“My whole thing is to inspire, to better people, to better myself forever in this thing that we call rap, this thing that we call hip hop.” - Kendrick Lamar
Would you like to become a rapper?
You’re going to have to write some lyrics. Almost every successful rapper also writes the lyrics as rapping is about telling your story and it needs to be personal and authentic.
Here’s our advice for writing rap lyrics.
The Basics to Writing Rap Lyrics
Let’s start with the basics: Most rap music works with 16 measures. 16 measures is usually a rap verse.
A measure is a unit of time in music. In most hip hop, a rap measure is divided into 4 beats. This will normally include at least one bass drum beat and one snare beat.
16 measures of 4 beats means that there are a total of 64 beats. The higher the tempo, the shorter it’ll all take. In many types of music, there are 16 measures, a chorus, 16 measures, a chorus, etc. You can also just do verses and forget about the chorus.
1: Find Some Music
Before you start writing, it might be a good idea to find some music. Music can serve as an inspiration and it’ll help you find ideas and a theme. You can find websites with free beats and samples. From there, you can start imagining your flow. It’ll help you to put lyrics over the top of it.
2: Brainstorming and the Theme
The theme of your rap is a good place to start and a stream of consciousness might help you find some recurring themes. From there, you can write about that.
Otherwise, you could pick a theme and try writing about it. It could be anything including love, memories, friendship, the environment, anger, etc.
Don’t waste too much time trying to find an original theme. You can be original in the way you explore your theme as a theme will give you the jumping-off point for your ideas, too.
3: Write Your Lyrics like a Scene
You might have a couple of ideas in your mind but are struggling to find other things to say.
Plan Out Your Song
A structure can help you put together your lyrics:
- 1: Exposition
- 2: Complication
- 3: Climax
- 4: Resolution
A logical structure can help the listener to understand your message.
Starting a Rap Verse
Right at the very start, you want to grab people’s attention:
- Start with a hook.
- Use alliteration.
- Use wordplay.
The chorus isn’t an obligatory part of a rap song, but it can make your song more appealing so make sure that it’s coherent and that it essentially summarises the verses.
Set your choruses apart from the verses: try shorter measures if your verses or long, use alliteration to add rhythm, etc. You could even sing or change the flow.
Analyse choruses from other styles of music.
What makes a chorus so catchy?
Start with writing the chorus if you already have one in mind.
4: Find Catchy Lines and Hooks
A hook is a line that grabs the listener’s attention. It’s not always easy to come up with one, but here’s our advice:
- Keep your message in mind.
- Play with words and use sounds and word structure. Homophones and wordplay can be useful.
- Consider humour.
- Use a rhyming dictionary whether it’s a printed version, an app on your phone, or a website. You might come across some great hooks just by listening to people chatting. It could be from a tongue-twister, something your gran says all the time, or your little brother mispronouncing something.
Most of your best ideas will just come to you when you’re not sitting down and trying to write.
Be aware of common practices in rap!
- Allegory: a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
- Alliteration: repeating the same letter or sound.
- Anaphora: Repeating a sequence of words at the start or end of clauses for emphasis. For example:
- Assonance: Repeated vowel sounds.
- Comparison: Compare two elements using similes.
- Enumeration: Listing several things one by one.
- Euphemism: Expressing something unpleasant or embarrassing in a milder form.
- Gradation: Enumerating in an increasing or decreasing order.
- Hyperbole: Exaggeration that shouldn’t be taken literally.
- Litotes: Using negatives to further affirm a positive.
- Metaphore: Referring to one thing by mentioning another.
- Metonymy: Referring to a thing or concept by using something commonly associated with it. For example:
- Neologism: A new term that that isn’t in everyday use.
- Oxymoron: Contradictory expressions that create surprise.
- Personification: Attributing human qualities to animals or concepts to make them more understandable.
- Synecdoche: Using a single part to refer to the whole or the whole to refer to the part.
Hooks aren’t obligatory, but it’s a good idea to use them for impact. They don’t need to be disses, either. Think about your message!
It’s a good idea to have hooks at the beginning or end of a verse and don’t overdo them.
5: Sort Out the Rhymes
More often than not, rhymes are at the end of measures. However, you can always have internal rhymes. After you’ve got an idea of your lyrics, you can start working on the rhymes.
Here are the different types of rhymes:
- Single rhymes: where the stress is on the last syllable.
- Double rhymes: where the stress is on the penultimate syllable.
- Dactylic rhymes: where the stress is on the antepenultimate (third last) syllable.
There are many different ways to rhyme:
- A flat rhyme: A-A-B-B
- Cross rhyme: A-B-A-B
- Enclosed rhyme: A-B-B-A
- Violette: A-A-A-B
Don’t hesitate to use a rhyming dictionary to help you.
Don’t forget that if you want to write rap lyrics, you need to be sincere, genuine, and deliver your message effectively. You also need to persevere. Your first rhymes might suck but you’ll get better at it as you practise. Good luck, you can do it!
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.