Writing rap lyrics gets a lot of bad reputation for being an easy art that anyone can pick up and become good at, but that's a lie. Many new rappers think that they don't need much help, but their lyrics, structure, and delivery can be very lacking.
The good thing is that we all start somewhere and have the potential to grow as we keep practicing what we love, which is music. Are you in need of some guidance as a new rapper and writer that wants to become one of the greats?
Check out some of the tips that I will list below. As a songwriter and lyricist that has collaborated with over 500 creators in the music world, I can say that my lyrics have very obviously gotten better over the years!
Starting from scratch is tough. If you're looking for help with starting a song from scratch, I can provide you with a few tips to help you start your creative process.
Sometimes, the hardest part is just committing to starting the process.
Step 1: Mentally And Physically Prepare Yourself
Find a good time of the day for writing your song ideas down. Make sure you're in a good headspace for creativity.
Also, be sure that your environment is clear of anything or person that can distract you from your process. Find a space to rap, hum, and write in peace.
Related Post: How To Get Into A Good Headspace For A Sad Song
Step 2: Get Your Songwriting Tools
Get any instruments you may use during your song creation process. This may be a guitar, a piano, or an app like Garageband. Most rappers go with a beat they've gotten from a producer they know or have found online.
Also, be sure to have a digital or physical notepad/journal handy for writing your lyrics down. Check my songwriting tools post for a list of more songwriting tools you could benefit from.
Step 3: Figure Out Your Song's Intention
You might want to keep your writing spontaneous, or you may want to actually set the tone for the meaning behind your song in advance. If you're looking for a more focused topic, begin brainstorming about your song's topic and mood.
A writing prompt is a creative tool that can bring you lots of ideas for your lyrics. In order to come up with a song idea, all you need to do is review a huge list of varying ideas to get your brain moving in the direction of creating some magic.
Some will call writing prompts cheap or an artificial way to make art that should come from the soul, and they may have a point there.
Depending on what your goals in your musical journey are, you may just want to wait until something naturally hits you based on your emotion, your day, or your past experience.
On the other hand, if you're like me and you don't necessarily have the time or luxury to wait for a good idea to come to you, check out some of the ideas below to see if they help you with song direction.
For rap song prompts that can give you ideas, check out my post on Rap Top Ideas.
Many hit rap songs share a similar song structure. Firstly, hit songs are short and don't go on for more than 4 minutes.
If you want to create a hit, keep it around 3 minutes and 30 seconds to get the sweet spot. Songs that are over 4 minutes aren't considered radio edits and will not get much love from the radio stations.
The structure of a hit song is often close to the following: Intro -> Verse -> Prehook -> Hook -> Verse -> Prehook -> Hook -> Bridge -> Chorus -> Outro.
Related Post: Check out this songwriting template if you need help with song structure.
Some slower songs opt to skip the bridge to keep the song short enough to be a radio edit. Other hits don't have a prehook after the first and second verses.
Some hit songs don't have an intro and/or outro. If you do want to keep an intro and outro, make sure they are short and very catchy sections.
The most important lyrics will often be the ones you choose for the hook, also known as the chorus section of your song. This is the best part of your creation that will leave the biggest impression on whoever hears it.
The height of your creativity should be encompassed in this part of your track, and it could serve as the climax in some cases, depending on how you want to do the bridge section of your song (and if you even want to add a bridge section to your song).
Once you have the intention and the song topic, you will want to figure out the lyrics' perspective. Will the song be in the 1st person (I/we)? 3rd person (They)? Second person (You)?
If your song will be in the 3rd person or 2nd person, who will be the person that is speaking? Will it be a stranger? Will it be you? Or will it be another loved one?
Perspective has a critical role in a song that is written about someone in particular, even if the song you're writing is about yourself.
Subverting the listener's expectation with an unexpected song perspective is a great way to make a song that gets stuck in someone's mind and stands out from more typical songs.
If you want your rap lyrics to stand out, you have to learn how to write hit song lyrics. Hit lyrics are often content that many people can relate to in their own life experiences.
A lot of hits are about love, and it's one of the most desired and talked about topics in the world, so why not? Obscure lyrics are cool to put into songs, but they don't always work for hits.
For lyrics to be catchy, they also tend to be pretty repetitive. Many people hate hit songs because they get stuck in people's heads, but that's their magic!
It may feel weird to add very repetitive and basic lyrics to your song if you're used to a deeper approach to writing, but don't overthink it, and keep it fun!
Your lyrics have to be basic yet unique, with a good rhyming scheme if you want to write a hit.
Most hit songs follow the rhyme scheme of either AABB or ABAB. A lot of songs get away with using similar-sounding words instead of using perfect rhymes.
Related Post: Lyrics Or Music First - How Do You Write Songs?
Comparisons, including metaphors and similes, can play a huge part in making rap lyrics effective, especially when it comes to song verses.
You want your songs to be catchy and clever at the same time, so the more you can think outside of the box and uniquely with your lyrical comparisons, the better.
Similes are comparisons that include the words 'like' or 'as' when making a comparison. For example, you could write a simple line saying, "He makes me light up like the sun" and that's a simile.
Metaphors are the act of making a comparison that is more direct, and it sounds like a substitution more than a comparison.
For example, you could write a more complex line saying, "I'm lighting up and burning him with my ultraviolet waves" and that's a metaphor.
If you don't know where to go with your studies, the first place to go is to established lyricists. You can find countless interviews and full catalogs from famous songwriters that can give you their first-hand experience and tips for your journey.
I like to get lost in Wikipedia for a while to trace my favorite songs to their talented writers and see what other projects they did, who they worked with, and how they got there. Watching interviews on Youtube is even better!
Don't just focus on those who are rappers and writers; dive deep and find out some of the best works from ghostwriters that have been in the game for decades as well.
Also, don't stop at studying the music side of your inspirations when it comes to lyrics. Creative writing without even thinking about the music is a crucial skill for all songwriters to have.
Try studying poets and creative writers outside of the music world to help grow your lyrical skills. Wordplay is such a huge deal in the rap world that you don't want to skimp when it comes to creative possibilities.
Related Post: 45 Inspirational Rap Quotes That Stand Out
Rewrite popular songs to challenge yourself and have a blast doing them at the same time. Borrow some of your favorite writer's styles and expand on their ideas with your own creativity.
Engage in freestyle writing to see how fluid your creative process can be, especially when it comes to creating melodic lines.
Some of the best songs are made way quicker than you would think, with melodies and lyrics coming from thin air in under 30 minutes.
Try Stream-Of-Consciousness writing to help get yourself out of a lyrical rut. This type of writing involves grabbing a pen and paper and literally writing every single thought of yours down to get your brain rolling.
Check out my post on 10 fun songwriting exercises to get your wheels spinning.
With affordable rap help courses on Udemy, you can increase your skills and get everything you need to know about writing a song – from the very basics right through to the “complicated” stuff, everything you need to know about becoming a professional writer, and more.
You can even get a look at the creative and the business side of things: from the actual how-to-get-a-good-idea right through to marketing your stuff to industry insiders to help you become a master songwriter!
Write with other lyricists in your area or with a virtual collaboration to get new ideas and perspectives you would have never seen on your own.
Writing with friends can be a very fun process, in addition to giving you a chance to make your song as appealing as possible.
Writing collaboratively can also help your networking and career opportunities in general. If you're a rapper that's used to writing and recording on your own, step out of your shell and try something new.
You may still prefer to write on your own after the experience, but you will appreciate the process and learning about a whole new set of pros and cons when doing a group project.
Related Post: How To Rap Better - 9 Tips From A Music Artist
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
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