12 Rap Flow Secrets NOBODY Tells You
Flow. Cadence. Syncopation.
There are many phrases used to describe a rapper’s ability to effortlessly slide across the beat with a freedom of rhythm…
But no matter which description you choose, they all come down to the rap flow methods and tactics we’ll be discussing here today.
In today’s article, we’ll be telling you 12 secrets about rap flow that nobody is telling you.
You might see the occasional video that tells you that rappers “switch the flow and don’t stay on one flow too long to keep it interesting”…
But you haven’t heard an in-depth, full-length analysis of the hidden art of rap flow in such a real manner until this article.
Okay, so let’s not waste any more of your time with this intro. Let’s go in countdown order right here, right now with 12 rap flow secrets nobody tells you about.
#12 The REAL Definition of Rap Flow
The first place to start is obviously giving you a rock-solid, iron-clad definition of what rap flow REALLY means.
After running YouTube’s most subscribed channel on How To Rap for almost a decade and coaching literally thousands of rappers from around the world, we’ve found that the BEST definition for rap flow is this:
Drum Patterns In Word Form.
That’s it. That’s the big mystery. Rap flow is drum patterns in word form.
In other words, much like on any given beat you have guitar patterns, string sections, horns, and what have you…
…You have an additional section of VOCAL INSTRUMENTS in WORD FORM, so to speak, represented by the drum-like pattern of your words.
#11 Rap Flow + Rap Beat = What Makes Hip-Hop Addicting
Now that you understand that rap flow is simply additional drum patterns in word form meant to be overland with the rhythm of the instruments and specifically the beat…
…You now understand what makes rap as an art form often more ADDICTING than many other genres.
The interaction between the active rhythm of instruments along with the active rhythm of your flow (vocals in drum form), your voice, and so on.
Therefore, the more you can think of your rap flow as an additional INSTRUMENT that can play different “notes”, so to speak, through the creatively unpredictable choices you make a writer, the more likely you are to make exciting decisions on what to DO with your flow as a rap artist.
#10 Playing A Musical Instrument Helps
Now that you understand how crucial it is to understand the relationship between the beat and the flow…
If you have ever reached any skill level of a musical instrument… it will DEFINITELY help with your rap flow.
The reason being that learning instruments requires some of the same rules of meter, tempo, and rhythm that flow requires and having coached 1000s of rappers as we said, we know that the people who always “get flow fastest” are people who have played an instrument before.
Most specifically, people who have played drums, due to what you learned in rap flow secret #12.
…Now if you’ve haven’t learned drums that’s okay, all instruments help, but if you are currently a student we would suggest PAYING ATTENTION in music class even if you don’t go the whole way and learn an instrument.
Additionally, How To Rap has a fast-track method to learning rap flow in our “Flow Freedom” course which will teach you exactly to become free and creative in your flow choices. Click HERE to find out more information on that.
#9 You DON’T Have To Be “Born With It”
One of the most demotivating things you read in comment boxes of some of many How To Rap videos is people saying “You’re either born with it or you’re not”…
…Usually when we look these people up they either
- DON’T make music at all and are just talking nonsense
- HAVEN’T coached anyone to rap in their life (whereas we’ve coached 1000s)
- DO make music and it’s terrible
The fact of the matter is that music, rhythm, cadence are not NATURAL evolutionary skills the way that like running or something is.
…That doesn’t mean that some people don’t PICK IT UP quicker than others, but it means that you don’t have to believe if it’s DIFFICULT for you at first, that you won’t master it.
#8 Learning Simpler Flows Then Building Up Is Best
The real way I learned rap flow was from 2Pac.
I spent about two years writing rap and somewhat inherently knowing I was off beat but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I started listening to 2Pac alot…
…And I noticed his bars always ended roughly at the same spot, and his verses felt very organized.
As I studied more I realized that he was organizing his rhymes and “flow” into a simple, to follow structure that I could emulate and then pepper in more complex flows as a got better.
After making that realized I was able to “ride” the beat easily after only a few months.
If you are struggling with staying on beat, one of the best ways to learn is take a simpler, old school rapper and master THEIR flow and then you can speed up.
You can even hear the development of rappers like Eminem in this way.
If you check out his early Infinite album or even up to Marshall Mathers LP… his flow was much simpler, and as he kept rapping even as an adult… he became more complex over time.
