Writing A Rap Song
For part three in the How to write a song series we explore the exciting world of rap music. Rap music or hip-hop, call it want you want. Some people nitpick as if they are different. We won’t get into that debate; we’ll just refer to it as rap music for this tutorial.
Like the other forms of music, rap music has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Now as one of the most successful forms of music, we are all familiar with it in one way or another. So what makes a hot rap song? Well that depends. There are a few different types of rappers, here are a few:
- The Underground rapper - These rappers, while excellent at what they do and usually having the best lyrical content, are unknown to the mainstream and receive very little airplay on major stations.
- The Gangster Rapper - The Gangster rapper usually does not receive much airplay, the edited versions of his songs consist of 3 or 4 words. Getting shot is a prerequisite and a badge of honor in this field. There have been some good ones, but they're all dead.
- The Mainstream Rapper - These are the rappers you hear on the radio. They usually have a duet with a well known pop star and will at some point become an actor.
Now let's go over the ingredients of a rap song:
- Bravado – This is key to any rap song. Rappers have to be self confident, almost to a flaw. You’re going to want to brag about yourself, or what is called your swagger. There is no room for error, you are the richest, baddest, toughest guy in the room.
- You’re a player – Not one to be tied down, you are a serious player. You go from one to the next, never staying too long. This is a young man's game, so brag about your previous exploits with women, as well as your future ones with other people's.
- You don’t have to rhyme - Isn't that what rapping is? Let me explain, gone are the days when you would rhyme got with not, or red with bed. These constraints have been lifted, if a word doesn't rhyme, just bend it. For example:
Me and Lawrence, make it rain like torrents, hanging out with Florence in a benz that’s orange.
See what we did there? Technically that shouldn't rhyme, but you do what you've gotta do.
- Have some guests – Either a singer for a hook, or a fellow rap artist to trade verses with, you want some company. This changes the pace of the song, and gives the rapper a break in the process. The bigger the name the better.
- Stay ahead of the curve – Rap music, more than other genres, has to be fresh. A week old rap song is considered long in the tooth, after a month it’s ancient. Hence, the remix. The remix is a clever way to keep a song new and gives it a boost. You can add a verse, or guest, slap the word remix on it and you’re on your way. Puff Daddy was the best at this, sometimes remixing remixes and then remixing yet again until the song was back to the original, and no one was any wiser!
- Metaphors - This is big, you have to make sure you use metaphors that have not been used before. Rapping that you are hot like the sun, or as cold as ice will not be accepted. Be sure to have fresh metaphors in your arsenal.
- Repetition – Repeating yourself frequently helps get your point across. Sometimes this is used in rock music but it is critical in the rap game. Whatever you come up with for your hook or song title, remember, redundancy is key. Make sure to remember, redundancy is key.
Now let's put it all together:
(The DJ starts playing music and yelling, this goes on for up to a minute of the three minute song)
Uh huh, yeah………uh huh, yeah……..uh huh yeah…..I thought you knew……..uh huh yeah……….here we go...uh huh, yeah.....
I make it hot to death, I’m that dude you wanna see,
Verse after verse, I continue with urgency.
Ya girl in the corner, she’s only yours currently,
until I pull that cash, any type of currency.
She’s leaving with me, out the back like an emergency,
after that it’s a rap, like you committing perjury.
telling your lies, with all of that hyperbole,.
better go tell you're crew, ask them if they've heard of me.
(The Dj resumes yelling, this continues for the last minute of the three minute song)
Let's review the above rap. As the author, I do not in reality, make any situation "hot to death", nor do not have money to brag of. Sure I pay my bills on time, but I don't go to clubs, and I certainly do not flash any type of currency around. I also would not steal my advisary's girlfriend, I'm not very smooth around the ladies and my wife would kill me. Furthermore, I know nothing about perjury or juries besides what I've read in John Grisham novels. Lastly, most people have not heard of me, I am not well known or notorious. All of this is okay, as many rappers play fast and loose with the facts.
Remember, grammar is of no importance, although annoying when trying to spell check. In fact, it’s better to use improper than proper grammar in rap music. Be sure to portray yourself in a way that exudes confidence. Following these simple steps should help you craft a rap song that is sure to be a hit. Good Luck!
Others In This Series:
- Writing A Country Song
A simple formula for writing a tearjerker...
- Writing a Pop Song
The second installment in the How To Write A Song series.
- Writing A Protest Song
Part four in the how to write a song series focuses on the Protest Song.
- Writing A Rock Song
Our final installment in the How To Write A Song series brings us to the rock song.