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How to structure rounds in battle rap

Updated on April 23, 2016

Battle rap rounds:

A round in battle rap is a pre-determined set of time for a rapper to perform his or her lyrics. It can last from a minute to 5 minutes. Usually there are three rounds although some battles are informal. Regardless of time, every battle rapper must have solid structure in their rounds.

Common mistakes in battle rap:

Many battle rappers have several pitfalls when battling. Common mistakes are as follows:

* Repeating the same theme - When you keep using the same topic matter every round, it loses it's effectiveness and originality. For example, constantly making fun of your opponent's appearance every round may cause the audience to think that your not original.

* Freestyling for whole rounds - It is now the norm for battle rappers to pre-write verses and recite them in battle. Freestyling has become mostly obsolete although it is still practiced. Freestyling in battle rap was greatly admired in the 1980's but because battle rap has evolved - You can no longer easily win battles by freestyle alone. This is because pre-written lyrics are typically better in quality than rapping on the spot. Very few rappers can freestyle exceptionally well. Unless you are one of the best - You should not freestyle.

A great example of a freestyle battle rapper is NoCanDo. He competed against Sonny Bamboo who pre-wrote his verses. Notice the differences between both rappers. According to the judges, Sonny Bamboo came better prepared than NoCanDo.

* Creating unbalanced rounds - When you write a round focusing too much on one subject matter as opposed to several. Examples include rapping disses targeted towards your opponent's weaknesses and leaving little verses dedicated to bragging. Another example is pure bragging about yourself but having little to no disses towards your opponent.

* Writing too much for one round - Some rappers overwrite for a round and recite them for a long period of time, thinking it makes them talented. The problem is that your audience may get tired of it, bored, or distracted. You don't need to write much more than your opponent to win a battle. In fact, it does the opposite effect - You may end up losing the battle. The length of your rounds should be enough to where your best quality bars shine but not enough to write a book.

Why is it important to keep your rounds well balanced? Because you allow yourself to display a wide array of skill, thus increasing your chances of winning. When you focus too much on one element as opposed to all the others in battle rap - you can't let your originality and creativity flow naturally. A person with a disciplined state of mind can bring solid rebuttals, vicious rhymes, ingenious Wordplay, and shocking disses only if he or she evenly balances their bars per round.

This is an outline of how your rounds should look like:

Example of a round:
(Strong hook)
(Bragging with Wordplay)
B-Magic vs. Conceited
B-Magic vs. Conceited
Chess vs. Rum Nitty
Chess vs. Rum Nitty

Structuring your rounds step-by-step:

Step 1:

Set a limit on how many bars you spit - Writing too many bars or too few can cost you the battle. It is important to write quality bars just enough to give excellent performance. I would recommend writing no more than 20-25 bars per round.

Step 2:

Know your strengths - Determining who you are as a rapper lets you find your own unique battling style. Some battle rappers like using nameplays, personals, rebuttals, and bragging. Others love Wordplay, jokes, and punchlines. It all depends on what you excel best at.

Step 3:

Study your opponent - It's going to be alot easier to write when you know your opponent very well. Once you gathered all the facts, list the characteristics that you are targeting. For example, you may want to target your opponent's masculinity, looks, lover, music tastes, rapping, and so forth.

Step 4:

Organize your rounds - Now that you have set a limit on how many bars you want to spit per round, decide how to further organize your rounds. Perhaps you want to dedicate 4 bars giving punchlines, 6 bars dissing your opponent, and 2 bars on rebuttals. Regardless of how you organize each round, you should keep it consistent. Try adding variation to each round.

Step 5:

Write more than needed - It's better to write beyond what is required in a battle than to come poorly prepared. You never know when the crowd will demand overtime or if you forget some of your lines. Writing a few extra rebuttals and then some may increase your chances of winning. If you didn't need to use those bars, save them for future usage.


Once you understand the mechanics of battle rap rounds, you will learn captivate the audience with your performance. You will also be more professional in the eyes of other experienced rappers as well as your fans.

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