Slant rhyme, also called imperfect or oblique rhyme, involves words that are not an exact rhyme, like “dime” and “time.” Instead it uses words that contain the same sound. The sound can be a vowel, as with the “ī” sound in “light” and “eyes.” The rhyme can also be made with the last consonant sound in a word, as in the “l” sound in “soul” and “all.” Imperfect rhyme is often used in modern poetry and music lyrics, particularly rap.
This form of rhyme was generally not accepted as a legitimate poetry device until the late 1800s. Prior to that time, critics did not consider poems using sound rhymes to be “genuine” poetry. It was primarily through the writing of English poet W. B. Yeats and American poet Emily Dickinson that this form of rhyme scheme came to be understood and accepted.
Some Western poets still look on slant rhyme with disfavor, believing it to be bad craftsmanship in comparison to perfect rhyme. Many, though, find that it offers a flexibility and subtlety of language that perfect rhyme does not. For instance, there is a different texture to rhyming the words “star” and “stone” obliquely, in comparison to rhyming “bone” and “stone” perfectly. The imperfect rhyme has a softer sound, and the word combination is also more striking.
When matching identical word sounds for a slant rhyme, the poet has a much greater variety of words to choose from. A poet using perfect rhyme has a limited vocabulary to work with. Many of the rhyming words that exist may not fit the intent or tone of the poem.
Perfect rhyme words begin with a different consonant sound but have the same stressed vowel sound, such as in “trunk” and “bunk.” There are some words, though, that cannot be perfectly rhymed with any other word. Words for imperfect rhyme, however, can in a sense be created. The poet need only change one syllable of a word and match it with the new word. For instance, “someway/somehow” results in an oblique rhyme and also creates rhythm in the line.
The lyrics of rap music often employ slant rhyme. A rap audience does not necessarily expect to hear perfect rhyme as do some readers of poetry. The use of oblique rhyme in rap may not always result from a conscious decision to do so. A rap artist is more interested in the sounds of words as they are spoken or sung. Oblique rhymes tend to have their own rhythms, which are enhanced when set to the cadence of rap music.