Ever been interest in leaning how to wrote a great rap song, whether it was just for fun or because you’re interested in pursuing music as a career? Well, if so, you’re not alone. Rap is an amazing art form whose lyrics are essentially poetry.
But not everyone knows how to create these lyrics. And so, in this article, I’m going to outline exactly how to write a rap song for beginners so that everyone person, regardless of age, can create an amazing song that’ll make you proud.
Knowing The Lingo
Let’s start by defining a few terms and clarifying the focus of some topics that you may hear when discussing the art of writing rap music.
This is the beginning point for most rappers. Often times, your verse is the standalone effort to define yourself on a cypher. It can be determined through a tempo count by ear, or a measure count, visually. Sometimes your verse will only need to be 8 bars, other times it could be as long as 64 or even longer.
The idea of length is subjective to each artist and generally irrelevant, except during the project. You must have an understanding of the concept of verse length in order to perform the duty asked of you by your producer or beat maker.
“But I just freestyle. I don’t really count my bars. Just play the beat.”
Well, in my opinion, this kind of attitude only negates the responsibilities you have as a rapper and artist.
The task of being a rapper is not inherently difficult, especially to those of us who are naturally gifted in the art. With that said, it’s important that you still take the time to perfect the art and also understand the mathematics and science behind the art you make. At the very least, try to know when your verse is coming to an end so you can wrap up the idea in your freestyle or written.
I’ve discussed this topic before in my article titled “How to Write a Rap Chorus or Hook in 5 Steps” and it’s a great read. I’ll give a short synopsis of just one of my main recommendations as a highlight reel. There is a difference between a chorus and a hook. Your chorus can be a 4-16 bar excerpt of lyrics that repeats 2-4 times on the beat. An actually strong hook is what we would also call a catchy chorus.
When we are talking about how to write a rap song for beginners that’s amazing, what we are really asking ourselves is “how do I make amazing music that everyone else will love the same way I do?” The answer lies scattered in many different realms, but a very strong component to give yourself skin in the rap game is by having a catchy chorus to get stuck in people’s heads. If you have a catchy chorus, it reels the listener in closer, like a fishing hook.
A bridge can also be referred to as a breakdown sometimes. Many popular songs take a vastly different approach than others when building these areas of the songs. It can allow for a lot of creativity. Essentially, the idea of a bridge is to revert entirely away from the energy of the verses, and create something else that ebbs with the song and flows well with the hook.
Many times, a cheery song will take a melancholy stance, or maybe a hip-hop song will turn up the energy with a marching band style solo. Whatever the bridge is, you just want to make sure it’s still sonically pleasing, and allows a great detour and return to the original path of your song.
How to Write a Rap Song
Let’s first begin with one of the most important things you need to understand, which is rap structure.
You may hear this term in regards to all music. It’s actually very simple in rap music, usually. You don’t want to overcomplicate it, but there are options when it comes to structure. Sometimes, you’ll want a four-bar hook and then a verse, then an eight-bar hook, then another verse.
After that you could throw in a bridge.
It’s just important to have an idea of what sort of structure you are looking for when writing. Often, the transitions in the beat, known as phrasing can help determine the best positions for different sections of the song.
The possibilities are truly endless, but I’ll list some examples below:
Intro – Short Hook (1st half of hook) – Verse 1 – Full Hook – Verse 2 – Bridge – Full Hook – Repeat Short Hook x2
Intro – Long Verse 1 – reprise (no hook/breathe) – Long Verse 2 – Outro
Verse – Hook x2 – Verse 1 – Hook – Verse 2 – Hook x2 – Outro
Also be sure to think about the overview of the song as a whole. Anything that is too long and repeats itself too much can definitely drain the listener and cause them to turn the song off. Usually, shorter songs with catchier choruses tend to get played back the most by the average consumer.
You don’t want to hear a song with a terrible sounding voice or bad rhythmic structure or simply awful lyrics, so make sure you, yourself, are supplying a quality, good-sounding song that contains some the same levels of skill and technique that you respect in other rappers you listen to on repeat.
Flow & Cadence
This can be sort of a tricky subject to define, because to the average listener, lyrics are just lyrics, and most people don’t see the work that goes into making them fit very specifically into spaces in the music, known as pockets.
There is also a ton of physical work that goes into the breath-control and the mouth’s motor-functions. It’s almost like building up a hand-eye coordination as a boxer and turning into a stance, style and overall technique. The skills you practice as a rapper will eventually tone and chisel your sound into your own original element, that no one else can really represent naturally, without impersonating you.
Rap cadences are essentially just rhythmic flows of sequences of lyrics. Having a signature cadence can also help determine a song and artist’s longevity as a whole.
Once you’ve established this signature sound about yourself, you realize everything you’ve become up to this point really comes from a huge mixer of all your past musical influences. The influence rappers hold and “stencil” they create tend to get reused throughout history. For example, many rappers have recycled the basic idea behind Juvenile’s famous flow from his 1999 hit song “Back That Thang Up.”
Another popular, yet controversial instance of this cadence homage was Drake’s verse on YG’s 2014 single, “Who Do You Love” in which he utilized the cadence (and also many of the lyrics) from Rappin’ 4 Tay’s 1994 hit “Playaz Club”.
