Rap music is one of the biggest genres in the world and for a good reason. With its boundless possibilities for lyrical experimentation and rhythmic styling, countless people are devotees of the genre. For that reason, millions worldwide aspire to hip-hop stardom by learning how to rap.
The first step in that process is to learn how to write lyrics for a rap song. But that process isn’t easy. After all, rap is art, not science.
But fear not, dear reader. In this article, we will explain everything you have to know about writing a rap song as a beginner. Let’s dive in!
Find Some Role Models
If you want to know how to write rap song lyrics, the first step is to figure out what kind of rapper you would like to be. That can only happen by reviewing some research materials—other rappers. To figure out what lyrics, themes, raps and flow works well in rap, listen to a wide variety of artists.
As part of this process, it’s good to diversify your listening. Listen to classic West Coast rappers like 2pac, East Coast groups like A Tribe Called Quest and the Wu-Tang Clan, modern superstars like Kendrick Lamar and Nicki Minaj, and up-and-comers like Terry Presume and Doechii.
Learn the Structure
Once it’s time to sit down with pen and paper, you should learn the basic structure of a rap song. Every rap song has an intro, a chorus (also called a hook), a bridge, and multiple verses. Every verse has sixteen bars, and every bar has four beats. Rap verses tend to have somewhat self-contained messages, as do bars.
Additionally, as a matter of convention, rap does not necessarily need to rhyme. That means you can get a bonus for your song’s quality if you have good rap rhymes, but it is not necessary.
You might eventually figure out new structures if you learn how to freestyle, but those songs tend not to have pre-written lyrics. Regardless, by figuring out how to write good lyrics, you will be able to develop good freestyle bars on the fly.
Test Drive Some Beats
Next up, try to develop your sense of rhythm by trying out some beats. It might seem self-explanatory, but rap lyrics aren’t interchangeable with beats. Every song has a distinct metrical rhythm, much like any other lyrical poem. Naturally, since a beat sets the rhythm, you need to get acquainted with a beat before setting words to it. To develop your skills, find beats without lyrics and experiment with matching words.
Choose Your Subject
The next step in writing your rap song is to figure out what your song will be about. If you need some things to rap about, try out any of the following ideas.
Puff Yourself Up
The first and perhaps most popular subject matter for rap songs is bragging. When you have nothing else to say in a rap song, compliment yourself. Besides improving your self-esteem, it will also let you flex some of your lyrical muscles.
To begin puffing yourself up, select a trait you would like to emphasize. It could be that you are attractive, creative or simply that you are good at rap music (a surprising amount of rap songs are just about how good the rapper is at rapping). Then, find a play on words that links common metaphors to an attribute you want to emphasize.
Write a Diss Track
On the flip side, you may find inspiration for your rap song by channeling all of your humor and wit into a diss track, a song based on insulting another person or idea.
Many rap songs will include some elements of diss tracks. Some rappers, for example, express that they are more lyrically proficient or romantically successful than “you” (meaning the audience, presumed to be an adversary). That said, other rap songs are dedicated to dismissing other artists.
When writing a diss track, be sure to match the conventions of your audience. Some audiences are very favorable to diss tracks and insults, while others place a high premium on respect and will not take well to dissing.
If you find that bragging about yourself or dismissing other people isn’t firing up your creative spirit, try to tap into your emotions. Rap, after all, is descended from poetry, which is the language of the inner life of the soul; it might seem like it’s all about respect and success, but the rap game is about the human experience more than anything else.
Many rappers, such as Lupe Fiasco and Chance the Rapper, have found great success creating sad hip hop songs about personal issues and emotional struggles, and you might want to do the same.
Talk About Society
Finally, if you have political inclinations, consider dedicating some part of your rap song to writing about social issues. Both modern rappers like Kendrick Lamar and classic groups like Public Enemy made a name for themselves by rapping about their lives and the issues affecting their communities—and you can follow in that eminent tradition.
The key to rapping about politics is to be truthful without being cliche. It’s important to speak truth to power, but when you’re just repeating trite points that other rappers have made, it can hurt your song more than help it.
Are you still looking for more information about writing your first rap song? Look at the answers to some common questions below.
Is writing a rap song hard?
Writing a rap song’s lyrics can be challenging at first, but the benefits make the difficulty worthwhile. If you’re getting stuck on writing your song, approach it from the area that appeals to you most. If you know the musical side best, then play beats and try to improvise lyrics. If you prefer wordplay, then compose a list of fragmentary lyrics and slot them into songs when you find the right instrumentals.
Is rap poetry?
Some people will have you think that rap is not poetry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Rap lyrics are as nuanced and sophisticated as any other genre of poetry—whether it’s Longfellow or Lupe Fiasco, poetic language is poetic language.
What was the first rap song?
It’s difficult to track the first rap song, as it was probably created in private. However, the first commercially successful rap song was “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang.
While it might seem daunting to begin composing good raps, anybody can do it—all you need is practice, research, and creativity. With all those in the mix, you’ll be creating rap music lyrics in no time.