I recently showed you how to become a better rapper, focusing on how to improve your voice, delivery and the like. Today though, I’m going to show you how to write good rap lyrics.
You could have the best delivery in the world, but if your lyrics aren’t saying anything people want to hear, it won’t count for much. All flow and no content won’t hold you up against the top rappers out there. And if you can’t par with the best, there’s little reason people with start listening to you.
So, if you’ve got your delivery down and want to learn how to write better rap lyrics, have a read through the eight tips below.
Delivery is nothing without rap lyrics people want to listen to, so master both – Tweet This
By the way, if you’re a rapper who wants some cool rap beats to practice writing your lyrics over and perform to, you should check out this Android app for rappers. It’s free to use, but if you go with the pro version you can also download the beats and use them on your mixtapes.
Okay, so here’s how to write good rap lyrics for beginners and intermediate rappers.
Don’t Add Lyrics In Just Because They Rhyme
One of the biggest mistakes I see many up and coming rappers make is feeling they need to make each of their bars rhyme. So for example, if you end one line with the word “two”, you may feel the need to end the next line with a rhyming word such as “threw”, “shoe”, “who” etc.
Now I know this is the easiest way to start getting a feel for lyric writing, but since you want to improve your lyrics, you need to get rid of this limiting belief that rap lyrics have to rhyme. I’ve already looked at why they don’t have to rhyme here, so have a look at that if you want to know why this is the case.
The truth is, if you force each of your lines to rhyme, one of two things are likely to happen:
- You will limit what you can say. There are only so many words that rhyme with each other, so what if you really want to say something but can’t think of a second line which both rhymes and makes sense? Do you start talking random talk just to rhyme? Or do you say something else which you didn’t want to talk about? Neither are good options if you ask me.
- You will increase the chances of sounding like a lot of other rappers. There are a lot of rappers that always have to rhyme, and by doing the same, you’ll increase the chances that you’ll sound like them. Mainly in terms of your lyrics, but also in terms of flow as you fall into a much used pattern.
Neither of the above are traps you want to fall into, so try not to put too much emphasis on rhyming. Instead, mix rhyming and flowing, something that’s again covered in the above guide I just linked to. This will allow you to use more words in your rhymes, and not limit the things you can rap about.
Also when you do rhyme, be sure to think of ones which haven’t been used a lot before for your harder hitting lyrics. A good quality Rhyming Dictionary can help you find words which still rhyme, but aren’t over used and will help you stand out.
Another advantage of not insisting on rhyming every lyric is that it can become a stylistic quirk of yours. That will make you stand out from the droves of others who aren’t giving much attention to their lyrics.
Good Rap Lyrics Should Have A Beginning, Middle And End (Tell A Story)
While “freestyle rap” is good for showcasing your individual ability to think on the spot and highlight your punchlines and bars, they can only take you so far. If you really want people to respect you for your lyrics and increase your chances of going mainstream, you need to learn how to put a proper song together.
By this, I mean you need to learn how to pick a subject, and stick to it from start to finish. In essence you want to learn how to make a story progress, meaning it needs a beginning, middle and an end.
So, for example, let’s say you choose to rap about how you went from living in one neighborhood to a better one later on. You could start the first verse talking about where you originally lived, go on to talk about the actions you took to move forward and change things up, and then finally talk about where you are now and how things have change for you. In the chorus, you can spit catchy lyrics which bind the whole story together and offers an overview for the main message of the song.
Of course, this is just an example, but I hope I’ve gotten my point across. Learn how to tell a story, be consistent, and have an introduction, followed by the bulk of the story, and then the conclusion.
Keep in mind that there is no device more powerful in music or lyrical content than storytelling. Just look at Jesus, who may not have been a rapper or a musician, but was certainly an influential figure. Every time he was asked a question, he responded with another question or parable (a story). And his wisdom lives on.
Stories make people pay attention and take notice. You don’t even need to be an expert storyteller. If everyone else is just rhyming sentences together, and you’re telling a story instead, you will stand out from the crowd.
Write About Real Life And Let People Relate To Your Rap Lyrics
Another way you can write better rap lyrics is to bring in things people can relate to. The best way to do this? Easy, by writing about things that happen in real life, often on a day to day basis. This is especially useful when writing battle rap lyrics.
It’s to easy to grow up listening to other rappers and feel what they rap about is what you should also be rapping about. To think what they say is “real” and are the kind of lyrics you should be writing too. But is what other people talk about your reality? Whether or not it is, you should do you in your own way. There are plenty of wannabes and copycats, but there is only one you.
For example, in your lyrics, you should talk about things you see on a daily basis. Mention streets where certain events take place, talk about brands you favor and dislike, and possibly even mention names of local people others will also know. Talk about how you personally feel about certain situations and world events, and just generally give people a real view of your life and the things around you.
What this does is it allows people to relate on a very strong level. If the lyrics you write about also largely apply to other people in your area or even in similar situations, people will become real fans of yours. Not just because they feel you have a good flow or because they like your voice, but because they feel like they already know you, and that you understand them and their life.
This is a powerful tactic, so use it and you will end up writing better hip hop lyrics.
Okay, let’s get into the last few tips on how to improve your rap lyrics and get you good!
Add More Or Less Words (Change Up The Speed)
When you write rap lyrics, you need to think about more than just the words you’re using. As well as writing good words into your lyrics, you need to think about how those words as going to be delivered.
The amount of words you put into each line of your rap will partly determine how your lyrics are delivered. For example, if you have a lot of words in one line, you’ll have to let them out fast so they all fit in. If you have half the amount of words in that one line however, you’re going to have to stretch out your delivery to make them spread across the bar.
