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Tech Tips Articles
Tech Tips Articles

- How to Rap
- How to Use a Compressor
-Protools Tutorial - How to use
  effects automation
- Protools Tutorial - How to make
  Electro House Music
- Ableton Live Tutorial - How to
  use the Vocoder effect
- Ableton Live Tutorial - How to
  make a Hip Hop drum groove
- How to Manipulate Vocal
  Samples in Ableton Live

- How to Manipulate Drum Loops
  in Ableton Live
- How to Produce Like Timbaland
- How To Record Drums
- How to import Apple Loops into
  Garageband
- How to record & Mix Vocals
- How to Record Rap Vocals in your Home Studio
- How to Produce Rap Vocals
- Sequencing Secrets
- How a Good Engineer Should
  prepare for a Recording Session
- How to get a Massive Drum
  Sound with Room Ambience
- Hip Hop Samples & The Law
- How to Use Auto Tune Antares
- How to Create a Vocal Stutter
  Effect
- How to Create Hip Hop Horns
- The Lost Art of Mixing
- How to Build your own Hip Hop
  Drum Library
- How to Layer FX & Fills
- How to Make Your own Gated
  Synth FX in Logic
- How to Make Beats
- Beef Up Your Drum Mix
- How to Make a Dirty South Beat

 
Drum Loops available for instant download.

How To Rap Part 4: How to Write Great Rap Lyrics

This is a 6 part series on How to Rap  

- How to Rap - Introduction
- How to Rap Part 1 - Cadence and Rhythm
- How to Rap Part 2 - Confidence, Delivery, Energy
- How to Rap Part 3 - Become a Better Freestyle Emcee
- How to Rap Part 4 - How to Write Great Rap Lyrics
- How to Rap Part 5 - How to Record Rap Vocals
- How to Rap Part 6 - How to Stack and Polish Rap Vocals

Author: Slik Nixin
Published: September 2011

Gear up studio heads.  Today we learn how to write great rap lyrics. 

What defines great lyrics? 

How to write Great Rap Lyrics There isn’t any one answer, but great rap lyrics are usually comprised of a certain set of characteristics that make them great. 

Typically, they show a mastery of many skills and creativity - things like clever word-play, imagery, wittiness, metaphors, quality content and so on.

But most of all what makes them great is the emotional response they bring out in your listeners.  Great rap lyrics can make you cry. They can make you laugh. They can lift you up, bring you down and everything else in between.

A good example of the emotional component that lies in all great lyrics can be seen from a song I wrote a year ago called “Scapegoat”.  The song is about the chaos of life and feeling lost in the world with music being the only outlet to escape through. 

It’s always interesting when I play this song for someone because his or her emotional response to it tells me so much about that person.   

For example, about two months ago I had a female vocalist over my house and I played her this song.  Halfway through it she busted out crying to the point where she had to excuse herself from the room and regain her composure.

Hip Hop Samples
Hip Hop Samples
RnB Samples
RnB Samples
Dirty South Loops
Dirty South Loops

Once she re-entered the room I asked her what was wrong.  She immediately opened up and told me about all of the current problems she was going through and then it was easy to see how the lyrics of that song related to her life’s situation. 

After she left, I had the chance to really sit down and think about it and the revelation that came to me was simple.  This song was exactly what the name and lyrics said it was – a scapegoat for the pain she had bottled up inside.  The lyrics triggered an emotional response that was so overwhelming she burst into tears.  The connection between her and song was obvious and it was this connection that made these lyrics great.

Here are the lyrics to the chorus in that song:

Lost are the fun days and wild nights
So it’ll take another hundred years to get it right
But those days are just done and gone
And I can’t go back, so my best bets to getaway
Getaway and I sing my songs
And when I think about a warm touch it’s been so long
They all say I’ve got a lonely soul
And I think to myself – tell me somethin’ that I didn’t know

I chose to cover the emotional aspect of great lyrics first because I think it’s often overlooked, but lets take closer look at some of the other characteristics of great lyrics as well.

Wordplay

Wordplay is the clever use or manipulation of words in some fashion.  Great rappers use wordplay to hold the listeners attention and to demonstrate their mastery as a wordsmith.

R&B Sample Packs
R&B Samples
Hip Hop Loops
Orchestral Hip Hop
Soul Loops
Soul Loops

Lets look at this very short phrase as an example of ‘a play on words’.