It should go without saying that originality trumps all in music, but when absolutely necessary, it’s important to practice class and professionalism when sampling, interpolating, remixing, or simply reiterating another artist’s cadence. On one hand, no one likes having their rhymes and sound stolen entirely, without any sort of credit.
On the other side of things, it’s a beautiful dedication to the original song and possibly a leg up considering a couple generations of people might not have known who Rappin’ 4 Tay was had it not been for Drake’s commemoration of the song. Tread with caution in this area.
Rhyme Scheme & Speed
There are undoubtedly a million and one ways to skin a cat, as they say, or in this case, that many different ways to go about writing a rap song. You definitely want to be complex enough that you are different, but you never want to make it too difficult for yourself to press out the words confidently and passionately.
Not everyone is Twista!
Use the natural transitions you hear in your mind when writing and adapt to the rhythm of the beat. Sometimes, you can double the speed of your previous lines, in a technique known as halftime. Not as in halftime at football, but almost as if you cut the speed of the whole beat entirely in half, and then rapped two bars in the time you would have rapped one before.
It seems like a pretty big concept, but essentially rapping normally and then rapping fast on the same part of the beat can give you an idea of what I mean. Your speed picking up gives off the audio illusion that the beat is moving slower, or at halftime.
I could speak on this for days. There is nothing cooler to me than melodic rap, whether we’re talking about the likes of Nelly or T-Pain.
I respect so deeply their ability to walk the fine line between the rap world and every other genre of music. It speaks so much to the musical talent of an individual who can use their storytelling ability and urban swagger along with a professional capability for music and theory to deliver quality content.
Even more rugged individuals, with the hustler influence or gangster image tend to show a lot of promise when singing, like Rylo Rodriguez or Polo G. Another strong example of a very listenable and widely-accepted group is Outkast, one of the most original duos in the 90’s, using different melodic ideas and amazing rap schemes to carve out a space that was unequivocally their own, and still is today.
This term is thrown around a little loosely in the music industry so let’s try to sharpen the definition for the artist’s sake. The audience is not the whole world. The audience is not the crowd who showed up to the venue for your show.
Your audience is the people who will, would, or do play your music. If they are not a person who will, would, or already does play your music, then they are not your intended focus group, or target audience.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the situation. You could study every word I left you with above, as if it’s your own bible. You can go out and find all the tutorials you can find, and even take all the classes and receive every single degree. Without a few key things, none of this will allow you to write a rap song that’s actually amazing.
The absolute utmost powerful formula for an amazing song, in any genre, is a passionate, talented artist, along with a decent or relevant message. You also need strong conviction, a focused and detailed writer, an avid and trained producer, and a strong beat or musical arrangement to set the foundation.
Do not underestimate the power of your team, for none of these elements can be replaced, lest you forfeit the amazing music you so desire. These things are an absolute must if you care to be successful in the pursuit of amazing music.
Never forget that Timbaland made Missy Elliot record her breakout hit nine different times before he allowed it to be called finished. Something about having a beat-maker-slash-engineer-slash-producer-slash-artist who believes in you so strongly tends to pull the greatness out of you, I’d imagine.
How to Write a Rap for Kids
Hey, parents! Yeah, I know you’re in here. Parents can be rappers, too.
I know there could be a few of you reading this article and imagining the most simplistic ways to start coming up with your own songs. If you can do it, so can your kiddos! Maybe you are a schoolteacher who wants to make some extra memorable lesson-based song.
For any purpose, there is absolutely no reason the art of rap shouldn’t continue to be passed down to the younger generation. They may reshape the future of the culture in ways we never imagined. I’ve included some ideas and thoughts about ways to get your kid to write a rap song with you! They might even cop themselves a sweet deal somehow!
–Kids love things they’ve never done before. Most kids sit around and sing weird songs to themselves all day, even if they don’t know or realize it. Telling your kid to sit down and write a song usually seems like telling them to eat their peas. I’ve been through this and I figured out a solution.
They are cheap and easy to find at thrift stores or online. Plug one into your computer and have your kid run a couple of their lines into a recording program. Hearing their voice on playback can be a very fun and interesting experience, especially when it’s different from hearing their voice on mom’s phone camera videos.
–Find a small and easy instrument for your kid to play with. One bongo, and maybe even a banjo. A tiny keyboard could teach them a ton about music. It creates the idea that it’s more than just writing some words down to rap.
When there is a musical element, the words and rhythm become something you must feel rather than say. The idea of sharing these feelings is huge bond-builder and can provide you a ton of insight into your child’s emotions.
–Don’t be scared to invest some actual time and money into their music! If they seem to show some sort of promise in writing raps, try to gently foster that flame and help them continue their musical journey, as you see fit. I know as parents, it can be hard to get excited about something because often, our kids will shy away from it as soon as they realize how giddy we get. Maybe just calmly offer the idea of some professional studio time, or maybe show them how to scan the internet looking for beats to rap over. There is no age limit on the rap game as long as you are around to make sure they are engaging in a safe manner.
This article is a guest post written by Shawn A.
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