Now if you’ve smart about it, you can use this to your advantage. Writing sentences with differing amounts of words in it will help you change your style up. You could add more words into the lyrics where you want to sound excited and full of energy, and add less on songs that you want to have more feeling and perhaps are calmer. You could even mix up styles on the same beat, so drop a few lines fast, and then slow it down for effect.
Now I’m not saying you have to count words, as you want things to sound natural. But what you should be doing is using this as a way to consciously change up your flow every now and then, so you don’t fall into the trap of having all your lyrics sound the same.
This is another aspect of rapping a lot of writers aren’t thinking about. They want everything to flow, so they favor writing sentences with the same number of syllables rather than varying things up. If you do this well, it’s something that can quickly become your trademark.
Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zone When Writing Lyrics
The last point I want to give you is this: Push your boundaries when it comes to lyric writing. It’s all too easy to fall into the habit of writing about the same kind of subjects and in the same style with the same flow. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it right? Well, yes and no.
The thing is, if you never change up your style, your fans will eventually get bored. Yes, you may have a really good style, but if you don’t switch up the formula, your act is going to get old very quickly.
Now I’m not saying you should ditch your original style of lyric writing that your fans have come to know and love. What I am saying however, is that you should also try other styles of lyric writing. This could be in terms of subject matter, your flow, your wording and the like. Just be experimental.
You’ll find some things work really well, help you reach new audiences and make your current fan base even more loyal to you. You’ll also find some lyric styles simply don’t work. Either way, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to grow as a lyricist and a rapper, and that can only be a good thing.
Here’s an easy way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. This week, collect topic ideas and sentences from everything you read or hear (on the radio, TV, your smartphone, etc.). Use sticky notes to jot down your ideas, and only put one idea on each note. Then, put them all in a hat, and randomly pull one out. Force yourself to sit down and write a song based on the topic or sentence you pull.
Learn To Think In Terms Of Melody
I get it – you’re a rapper, not a singer. You want to put your available energies into crafting smart lyrics and developing your personal rapping style.
But even the most musically illiterate can imagine or hum cool melodies and melodic hooks. So, what benefit does this have? It makes you think like a singer or soloist (instrumentalist) would.
Rapping is all about rhythm. That’s also true for vocal or instrumental parts, but with the added element of melody. If you listen to a skilled singer or guitarist, you’ll see that they don’t just sing or play the same notes at the same speed for the entire song.
They must keep interest and bring the audience along for the ride. By pushing and pulling the tempo, and by playing or singing a few “outside” notes, they engage listeners and give them something to look forward to. A guitarist that plays all his best chops in the first 10 seconds of a song is robbing the audience, because there’s no reason to listen to the rest of the song!
Naturally, you need to draw people in. No one is going to stick around for long, indulgent intros that don’t change and have no movement. But you must have some “off” parts for there to be “on” parts. Without contrast, it all sounds alike! So, you need to sprinkle your best parts throughout the song rather than giving it all away upfront.
You can learn a lot from the melody, harmony, dynamics, phrasing, and rhythm of skilled musicians. Think about how you can incorporate their techniques into your rapping.
What do some of the most skilled writers in the world do to hone their craft? They read. A lot.
No writer is a complete original, because they have been inspired by a variety of authors and writers. But that is also what helps them find their authentic, unique voice – they assimilate the writing style of many writers.
If you ever find yourself stuck in a rut, this is also what you should do. Many lyricists tend to rely on the same tired devices long after they’ve beaten the dead horse. If you have nothing fresh to offer your audience, why will they keep listening to you?
Don’t just read about brands you like, artists you admire, or what’s happening in the world of hip hop right now. Read about subjects you know nothing about – architecture, technology, religion, science, politics, or whatever piques your interest. Read lyric sheets, blog posts, articles, magazines, or books. And if you typically read a specific genre of books (like memoirs), try another (like sci-fi novels).
You can also study things like poetry, haiku, limericks, and other literary devices that could spark fresh inspiration.
No one said becoming a unique and skilled lyricist would be easy. But if you can pull from a variety of different sources, and make references that your audience can enjoy, reading broadly will pay off. Your true creative self will emerge.
Try Writing With Limitations
One last technique to try is writing with limitations. This means using self-enforced limits to think outside the box and stretch your creativity.
For instance, if you find yourself relying heavily on filler words like “yo”, “uh”, “yeah”, “word” in your songs, then try recording a rap where you never use any of those words. Or, try writing a rap about love without ever using the word “love”. You could also attempt writing a rap without ever using a word that starts with the letter “d” (or any letter of your choice).
Believe it or not, putting these boundaries in place will cause your untapped talent and creativity to surface. You might even be saying to yourself, “I don’t want to be restricted, I just want to express myself.” But if you stay in your comfort zone, you won’t grow, and you won’t cut through the noise. Shouldn’t you be growing as an artist instead of resting on your laurels?
Come up with some ideas on what kind of controls you could put in place to make writing lyrics harder on yourself. If it’s easy to you, even if it is part of your personal expression, it might not be everything you’re capable of.
Writing lyrics with limitations also makes for a better story. When an interviewer asks you about the innovative song you wrote, you won’t be at a loss for words – you can say, “well, I used some self-enforced limitations to stretch myself.”
If you want to write better rap lyrics, the above eight points should go a long way towards helping you achieve that. A conscious effort is needed to pull down boundaries and improve your rapping style, and often it begins with the words you spit.
Your rap lyrics should be your own, and show the real you in them. If they don’t do this, what’s going to make people listen to you over the already established rappers out there? If you can’t give fans a good alternative, then there’s no point. So, be sure your rap lyrics are on point.
If you haven’t had a look yet, check the related guide on how to rap better. If you found this guide useful, you’ll also like that one.
If you have any additional tips on how to write better rap lyrics, please let us know in the comments. I’d love to hear what has personally worked for you in your quest for a better lyric style.