…”I’m the dick, with the dick, she’s addicted too”…

If we disregard the vulgarity of the statement, for educational purposes, what we have is a double meaning on the word dick and clever word-play (usage) of the word addicted to bring attention to the line by playing off the word used in the double meaning.. 

Simple, yet effective.

Imagery

how to write rap lyrics

Lyrics paint pictures even the blind can see. 

Concise, vivid details are another component to great lyrics and they allow your listeners to create a visual representation of these lyrics in their mind.  When writing rap lyrics always take into account the different elements of the surrounding environment. 

Here’s an example of how effective imagery can be.  This is me describing my surrounding environment last Saturday night.

Late night - Lots of girls dancing – loud music – VIP section in the back – People buying drinks – etc…

If you had to guess, you would probably say I was at some sort of nightclub – and you would be correct. 

How did you know I was at a club?  You knew because I used words and phrases that described a club-like environment.  In doing so, you were then able to create a mental picture of it and that mental picture should’ve looked something like a nightclub.

One component of imagery in writing that most people don’t even know exists is the way it actively engages the listener in their own personal experiences. 

For instance, If I’m reading a passage from a book (with no pictures) and the passage is describing a big field of green grass down an old dirt road in Oklahoma – chances are I haven’t seen that actual field, but I have seen a similar field at some point in my life. So, what the brain will do when creating a mental picture of the described imagery is draw on the memories of times that I have come across similar fields of grass and it is those memories that will be used in conjunction with the written details to create this image.

When using imagery in your lyrics you are allowing your listener to create their own world based off the things you describe and the things in their past experiences they can relate to that description, which makes it an extremely powerful component to writing great lyrics.

Metaphors

Metaphors

Metaphors are very important in great lyric writing.  To create a compelling metaphor you need to find a way to compare two unlike things in such a way that they appear to have something in common.

If I was a hardcore, street rapper and I was looking for a metaphor that creatively describes shooting someone, then I might say something like:

“He tried to tell me that the show don’t stop
So I put the metal to his chest like Robocop
(the second line being the metaphor)

Now, lets break down the metaphor. 

- Bullets are made of lead,
- Lead is a type of metal
- Robocop is covered in metal (particularly his chest)
- One of the main places to shoot someone is in the chest

You should start to see the commonalities that make this line a metaphor.  Even though shooting someone and the metal on robocop’s chest are two completely different things we have cleverly made them appear to be related.

Metaphors show creativity and wit.  The more creative and wittier your lyrics – the greater your lyrics are – It’s as simple as that.

Perfect Rhymes VS. Similar Rhymes

A good example of a perfect rhyme is cool and school.

A good example of a similar rhyme is cool and to or cool and view.

  1. The pronunciation of vowels in these words make them sound similar
    (hence the term – Similar rhymes)

The use of Similar rhymes is vital in rap lyrics because they give the rapper a lot more creative freedom to roam in their lyrical content.

Imagine if every time you wanted to rhyme something with the word cool the only rhyme choices you had were school, bull, pull, drool, and fool.  This might be okay in the beginning but over time the creativity of your lyrical content would be severely limited and most likely redundant

The fact is, there are always a lot more Similar Rhymes for a word than there are perfect rhymes for it so get good at generating Similar Rhymes

Filler Lines VS. Punch Lines

Filler lines are basically generic rhymes that are either used to keep the momentum going or to setup punch-lines.  But they typically don’t have the “Wow” factor of a hard hitting punch-line

Punch-lines are those prized lyrics that really grab your attention.  They hit you dead in the chest and leave a lasting impression.

On the Battle Rap Circuit an amazing punch-line is referred to as a Quotable.  Quotables are lines from your lyrics that people will remember for years after they hear it.

A good example of one of my favorite Quotables, came in a Rap Battle that happened about a year ago.  It was Pat Stay VS. Hollahan.  The two emcees were really going at it and then Pat dropped a Quotable out the gate that Hollahan couldn’t recover from.

I don’t remember the filler-Lines he used to setup the punch-line but I will remember this punch-line until the day I die.

“he sniffs coke thru the pen that he writes with,
So his lines are just a story on how pathetic his life is”

To fully understand the power of this punch-line you need to have some understanding of metaphors and knowledge on the history between the two rappers, but those bars completely changed the energy in the room and left everybody stunned.

The more haymaking punch-lines you can throw in your lyrics the better they will be!  People will react more to your raps and you will get more respect from fellow rappers.

