5 Hip-Hop Songwriting Techniques For Hits

5 Hip-Hop Songwriting Techniques For Hits

In today’s article, we’re going to give you five hip-hop songwriting techniques to automatically turn FRIENDS in FANS and make them think of your music as SOARING not BORING.

The hip-hop songwriting techniques used here are based on the latest scientific data on what makes a song into a ‘hit’ and how even the most lyrically respected rappers are changing the techniques in their hip-hop songwriting. 

So if you’re a fan who’s wondered what HAS changed and WILL change in the world of hip-hop songwriting techniques in the 21st century… this is the article for you.

NOTE: Before we begin, if you’re interested learning the top 20 songwriting secrets of professional full-time rap artists… We have them neatly organized in a FREE video course to get your songs popping for 2020, which you can get now free of charge by clicking HERE

Top 20 Songwriting Secrets of Professional Rappers
Our “Hip-Hop Songwriting Techniques: Turn Boring Songs Into Hits” YouTube Training!

1. Cut Your Intro By 4 Bars

Due to the shortened attention span of your average listener, hip-hop songs (especially in the mainstream) have been shortening. 

According to a report done by Stat Crunch, the average song length of a song on the Billboard Hot 100 has decreased by a full 20 seconds… over the past FIVE years alone

Now, historically, the intro – the section of the song where the beat is first introduced, without or without vocals – is usually 8 bars. 

That means for a full 8 bars you’re listening to just the beat playing or the beat with some ad-libs and trash-talking to get into the mood of the song. 

However, since we’ve just learned that a slightly shorter song is one of the keys to getting closer to the definition of a modern “hit”, you might consider cutting out that extra 4 bars and just get right into the track.

You definitely usually WANT to have an intro of some sort, but 4 bars is long enough to get people in the mood of the beat and add any short ad-libbing you want to do. 

As a side note on this point: be sure that you’ve purchased the proper type of beat lease from the producer where you can “manipulate”, or change the beat… otherwise the producer can come after you for messing with their portion of music. 

Hip Hop Songwriting Techniques Scisscors
Cut those intros down

2. Shorten The End of The Song

Even if your major goal isn’t to necessarily be a “mainstream pop chart” artist, following a faster, more efficient song structure is still a way to improve your skills in modern hip-hop songwriting. 

On the flip side to #1, one of the easier ways to do this is simply make the end of the song shorter in addition to the beginning.

Digital Music News does a great analysis of how much quicker song structure has become, even for lyrically respected artists such as Kendrick Lamar: 

Breaking down Kendrick Lamar’s albums and songs… (we) found in good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the 5th track, ‘Money Trees,’ starts in the 19th minute.

Only a single track in the album lasted 4 minutes and 39 seconds.

In To Pimp a Butterfly, the 5th track, ‘These Walls,’ starts in the album’s 16th minute.  

And in DAMN., the 5th track, ‘FEEL.’, starts much sooner, at the 12th minute.

The average track length on good kid, m.A.A.d city is 5 minutes and 37 seconds.  

All tracks are 3 minutes and 30 seconds or longer.  

Some tracks even surpass the 6-minute limit,  including ‘Money Trees,’ and the 12-minute+ ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dyin’.’  

The entire album lasts 68 minutes and 23 seconds.

DAMN.’s average track length stands at 3 minutes and 57 seconds.  

The entire length of the album stands at 54 minutes and 54 seconds.

Digital Music News Breakdown
Hip-Hop Songwriting Chart Breakdown
Kendrick Songwriting Analysis

Looking at this graphic for a minute, you can see that although “DAMN” includes some of his biggest hits from that album such as “DNA” and “Humble”… 

We still arrive at the 5th and 10th songs MUCH faster than in his earlier albums, partially because of the intros starting off quicker AND the endings of the tracks not wasting too much time. 

We should also note that J. Cole, Kanye West, and Nicki Minaj have both shortened their song length by more than 10% over recent albums.

