So you wanna rap and write rhymes? Here is a guide with some tips that can jumpstart your pen game and help you understand how rap songs are written.
How to write raps
The main thing anyone trying to be an artist/rapper/songwriter should remember is creativity is everything. Be creative and don’t be scared to be different and tell your/a story.
Freewriting Vs. Structured Writing
There are two types of writing that will help you get the ball rolling. The first is free-writing. A free-write is a way to let ideas flow without any limitations. Start by writing a concept or title to help guide your creativity and just start writing. Don’t worry about rhyming, timing, or organizing your ideas, just get them out. You can always come back later and clean up your freewriting to make it more structured.
The second type is structured writing. It is typically written to a beat or with a beat in mind. This type of writing follows a system where you have a set template that usually follows a pattern. For example, verse, pre-hook, hook, verse, hook, bridge, pre-hook, hook. (If you need help on what these terms mean, check out the glossary). Structured writing is how songs are written and arranged so it is important to learn if you want tp be a songwriter.
Writing to the Beat
When composing a song, it’s important to let the beat guide you. The first thing to understand is the tempo of a beat. An instrumental is measured in BPMs (beats per minute). The higher the BPM, the faster the tempo.
Next, every eight beats are known as a bar. Do you know how a dancer counts off before starting their choreography? “And a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…” that’s counting off a bar. Learning how to measure a song in beats and bars will help you write a song that fits the way a song is arranged.
An arrangement is how a song changes from start to finish. As a beat builds and collapses, a writer knows where to put lyrics so that those separate parts come together as a finished song.
The Art of Rhyme
Writing raps is a particular style of songwriting that often uses several specific techniques. The rhyme scheme is a critical part of writing quality rap songs. While most rappers rhyme the final word or sound of a line, others use the last two words in order to make their rhyme more complex.
For example, “rap” rhymes with “cap.” In a more advanced composition, a rapper could rhyme “flow rap” with “no cap” in order to add variety to the lyrics. The best rappers are able to rhyme multiple words and syllables throughout a verse.
Punchlines and Wordplay
Another important piece of the rap-writing puzzle is the punchline. Much like comedians tell jokes, rappers use punchlines to capitalize on their wordplay. If you go to listen to your favorite rap artist, especially if they’re a battle rapper, some of your favorite lines of theirs are likely punchlines.
For punchlines to be most effective, use the rule of 4s. Write in a series of 4 lines that all end in the same rhyme sound, then, make sure to build up to a punch line that lands on the end of the fourth line. Do this 4 times in a row and boom, you have a 16 bar verse with at least 4 punchlines.
Some common types of punchlines are the double entendre and the “no” punchline. A double entendre is using a word or phrase that has two or more meanings and could be taken both literally and figuratively. Jay-Z is a master of this.
A “no”punchline is a type of wordplay that references a common idea and uses a “no statement” as a punchline. For example, “I roll with some real ones, ain’t no fake in me/ The whole team stacking hella bread, no bakery.”
Practice Makes Perfect
It’s been said that good writers write, and great writers re-write. Take your time when writing and commit to doing it often, ideally every day. In time, you will begin to listen to rap music differently because you’ll better understand the mind of a rap writer. These tips are only a few that exist out there but they should be enough to get you up and running.
(Feel free to write in any style and be unique but these could be helpful.)
- Switch up your flow, cadence & rhyme schemes every 4-8 bars.
- Paint a vivid visual, include punchlines, metaphors, similes, word play, double entendres.
- Try keeping your hooks simple, catchy, & clean. Songs with these attributes are usually hits.
- Write down EVERYTHING (yes everything).
- Write down different words you like and connect them later.
- Write to different kinds of beats to figure out your best flow or a new flow.
- Make sure your lyrics are on-beat to sonically sounds good but you can always do what you want or create a new style.
- JUST WRITE A VERSE!
The pattern of rhyming words or sounds you hear at the end of a line is a rhyme scheme. There are endless of rhymes schemes in Rap/Hip-Hop music. There are endless rhymes schemes.
A common rhyme scheme is:
A / B / A / B – The words or sounds at the end of the lines for letters “A” rhyme and the words or sounds at the end of the lines for letters “B” rhyme.
“Whip so white might snow” (A)
“The money came in like blow” (A)
“but no, we don’t save it” (B)
“spending, cause we made it” (B)
There are endless rhyme schemes by here are some typical rhyme schemes:
A / A / B / B
A / A / B / A
A / A / B / B
A / B / C / B
Glossary (Via RapDictionary.com)
Arrangement – How a song changes or is arranged from start to finish.
Bar/Bars – A line of rap/lyric.
Bridge – A section that connects two parts of a song. A bright can also be used to combat repetitiveness
BPM – Beats per minute
Chorus – The repeated part of a song.
Free-Write – To write and let ideas flow without any limitations.
Hook – The repeated section of a song, intended to “hook” the listener.
Line — A line/sentence of lyric.
Metaphor – a word or phrase applied to an object or action to which is not literal
Pre-hook — A section before a “hook” intended to “hook” the listener. Sometimes also known as a bridge.
Simile – A figure of speech comparing two “unlike” things and their similarities. Typically includes “like” or “as”.
Rhymes – Words that end in the same sound or a collection or written lyrics
Rhyme Scheme — The pattern of rhyming words you hear at the end of lines in a song.
Verse/Verses – A section of unique written lines. Typically, 16 bars of rap.
Visit rapdictionary.com for more meanings of definition.
Rap Dictionaries are available for purchase at rapdictionary.com/book