Most people with an interest in rap will have heard of Snoop Dogg, Drake, or Dr Dre. Rapping takes a lot of work and it can take years just to get noticed and get an album deal. Before you can do any of this, you have to learn how to rap.
Most rap artists openly talk about how long it takes to break into the limelight. Even Jay-Z and Tupac had to work for a while before they got discovered. Before they made it big, they worked at it. Even though it’s difficult, don’t get discouraged.
In this article, we’re showing you how to get started with rap, the common pitfalls to avoid, and how to write rap lyrics. One thing’s for sure, rapping takes a lot of work.
Rapping for Dummies
Whether it’s west coast hip hop or grime, rappers have to work a lot on their craft. There are a few things they need to work on before they find their style and flow.
Here are a few ideas for getting you started.
Firstly, you need to listen to a lot of rap music. You’ll find inspiration from a few different sources, but it’s always good to have a broad taste, especially in the type of music you want to excel in.
Listen to everything from Old school hip hop to horrorcore to get into the flow. You can draw on plenty of different genres as you search for your own style.
You’ll also want to listen to different genres of music. There’s a lot you can learn from various musical genres beyond just rap music. Think about just how often Kanye varies the genres of his music.
You’ll have a lot to work on, especially in terms of musical training:
- Manage the rhythm and tempo while emphasising the right words.
- Master your delivery and flow.
- Improve your diction so that the words are clear.
- Master breathing, which is as useful for rap as it is singing.
- Learn to rap quickly and eloquently.
- Read rap lyrics or poetry to better understand metre and flow.
- Practise with songs you know.
For this last one, you’re spoilt for choice. Focus on songs that you really like and know well. You should also start with slower songs before moving onto quicker and more complicated songs.
Learning Slam Poetry
Slam poetry is like rap music’s cousin and is halfway between rap and poetry. It’s an art form that’s emotive and powerful and if you’re interested, here’s how to get started.
Firstly, listen to or attend poetry slams. They’re far from as popular as huge rap concerts, but this just means that it'll be easier to get tickets and you can still find some excellent poets and artists.
Pay attention to the structure and how it’s performed. The final part is probably the hardest; writing your own slam poetry. Like any piece of writing, it may take quite a few edits.
Once your slam poetry is ready, you can take part in a poetry slam where you’ll quickly see how effective your poetry is. Don’t wait too long to give it a go.
Slam poetry can be really useful if you want to write rap lyrics as the focus is more on the words as there's rarely any musical accompaniment and if there is, it's usually acting as a backdrop to the poetry rather than being an integral part of it.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
If you want to avoid being dissed, there are a few mistakes you want to avoid.
The first thing you need to do is broaden your musical taste. You’ll need to listen to the biggest artists in rap history, of course: Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Puff Daddy, Wu-Tang Clan, Eminem, etc. And that’s just American rappers!
There are also plenty of rappers on this side of the pond. However, you need to listen to more than just rap as there are musical styles like pop, funk, blues, dance, and metal that can teach you more about rap.
While listening to lots of hip hop and a wide range of rappers is good, you can gain plenty of inspiration from other types of music and it can also help you develop your sound.
We have a few other tips for getting started:
- Don’t rap too quickly. Rapping quickly doesn’t necessarily mean you’re rapping well.
- Work on your flow and delivery to get your message across better.
- Learn a bit about singing.
- Record yourself when you practise.
- Don’t rush when it comes to writing your lyrics.
- Focus on the length of each line.
- Avoid cliché rhymes.
We can’t guarantee you’ll win a Grammy with these tips, but they are a good place to start.
How to Write Rap Lyrics
Writing rap lyrics can be difficult. When it comes to rapping, the lyrics are arguably the most important part of the music and when it comes to writing lyrics, you also need them to work with the music.
Rap is commonly performed in 16 bars. More often than not, there’ll be a beat with the bass drum and a beat with the snare. 16 bars are made of 64 beats and how long this takes will depend on the tempo. Generally, there are 16 bars then a chorus. However, not every song follows this structure.
You’ll need some music. Fortunately, you can find plenty of free samples and beats online and practise rapping over the top of them. From there, you can start writing.
Generally, you’ll do the following:
- Establish a theme.
- Structure the song.
- Contrast the verses with the chorus.
- Look for key points, punchlines, wordplay, etc.
- Make stylistic decisions.
- Work on the rhyme and flow.
Now you should know a bit more about rap music. To learn more about it, check out our other articles!
You can also get help with writing rap lyrics and rapping from private tutors on Superprof! There are different types of tutoring available and since each comes with pros and cons in terms of the teaching and the cost, you'll want to think carefully about what's right for you and your budget.
Face-to-face tutorials are often the most cost-effective, but they also tend to be the most expensive per hour. This is because you're paying for a tutor to tailor the sessions to you, your level, and what you want to learn. Similarly, a lot of tutors will travel to their students and have more expenses to deal with than those offering online or group tutorials.
Online tutorials are a good option if you live rurally or can't find any suitable tutors in your local area. These tutors can still offer tailored sessions but can charge less as they don't have to travel to their students and can schedule more sessions each week. As long as you have a decent internet connection, webcam, and microphone, you can enjoy private online tutoring from tutors all over the world.
Group tutoring is an excellent option if you're on a tight budget. While you won't get as much one-on-one tuition from your tutor, you usually end up paying less as the cost of the tutor's time and expertise is split amongst all the students in attendance. If you and some friends, family members, or colleagues, are interested in learning more about music or rap, group tutoring could be a fun and rewarding experience.
Before you start contacting tutors, it's a really good idea to think carefully about the type of tutoring that you're after and what you're looking for in a tutor. Make a list of your requirements and keep them in mind as you search for tutors on Superprof. Once you have a few tutors in mind that meet your requirements, you can start getting in touch with them and discussing how and what you'd like to learn.
Remember that many of the tutors on the Superprof website offer the first lesson for free. Use these free sessions to try out a few different tutors before deciding on which one would be right for you. Remember to keep your requirements in mind when chatting with potential tutors and remember that since you're probably going to be spending a decent amount of time with them, it's important that you get on well with them.
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