Lyrical Content

Rapping is all about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.  Therefore lyrical content should match the emotional undertone of the instrumental and vice versa.  If you are writing your lyrics to an instrumental that’s already arranged and the instrumental feels like upbeat dance music, then the lyrical content should reflect that instrumental’s feel.

The Hook/chorus should embody the main focus of the song.  Great hook lyrics are catchy, often repeated, and easy to remember.  They should be clear, concise, and on point because the hook is the most important part of the song!

The Verse should support the lyrical content of the hook, but this is also the time when rappers get to display their lyrical skills and show off their mastery of rapping.  This is when you hit your listeners with haymaking punch-lines and mind bending wordplay.

Try to always be conscious of your lyrical content.  If you start rattling off a bunch of unrelated nonsense its harder for your listeners to follow along.

Wrap Up

Writing well-structured lyrics is a vital step in learning how to rap.  Using the tools mentioned above you are now armed with the knowledge to write great rap lyrics in any circumstance.  Get to work and take your lyric writing to the next level and remember…  rapping is all about what your saying and how you’re saying it.

Check out the other articles in this 'How to Rap' Series:
This is a 6 part series on How to Rap  

- How to Rap - Introduction
- How to Rap Part 1 - Cadence and Rhythm
- How to Rap Part 2 - Confidence, Delivery, Energy
- How to Rap Part 3 - Become a Better Freestyle Emcee
- How to Rap Part 4 - How to Write Great Rap Lyrics
- How to Rap Part 5 - How to Record Rap Vocals
- How to Rap Part 6 - How to Stack and Polish Rap Vocals

If you found this article helpful please be sure to like our Facebook page where we post freebies, updates, and sales from time to time.

Other Audio Production Tutorials  

- How to make Beats - The Beginners Guide
- Protools Tutorial - How to use effects automation
- Protools Tutorial - How to make Electro House Music Fast & Easy
- Ableton Live Tutorial - How to use the Vocoder effect
- Ableton Live Tutorial - How to make a Hip Hop drum groove
- How to Manipulate Vocal Samples in Ableton Live
- How to Manipulate Drum Loops in Ableton Live
- How to Produce Like Timbaland
- How To Record Drums
- How to import Apple Loops into Garageband
- How to record & Mix Vocals
- How to Record Great Rap Vocals in your Home Studio
- How to Stack & Polish Rap Vocals
- Sequencing Secrets
- How a Good Engineer Should prepare for a Recording Session
- How to get a Massive Drum Sound with Room Ambience
- Hip Hop Samples & The Law
- How to Use Auto Tune Antares & Tame it with Melodyne
- How to Create a Vocal Stutter Effect
- How to Create Lush Hip Hop Horns
- The Lost Art of Mixing and How to Mix
- How to Use a Compressor
- How To Rap
- How to Build your own library of Hip Hop Drum Samples
- How to create a Gated Synth effect
- How to Beef up your drums with Parallel Processing
- How to make a Dirty South Beat
- How to make a sinister Dubstep Beat
- How to make a Rusko Style Bass Synth in Massive
- Free Ableton Template for Dubstep
- Create a Pitch drop wobble synth in Ableton
- How to Make a Skrillex Reptile Bass in Massive
- How to Create a Wobble Bass in Logic Pro
- Free Dubstep Samples - Dubtropilis (220 Mb)
- Free Massive Presets for Dubstep
- Download Dubstep Presets for Massive
- Free Ableton Song Template for Dubstep
- Free Logic Pro Song Template for Dubstep
- How to Layer FX and Fills to Create Song Transitions
- Howto Master a Track in Logic Pro
- How to Create a Screaming Wobble Synth in Garageband
- How to reduce Vocals from a Sample in Logic
- How to Create Songs in Garageband using Loops
- Free MIDI Drum Loops - The Most Sampled Breaks
- Free Hip Hop MIDI Drum Loops - Most Famous Breaks
- How to work with Rex2 files in Reason
- How to use Abletons Beat Repeat

Drum Loops available for instant download.
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- Hip Hop Producer Pack 4
- Hip Hop Producer Pack 5
- Hip Hop Producer Pack 6
- Hip Hop Producer Pack 7
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Guitar LoopsGuitar Loops
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Synth Loops
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Hits & Stabs
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House Samples
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Dubstep Samples
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Drum and Bass Loops
- Drum & Bass Loops V1
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Trance Loops
- Producer Pack 1
- Producer Pack 2
- Producer Pack 3

World Loops

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Massive Presets
- Massive Carnage

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