Writing a rap song, like so many things in life, isn’t quite as easy as it may look. This doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do it and do it well, but the trick is to work with strategies that have worked well for others who came before you and implement them in your own special way. There are pitfalls to avoid and techniques that work well for most; you need to do your homework, learn what they are and use them to your own advantage.
Things to Avoid when Composing
The two most common errors made when composing a rap song concern the flow of the song. Just concentrating on making words rhyme creates lyrics that sound robotic and boring. Focusing on the creative flow is just as bad, because not trying to rhyme your lyrics makes them disorganized and more like babbling than lyrics.
Don’t copy successful songs; dare to be original and create your own. This is the reason most new rappers write lackluster songs that lack structure, originality and vitality.
You Need a Formula and a Hook
It is not enough to be a hard worker. Successful rap songs require much more than that. They need to be written the right way, and that means beginning with a hook. A hook is a gimmick, something that attracts listeners to your message. It should summarize your inspiration for the song.
The Power of Brainstorming and Writing Lyrics
The mind is a powerful thing, and ideas develop from mental associations. Start by making a list of every idea that comes to mind that is related to the topic of your inspiration. In the end, this will become the content of your song. Lyrics will come after you go through each and every point on your brainstorm list. It is at this point where rhyme should enter the composing picture and where your own unique skills as a lyricist will either shine or grow dim.
The Beat, the Beat and . . . the Beat
Pick a beat that works for you. If you cant get inspired on your own, go to YouTube and listen to a few of your favorite songs. You can also download from the Internet. Match your selected beat with the emotion that inspired you to write the song.
Establish Song Structure
Now is the time to bring rhyme into play. Arrange your rhyme into verses (16 bars apiece) to give the song its structure. You can use any rhyme to begin each verse, but you should complete the verse with a rhyme that makes a specific point. If you don’t, your verse will seem to hang without meaning. One of the safest song structures would be intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, middle 8 (or breakdown), chorus, and outro (conclusion).
The middle 8 or breakdown is actually a third section, which is also known as a bridge. It usually only occurs once in a song and contrasts with the repetition of verses and choruses. Put your heart into your rhyme, and be in love with your song when writing it.
Try to rhyme at least once every sentence without repeating words, unless it is a verse or sounds really cool. Keep your tone constant and dub it over later if you want to experiment with different voices.
Rap and Refine; Refine and Rap
Work out the bugs of your song by practicing; there’s no other way. The song is your raw material, but it needs to be considered as a writer’s first draft, and this means you should be prepared to cut and revise. Be concise and precise, and only use those words that are needed to make your point. To enhance a certain point, add a pause or two rather than a few more words.
Listen to your inner rapper (that’s you) and that voice will tell you what format works best for you and the message you are trying to impart. Don’t be afraid to experiment with sounds and language; you may trip over that which you seek. Focus on rhythm and feeling, and let go of your fears.
Memorize the Words to Your Song and Find a Producer
Know the words of your song by heart so that you can perform at a moment’s notice without notes in your hand. Find a way to produce your song and connect with a producer who will help complete the process.
If you don’t have access to studio equipment, consider some of the following cheap packages: FL Studio, MTV Music Generator, and Hip Hop Ejay. You are better off, however, with a live band. If you have friends who play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and even brass, now is the time to call them and see if together you can make this song work. You can work online for free or for a low price on Tightbeatz or Soundclick.
The best way to write a rap song is to create it from your heart, sharing with the outside world those experiences that have affected you in your life. It’s all about expressing your feelings passionately and honestly. Reflecting on past pains and joys is a sure recipe for success, but never rap about personal things that aren’t true. Most importantly, always believe in yourself, and . . . . don’t get discouraged.
You’ll get there. . . .