If you keep rapping you will ALSO speed up but you first must master a simpler flow to “learn your way around a beat”…
…Then you can expand your repertoire.
#7 Write To The Beat Or Your Flow Will Sound Wack
This is another common debate people get into online.
I didn’t even think this was an actual issue until I began taking on clients and overtime I would notice certain clients’ flow would sound FULLY out of sink with the beat…
…When I asked them what they were doing they would often say, “I wrote the song and then found a beat I liked” as opposed to WROTE to the actual bed of music…
…This does NOT work when you are learning how to rap.
The only way you can get away with it is when you are already an advanced rapper and you have a simple “internalized flow” that people can make beats TOO…
…But if you are just learning HOW TO RAP you will need to first master how to organize your syllables and cadences TO beats provided.
So I would say for the first one or two years of your rapping, be sure to write to the beat or your flow will sound wack.
#6 Going Off Beat Too Much Is Like Double Dribbling
Occasionally you get people saying that they just “rap off beat” ‘cause that’s their style… or that they don’t want to sound to stiff…
…To me I’ve always thought that going off beat is like double dribbling.
You can say you’re playing basketball but truth be told nobody will want to play with you after awhile ‘cause that’s basically not the same sport.
The reason I bring this up is again you should learn how to handle a beat and stay on properly and THEN you can mess around with going off beat occasionally as a stylistic choice.
So don’t lean on the “it’s my style” excuse. When rapping, be sure to write to the beat.
#5 The More You Write The Easier It Will Be To Hear When You’re Off Beat
This is more of a motivating point.
On top of learning from the 2Pac style of a simple flow then converted into more complex bars, as a I wrote more and more and recorded more and more I began to tighten up HEARING when I was off beat.
Often I see a lot of new rappers come in for coaching and I notice that they are struggling with flow issues…
…and the first thing I tell them is simply keep writing and recording more and more because even just the reps in the gym will help them know when they’re off.
Recording in addition to writing is an important point though: you need to be forcing yourself to rap the words out loud in addition to what you write so that you can hear when you’re “bunching” the words too much and sliding in and out of beat.
#4 Flow Is Often Simpler Right Before The Chorus
Another rap flow secret that almost every professional uses is to slow the flow down right before the beginning of the chorus…
…And make it feel like another part the COULD be a hook if they wanted to.
In popular songwriting, this is sometimes known as a “pre-chorus”, or a section of the song that helps transition and build tension from the end of the verse into the main hook or chorus.
#3 Prewrite Your Breaths Into The Flow
This should be it’s own article and it will be at some point, but overall yet another thing I learned from 2Pac was that you should be writing in spaces for you to breath when you are deciding on your flow.
A lot of beginning rappers are just writing extra long bars with no spaces and wondering why they’re running out of breath.
Part of the reason for that is that they’re not PREWRITING their breaths into the rap, and it’s making it hard to flow properly and stay on beat.
So, write with the breath in mind as you tighten up your flow.
#2 Rap Flow Morphs and Changes Over Time
This is similar to a point that we made in “10 Rap Voice Secrets Nobody Is Telling You” article…
…And it’s true that much like rap voice, rap flow morphs and changes over time.
Go back and listen to the more static, bar-by-bar flows of artists like J. Cole or Drake in their early career.
In the case of Drake, he did a very straightforward “rhyme at the end of the line” flow with a bit if Lil’ Wayne vocal styling for his first couple of albums…
…Until his later work where he would “open up the flow” and change it around more. J. Cole similarly was much more straight forward in his flow choices in The Sideline Story than he would be in more recent work such as The Off-Season.
Your rap flow will have a similar evolution, so don’t stress too much if you’re unsure about how good your flow is at this moment.
#1 Don’t Just Stick To “One Flow”
We’ll end this list by saying to make sure to never settle into “one flow” for your whole career.
Although there are many rappers who have a specific flow that they’re known for…
…From rappers in the new generation (DaBaby’s flow comes to mind) all the way back to the “Method Man flow”, and so on…
The rappers who are generally considered the G.O.A.T. are also often considered masters of a myriad of different flows:
- The Notorious B.I.G.
- Kendrick Lamar
And so on…
So use this article and set of rap flow secrets as a reminder that you should have a full arsenal of flows you can use on any given track to help you progress.