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How To Rap Part 2: Confidence, Delivery, and Energy

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

How to Rap

Author: Slik Nixin
Published: August 2011


A confident delivery and energetic focus can make a good rap performance great.  The old saying – “say it like you mean it” is the embodiment of a confident delivery and gives your raps believability.  Learning how to rap requires you to learn and understand how these three components work with and relate to each other.  In doing so, you will become a complete rap package that will allow you to be successful in a highly competitive, highly saturated world of business.

Confidence

Confidence is the belief within one’s self that he or she is good at what they’re doing.  Confident rappers command the stage, love the spotlight, and are not afraid of failing.  Most often times, the hindrance of a rapper lacking confidence is their fear of failure and the inability to get out of they’re own way.  You can have all of the lyrical skill in the world, but if you don’t believe in yourself, don’t expect anybody else to believe in you either.

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To become more confident as a rapper you must be willing to put yourself in those situations you wouldn’t normally be comfortable in; you must leave your comfort zone.  If you’re a great rapper but get timid in front of a crowd you should be doing just that – making yourself perform in front of the public eye.  If you have trouble focusing when free-styling you should be doing just that – working on your focus. 

Rap Battles To become more confident as a rapper you must be willing to put yourself in those situations you wouldn’t normally be comfortable in; you must leave your comfort zone.  If you’re a great rapper but get timid in front of a crowd you should be doing just that – making yourself perform in front of the public eye.

If you have trouble focusing when free-styling you should be doing just that – working on your focus. 

As you gain more experience in those less comfortable situations you will naturally become more confident through that experience.  This is indicative of all things confidence-related (not just rap performances).

Loads of confidence can make an emcee fearless, but if abused, it can also work against him.  No one enjoys working with an arrogant, self-absorbed emcee that can’t take constructive criticism.  These types of rappers normally have trouble forming any type of long-term business relationships throughout their career because they’re so difficult to work with. 

Be conscious of the fact there is a thin line between confidence and arrogance and that TOO MUCH OF ANYTHING CAN BE A BAD THING.

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Delivery = Swagger

swagga

Delivery is the style and emphasis you put behind the lyrics you write.

Some artists have a laid back delivery (Snoop Dogg), some artists have an aggressive delivery (Eminem), some artists have a charismatic delivery (Jay Z) and everything else in between. 

The delivery of a rap performance is one of the elements that make every artist unique – there are no two artists that have the same exact delivery and voice affectation. 

Every great rapper has a delivery that embodies who they naturally are as a person.  They embrace who they are and their delivery is a by-product of that embracement. 

For example, Eminem tends to write a lot about pain and past experiences that have manifested into negative memories, therefore, in a lot of his songs he has this very aggressive, emphasis driven delivery that conveys the built up anger and frustration he has bottled inside.  On the other hand, if we look at Snoop’s delivery what we see is the exact opposite and he also writes about different topics to Em, which brings us to our next point – delivery also has a lot do to with lyrical content. 

You want your delivery to correlate with the types of things you’re talking about.  It doesn’t make any sense to scream like you’re mad at the world when you’re rapping about partying and having a good time.

Octaves

Good news – the use of octaves in a rap performance only requires a basic understanding of what an octave is.

In simple terms, an octave is a series of 8 musical notes.  The tones of the notes repeat but change in pitch as you move up and down octaves on a musical scale.  Lower frequency sounds occupy lower octaves and higher frequency sounds occupy higher octaves.

The human voice is an amazingly powerful, melodic instrument. It has the ability to change tone and pitch to a vast degree very quickly.  Unlike most rappers, singers know and understand how to use this as a creative undertone to their vocal performance by changing octaves at different parts in the performance.

We all have an octave range in which our voice is naturally comfortable – this is our spoken voice and it’s the range most rappers tend to stay in.

However, lets say you are screaming at somebody - chances are you will end up in a higher octave range than you would if it was someone you were just having a casual conversation with. 

This occurs naturally because of the emotional aspect involved.  Excitement, anger, and frustration are all easily identifiable emotional qualities in someone’s voice.  We can identify this through loudness, pitch, and voice affectation even without seeing that person’s face. 

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Eminem is a great example of how effective switching octaves can be in this type of scenario.  You’ll notice on a lot of his more personal songs he raises his voice up an octave and screams into the microphone – letting all of that emotion pour out and it is that emotion that people instantly gravitate towards.  This is where power also comes into play. 

Power

Power (or the lack there of) is the difference in emphasis you put behind what you say.  Numerous times throughout this series you will hear me mention that, “Rapping is all about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it”.  What you’re saying must coincide with how you’re saying it and vice versa.  If you’re rapping about deep, personal things chances are you’ll want to put a lot of power, passion, and emphasis in your delivery.  If you’re rapping about how cool you are then chances are you want a smoother, more charismatic delivery. 

Lets take a look at these two audio examples.  The first example is a performance of me in my normal octave range (spoken voice) with not much use of power and the second example is the exact opposite.  I raised my voice up an octave and put a lot of power into the second performance.

Low Octave Rap (Guitar Loops from Metalcore Acoustic V1)

High Octave Rap (Guitar Loops from Metalcore Acoustic V1)

The difference in character is quite obvious.

To move through octaves with your voice simply start by talking in the lowest, deepest voice you can and gradually increase to the highest pitch, chipmunk-like voice that you can.

You might find that your rap performance gels better with the instrumental in a certain octave as opposed to others.  Or maybe you want to layer vocal recordings with two different octaves to beef up your performance here and there.   

There are many creative ways to use octaves and power in a rap performance!

Energy

Energy is similar to delivery and could even qualify as a component of delivery because it has a lot to do with who you are, the types of things your write about, and the emotional undertone of the hip hop instrumental you choose to rap over. 

If you’re an upbeat, outgoing person who likes to party and go clubbing, then chances are, you write a lot about those types of things and choose to rap over instrumentals that have this same emotional tone. 

Since partying and clubbing is typically very upbeat by nature, your energy should correspond to this nature.  In rap, energy is an entity that reinforces emotion.

Interconnectedness

In terms of interconnectedness, the working nature of these three components is analogous to braided rope.  Each component is interwoven between and around the other two and vice versa to make a stronger, overall performance.

Use the understanding of this relationship to your advantage.  Make sure each of these qualities are within reach of the other and identifiable with you as an artist.  This will give your rap performances much more credibility by presenting a total package. 

You’ve got the lyrics, the confidence, the word play, and the delivery – you know how to rap!

Wrap Up

Rapping is an unrivaled, unique art form.  It is boundless expression through the percussive use of words over musical backdrops.  Great rappers perfect their craft by paying attention to the details in all aspects of this art form.  Powerful lyrics are most potent when delivered properly with the appropriate amount of energy and confidence.  As a matter of fact, some rappers who don’t have great creative writing skills are still successful because their delivery and confidence are so overwhelmingly appealing – keep this in mind when learning how to rap and you will quickly get better.

Rap is all about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

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

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