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Sunday, May 6, 2012


Successful hip hop/rap lyrics are dependent on one important aspect; flow, which is the rhythmic chemistry that occurs when your words meet the music. Even if you have never written rap lyrics before, you can begin by studying techniques that have worked for other rappers over the course of the last two decades. Like so many things in life, it all comes down to doing your homework, or like the Boy Scouts say, being prepared.

The importance of lyrics

The key to an effective rap song is its lyrics and words are the glue that binds all lyrics together. You will want to build your arsenal of words by increasing your vocabulary. You can do this by reading as much as you can. Both books and news articles are good sources of information and new words. If you come across a word you don’t know, do the mature thing and look it up!

1. Develop an ear for rhythm

One way to insure your rhyme scheme will work is to study the rhyme structure of rap artists you admire and build yours around the same scheme.
In order to cultivate a beat for your lyrics you will have to spend some time developing an ear for rhythm. Start reading passages out loud and pay attention to where you place the emphasis on your words. Many song lyrics as well as poems, are written in iambic pentameter in which alternate syllables are stressed. An awareness of this will help you develop a sense of meter and ultimately, a natural beat to your lyrics.

2. Find the right beat for you

It is a good idea to begin your songs by looking for the right beat to go with your already written rhymes. Writing your lyrics to match a beat is a mistake because it is difficult (if not impossible) to be creative and make revisions simultaneously. Make your beat a hot one and one that you really feel because it will show if you are not into it even if you don’t want it to. Nod your head to the beat and think about its message; let it speak to you.
Begin reading Shakespeare aloud and you will soon notice how alternating stressed syllables seems to flow off the tongue. The use of iambic pentameter is prevalent in many of his works.

3. Develop a theme for your lyrics

Lyrics should have a theme. Find a focus for your words rather than words that rhyme with each other. Rhyme is fine (hey, there you go) but the substance of your song must be its message. It can be anything at all; an observation, something that made you angry, a past lover, etc. Whatever your choice, make it a real topic because the key to a successful rap song is its credibility.
Usually rap songs have at least two to three verses, but it needs to be as long as it needs to be for you to make the point you are trying to convey.
Carry a notebook with you and jot down your ideas. Many times an idea will come and you think you will remember it but it’s gone. Remember that ideas are in the air and can occur at any place and any time. Don’t censor what you write; just write it as it comes into your mind.

4. Develop a hook for your song

You have to find a hook for your song; a gimmicky point that attracts and holds attention. This is what prompts listeners to remember a song and makes them want to hear it again. The hook usually comprises the chorus of most rap songs. It can be short, but it must be catchy and easy to hum. The hook is probably the most difficult aspect in song writing.
Make sure your hook goes with the verses you have created. Success will depend on how well the lyrics blend with the hook. The song title should be something that comes from the chorus.

5. Remember to stay focused

Stay on the selected topic. Some common hip hop/rap themes include: violence, murder, theft, narcotics and extortion. Your song has to make sense to your general audience in order for them to identify with your message. Memorize all of the words of your completed song. Reading from a notebook will not fare well while performing in a recording studio.
Use an audio editing software. Audacity is free and perfect for new rappers. If you own a Mac, you can record using Garage Band, which is already installed. Later you will need to pay for more sophisticated, software, such as Audio Audition.

6. Record your rap song in several takes

Record your rap several times no matter how much you may feel it is a waste of time. You will need the edge this procedure gives you because it will provide you with a wider variety of takes to choose from. As a newbie, your first take isn’t likely to be just right, and you can’t be sure which will sound the best and flatter your delivery the most. With several takes you can now select the best track and delete the others.
Leave the song alone for a few days. With fresh eyes read it again and make any necessary changes. Ask others close to you to read it and make suggestions.
You’ll get there, but the path has no short cuts. Trial and error, the ability to accept constructive criticism and persistence will get you to that place beyond the rainbow where dreams and hard work meet opportunity and coalesce to become reality.
Good luck and keep writing!

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