songs that I like or don’t like. One major pet peeve for me and major trend lately is the use and overuse of auto-tune.

Li’l Wayne is probably the best example of overusing the auto-tune. That’s like his signature sound, and I’m here to tell you that his signature sound is complete shit. Auto-tune has its respectable applications in music recording. When used in moderation, it does exactly what the name implies; it takes your already decent singing and just subtly fixes all the pitch imperfections. Now if you crank it to 11, you get the dramatic electronic voice effect with bubbly steps between notes. It sounded awful when Cher did it back in ’98 and it sounds even worse today.

It’s unfortunate that todays rappers have to resort to gimmicky audio tricks to make themselves stand out. Li’l Wayne, T-pain, even Kanye West is starting to use it. You might not even notice it enough to give a damn, especially when the the effect is applied to the whole song. But take the all-star ensemble track “Swagger Like Us” and it’s easy to pick out the weakest link. I love the M.I.A. sample, I love the verses by Kanye and Jay-Z, but as soon as Li’l wayne starts slurring his way through elctronic auto-tune world, I’m ready to change the station. The reason artists like Jay-Z and Kanye command such respect and staying power is because they have obvious raw talent. They’re more than a catch phrase or gimmick effect. Hearing Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” was a total disappointment. The hook is there, it’s definitely a catchy song and it’s nice that he’s doing some singing as a break from the rapping, but he’s smart enough and talented enough to pull it off without the auto-tune. Instead, he overdoes it and the song is ruined.

I can only hope this is a short-lived trend and we will grow out of it soon. The only good thing I can see is that, with the current hip-hop scene so watered down with terrible music, it will leave room for some truly talented artists to rise up and blow us away. I like what I’m hearing from Lupe Fiasco, and I think eminem is coming back at just the right time. Now we just need a new Outkast album and we’ll be set.

In other news, Matisyahu and Flobots are coming to Philadelphia next week. You might scoff at the orthodox Jewish reggae rapper and the kids behind “Handlebars” after I just ranted about gimmicks, but they’re both amazing. I’m looking forward to some real positive, danceable tunes. If you have not heard Matisyahu’s “Live at Stubb’s” album or Flobots debut “Fight With Tools”, do yourself a favor and start downloading today.



  1. Fight With Tools is bar-none one of the most imaginative albums out to date — and I don’t even know if you can call it “hip-hop” now that the genre has been co-opted by a bunch of morons rapping about shoes and lip gloss. My interest in the rap scene was at its apex when the genre still had something of social importance to say. It’s frustrating that so few bands are into the idea of a “message”, but at the same time it’s heartening to know that some still are.

    Did you see any of what the Flobots did during the election for Rock the Vote? You ought to check out Johnny 5’s PSA if you haven’t. The guy is erudite and well-read:

    Maybe there’s hope after all.

  2. The Flobots were great live. They are politically charged while staying positive and hopeful. Some groups like that can get very preachy when you see them live, but Johnny 5 and Brer Rabbit played it cool and just encouraged everyone to vote and be heard. Their sound in general felt a little empty, and there was a noticeable absence of trumpet, but the rapping was great and Mackenzie is a machine on that viola.

  3. I completely agree. Auto-tune is going to be the death of the industry if anything. It’s fucking HORRIBLE to listen to, IT IS NOT MUSIC!

    Rap IS NOT about auto-tune, rap is NOT pop. Faggots like Jay-Sean and Chris Brown who exploit the use of auto-tune to get women (It’s there, I’d bet you 7 out of 10 women have a thing for an artist who uses auto tune) are NOT something I want to see in Hip-Hop anytime soon. Souljah Boy Tell ‘Em should die already, and Cassidy, and his crew of auto-tune abusing FAGS.

    Artists seem to think auto-tune can compensate for shitty lyrics and a lack of talent *cough* CASSIDY! *cough* IT DOESN’T.

    NWA, that, is real rap, and there’s not a hint of autotune anywhere near it.

  4. Great article, totally agree with you. Hate Lil’ Wayne, Chris Brown all of them auto-tune overdosed untalented fucks.

    • It’s crazy that 2 years later, autotune is more popular and more accessible than ever. Hopefully that means we’re all going to get sick of it soon and it will go away. In the meantime, let’s support real singers and rappers.

  5. 2 thumbs way up …O’ AND big toes too…haha

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