The genre of rap fills a unique niche in music history. For something that can sound so simple, writing a good rap is anything but. Here are five tips to get you started
1. Don’t sacrifice meaning for rhyme
Though it may seem obvious, adding lyrics just because they rhyme is potentially hazardous to your song.
Take this example from Jay Z’s “Somewhere In America.”
New money, they looking down on me
Blue bloods they trying to clown on me
Though “down” and “clown” flow well as rhymes, the second line feels a bit silly when compared to the many strong lines in the rest of the song.
2. Use literary devices
Rap, in its essence, is poetry. Whip out those literary devices that you learned in English class to give your lyrics a deeper level of meaning.
For example, in “Guts Over Fear,” Eminem uses simile to describe the way the media portrays him.
The media made me the, equivalent of a modern-day Genghis Khan
Tried to argue it was only entertainment, dog
This comparison makes the meaning of the lyrics stand out more than a line such as “I’m not who the media says I am” would have.
3. Come at your themes from a unique angle
In a genre as big as rap is, it’s easy for rappers to repeat the same sort of content over and over. However, in order to be considered “great,” your rap needs to say something that listeners haven’t heard a thousand times already.
Look at this line from Iggy Azalea’s “Work.”
Ya ill intent was insurance for my benefit
Hate to be inconsiderate, but the industry took my innocence
Many rappers discuss the struggle of their industry. However, in this song, Iggy Azalea taps into her unique perspective as a young woman recording in a traditionally male genre.
4. Tell a story
Everyone loves a good story. By narrating life through your lyrics, you will create a rap that listeners can relate to.
Take, for instance, Kendrick Lamar’s “The Art Of Peer Pressure.”
Really I’m a peacemaker
But I’m with the homies right now
And momma used to say
One day, it’s gon’ burn you out
This rap tells the story of what it was like to grow up as a “good kid” in a tough neighborhood. Kendrick Lamar raps about the peer pressure that he faced growing up, which is something that any listener can relate to.
5. Above all else, be unique
Success and content are not directly related. You don’t need to rap about exactly the same things as Jay Z or Kendrick Lamar do just because they’re famous. Being unique and unusual with what you have to say will make your rap stand out.
Consider the idea behind Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Brad Pitt’s Cousin.”
When you see me in the club
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
Angelina show me love
This is certainly a unique sentiment. How many raps are there about being related to actor Brad Pitt?
Writing good lyrics is the first step to a great rap. Come at your rhymes from a fresh perspective to create something brand new.
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Kristen Harris enjoys listening to a wide range of music, from Taylor Swift to, on occasion, Celtic instrumental. She also spends her time writing, reading, and baking.