3. Introduce Your Chorus Within The First 30 Seconds

Spotify’s own website explains to us: 

Streams are counted in Spotify for Artists when a song is streamed for over 30 seconds. 

That means that you need to keep the listeners attention in a BIG way for at least 30 seconds.

Now, we should all understand that the chorus is the most “entertaining” part of the song, even in hip-hop, for the mass audience.

While many “hip-hop heads” enjoy the lyrical dexterity, storytelling, and consistent wit of longer “Five Fingers of Death” style rap…

…If you’re looking to spice up your songwriting SPECIFICALLY and get a more broad audience flocking to your music…

One of the easiest tricks in the book is FRONTLOAD the song, so to speak, by getting them a catchy, memorable chorus QUICKLY…

…And then fill in your lyrical skills a bit later in the song. 

It’s a bit like a movie theater or a club… convince them its worth paying the ticket price or ENTRANCE FEE first. 

Additionally, part of the reason fans consider a track “boring” is that they don’t have anything “memorable” to latch onto early in the song.

While your average fan may not have the right words to describe it, often when they say “it’s not catchy” they’re saying its taking TOO long to get to the chorus. 

If you want even more 20 secret tricks to make the audience AUTOMATICALLY think of your tracks as “catchy”, be sure to pick up the free Top 20 Songwriting Secrets of Professional Rappers Course by clicking HERE

Catchy Songwriting Secrets
Hip Hop Songwriting Catchy
Frontload your songs to make them feel more catchy

4. Play The Song For Someone ONCE… And See If They Can Repeat It

This is one of the sneakiest but more effective ways to see if your song is truly “CATCHY”.

The secret is to play the song for someone ONCE all the way through…

…And see if they can repeat the main chorus or a couple key “catchy” phrases from it after just ONE listen. 

If you think about it, the tracks that are generally considered the “catchiest” tracks can be sung along to by a general hip-hop fan after just one listen…

…And often if the track is REALLY good, they can sing along to by the time the second or third chorus comes along.

So use people in your life to test the catchiness of your songs with the ideal customer… the general public!

5. Simplify Your Flow In The Last 4 Bars of Each Verse

Another secret Hip-Hop Songwriting technique 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. 

Artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Kanye West use the technique several times on all of their major records and one hidden benefit of it is that is means you can “finish the song faster”.

The way you can finish the song faster is by having 4 bars at the end of each verse that are intentionally SIMPLER…

…Both for the audience to listen to and for you to write…

…So that it’s an easier song to create and translate into a major catchy anthem for people to listen to. 

When you simplify the last 4 bars of each verse, you vastly increase the chances that people will consider your track to have “hit” potential as opposed to “skip” potential. 

Hip Hop Songwriting Techniques Simplify
Simplify your tracks, homey


Conclusion – Hip-Hop Songwriting Techniques

Let’s quickly review the 5 hip-hop songwriting techniques we’ve learned today: 

1. Cut your intro by 4 bars

The average song length of a Hot 100 song track has decreased by 20 seconds in the last 5 years. Use this to your advantage by taking away an unnecessary 5-10 seconds in the intro. 

2. Shorten The End of The Song

Take a page out of Kendrick Lamar’s book and shorten your songs up by ending them quicker and transitioning to the next track in your next project. 

3. Introduce Your Chorus Within The First 30 Seconds

Streams on Spotify only count if the person listens for more than 30 seconds, so punch a dope chorus in that time frame to keep the listeners attention locked in.

4. Play The Song For Someone ONCE… And See If They Can Repeat It

If someone can repeat the catchy parts of the song after just one listen, that’s a good signs it’s a hit (and not a skip)

5. Simplify Your Flow In The Last 4 Bars of Each Verse

Make writing easier for you and hearing easier for the listening by simplifying the last 4 bars of each verse and help transition into a triumphant chorus using this technique. 

Comment Below: 

What track of yours do you think has hit potential?

Drew Morisey, @drewmorisey on Instagram and Twitter

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