Songwriter U: Eight Songwriting Tips for Rappers

Lyrics play an important role in rap music. Your audience should be able to connect to your words. Else, why would they listen to your songs?

Videos by American Songwriter

Great lyrics delivered in a smooth flow along with groovy beats make a hit rap song. The rap industry is full of talented people. So, unless you prove yourself and stand out, building a loyal fanbase is difficult.

In this article, we’ve got some useful songwriting tips for every aspiring rapper. Check them out.

1. Weave A Story

Your rap song is not merely a collection of rhyming lines. It should tell a meaningful story that’s worth listening to.

This step is not as hard as you think.

Write down your story with all the details you’d like to include in your song. Now eliminate all the unwanted parts of the story and rewrite only the important details that make up your song.

Write the intro for the first detail and follow it with verses and bridge. Do not write about more than two details in any stanza.

Follow the other tips in this article to make your song complete.

2. Keep It Relatable

Rap is not surreal. It doesn’t have to sound magical like a fairytale.

Rappers are usually made on the streets. They struggle, they don’t give up, they deal with issues like us, and speak about all of it through their music. If you wanna make it big in hip hop (and not pop), honesty is your first step towards success.

Those who listen to your song should find it relatable and look at you as an inspiration.

Most of our all-time favorite rappers have made it big because they spoke from their heart without being afraid of what others might think.

They didn’t sugarcoat their past life. Their music told everyone about the blunt realities of life.

3. Too Many Words Spoil The Beat

Sure, rap songs are wordy than other genres, but it doesn’t mean you should keep adding more words to a bar meaninglessly.

A high word count works only in favor of the fastest rappers (like Eminem and Twista). These rappers are extremely skilled at what they do. They manage to rap swiftly while staying on the beat, something that requires extreme dedication and practice.

Some rappers were well received despite being offbeat. It may or may not work for newbies. So, it’s safe to stay away from using too many words in your beginner days.

Keep in mind that the words in each line must spread evenly within the music bar. If the word count is too low, it might end up sounding sloppy. If it’s too high, it can seem more like ‘rush’ than ‘rap’.

4. Refine The Draft

Once you’re done writing, it’s time to look back. Practice aloud, record yourself rapping, listen to it over and over again, and see where changes are necessary.

Make the changes and repeat the cycle. Do it until the outcome satisfies you as a listener (not a rapper). Since you’re publishing the track for your listeners, it’s essential that you review your track from their perspective.

No one gets it right the first time (even those top rappers you listen to every day).

To improve your rapping skills, use a vocal remover on a song you are familiar with and try rapping to that beat.

Don’t let anything stop you from giving your best. One good-quality song can give you that big break you deserve.

5. Convey Emotions

The story of a rap song needs a personal touch of your emotions. This, you cannot get no matter how many artists you listen to. In rap, what works for one may fail the other.

Your emotions are the USP of your song. If you blindly follow the conveying style of another rapper, you’ll always be considered a copycat but not an artist.

While writing your song, let your feelings and emotions flow freely. The rap genre has more vocabulary than others. Sky’s the limit!

Heck, you can even use one or two made-up words as long as they go with the flow and convey your thoughts. Words like boughetto, flamboastin, illmatic aren’t found in the dictionary but they did set trends on the internet.

6. Use Metaphors

Metaphors are powerful linguistic devices that can relate two concepts by bringing out a similarity between them. They exert a stronger influence on the human mind than direct sentences.

They’re also common tools used in rap music. If you have no clue about metaphors, check out the internet for ‘metaphors in rap songs’ and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

However, take care to not mix up metaphors as it would ruin the theme of your song. Also, don’t use a lot of metaphors in a single song. Save your creativity for the next ones too.

7. Try Various Rhyming Schemes

In rap music, you don’t have to base the entire song on a single rhyme scheme. Some of the best rhyming schemes are:

  • In ABAB, also called alternate rhyme, the first bar must rhyme with the third bar and the second bar must rhyme with the fourth bar. This is also one of the most preferred schemes by beginners.
  • In AABB, a pair of bars rhyme with each other followed by another pair of rhyming bars.
  • In AAAA, four bars rhyme with each other. Slaying this scheme without sounding monotonous can be quite tricky, but is worth it.
  • In XAXA, the second and fourth bars rhyme with each other, and the first and third bars don’t rhyme with each other or with any other line in the song. This gives ample space for you to get creative.

Variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?

8. Stick To The Structure

As a beginner, it is better to play safe by sticking to the standard structure of a rap song.

Any rap song usually has four parts, namely, intros, choruses, verses, and outros. Some songs have bridges and pre-choruses, but they’re not indispensable.

You can start your song with the intro to hook up your listeners and follow it by the first verse. Then write the chorus followed by the second verse. Repeat the chorus here and finish it off with the outro.

The chorus is so crucial that it can make or break your track. Apart from being catchy, it should also sum up the theme of your song.

Remember the structure is not a rule and you can make changes as you progress in the rap game.

Try to craft your lyrics with these tips. It doesn’t get great in a single day, but keep going and you’ll taste success.

Photo by Joe Ciciarelli on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Writer’s Room: Honesty and Poetry in Song