How To Rap Better: Transitioning Ideas To Keep Your Fans HOOKED

In today’s article we’re going to build on ideas we discussed in our recent “How To Start A Rap Verse” article.

In that article we broke down how to START a rap verse, but many people asked on how to transition between thoughts after they’ve introduced a topic… so you’ve asked, and How To Rap’s got you covered.

We’ll break down WHAT to say after the first few lines of a rap to keep your fans engaged using raps from some of the best rappers of all-time such as Eminem, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and many others…

…And we’ll give you some rap tips on how to make sure that you engage the listener through the whole song!
Our “How To Rap Better By Transitioning Ideas” YouTube Tutorial!

Now, before we begin make sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel “How To Rap” where we drop weekly videos on all topics relating to how to rap better…

…And pick up your free full-length songwriting course, “The Top 20 Songwriting Secrets of Full-Time Rappers” (Click HERE To Get It) so you know how to use the tips here to start a full time career as a full-time rap songwriter.

1. Transition Every Four Bars

The first concept you should learn is that the best time to transition between ideas is every four bars… or four lines of rap.

Now this isn’t a HARD AND FAST RULE which means NEVER EVER transition in two lines…

…BUT the reason to change your ideas every four bars USUALLY is because 95% of rap beats are constructed around a 4/4 pattern, or common time…

…Which we’re not going to get into nerdy music theory here but the easiest way to describe it is to say that over the history of Western music, people have found that the most common way of organizing a beat…

…A.k.a. is in multiples of four. So if you notice, the classic definition of a rap verse is 16 bars (4×4)… and the most common length of a chorus is 8 bars (4×2), and so on…

So essentially this means that MOST beats you’ll be writing to will have changes in the beat itself… such as a change in rhythm or a change in instrumentation… At around each four bars.

With this in mind, your job as a rapper is to COMPLEMENT the music you’re rapping over, and so if you change or develop your ideas at a four bar change… 

…It will lyrically match what’s happening musically and it will sound pleasant to the listener. 

How To Rap Better Transitions Kendrick
Kendrick is a master of the transition

Example of Kendrick Lamar Transitioning At The Fourth Bar

As an example of this, in our “How To Start A Rap Verse” video where we broke down the first four bars of Kendrick Lamar’s “Maad City” (you can watch that by clicking HERE)…

We quoted the first four bars of the song where he is essentially telling you that this will not be your stereotypical “I sell crack rap”: 

Brace yourself, I’ll take you on a trip down memory lane

This is not a rap on how I’m slingin crack or move cocaine

This is cul-de-sac and plenty Cognac and major pain

Not the drill sergeant, but the stress that weighing on your brain

Kendrick Lamar, “m.A.A.d City”

At that point, the first four bars of the rap are complete, and Kendrick Lamar is going to transition into the main storytelling portion of the song…

…He is going to use that fourth bar “turnaround” as they say in music to transition his ideas: 

“It was me, L Boog, and Yan Yan, YG Lucky ride down Rosecrans

It got ugly, waving your hand out the window, check yo self”

Kendrick Lamar, “m.A.A.d City”

It’s at this point where he is going to begin to tell specific stories of his life in the “mad city” and name people he was connected with rather than simply “setting the scene” as he did in the first few bars.

So your job is to take on a similar approach and begin to develop your story after the first few bars.

How To Rap Better Transitions Eminem
Eminem tells us what the song is!

2. State The Message of The Song

Another good trick to transition to after you’ve down your four bar lyrical intro is plainly state the message of main idea of the song.

The reason this is a good time is because the listener kind of thinks of the first four bars as… an intro within itself.

So, if you’ve spent the first four bars essentially setting up the “vibe” of the track as we discussed in the last video… 

…Such as setting up that it will be in second person and describing your behaviors a little bit…

Then you can transition into a more overt statement of what you’re going to be doing in the song as opposed to just “vibe setting”.

Eminem does this in “The Real Slim Shady”. In the How To Start A Verse video, we pointed out that he starts the song off talking in second person to the press and setting up the character of Shady as a person referencing popular culture: 

“Y’all act like you never seen a white person before

Jaws all on the floor like Pam like Tommy just burst in the door

And started whoopin’ her ass worse than before

They first were divorced, throwin’ her over furniture (Agh!)”

Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady”

After he’s set up that vibe… he immediately rolls into the fact that this is the RETURN of a wild guy who makes things awkward for people who are too uptight: 

“It’s the return of the ‘Ah, wait, no way, you’re kidding

He didn’t just say what I think he did, did he?'”

Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady”

What this does is clearly state that for the next three minutes you’re going to be listening to the most extreme version of what was already cleverly introduced in the first four bars.

How To Rap Better Transitions J. Cole
J. Cole stays on subject often!

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Stay On The Same Subject

Now, we’ve just given you a bunch of ideas on how to TRANSITION between ideas around four-bar turn arounds… but don’t be afraid to just stay on subject as well.

In some of the other examples we used in the first video… from “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” by Jay-Z to “A Tale of Two Citiez” by J. Cole and many others…

The rappers simply keep staying on the subject and developing it further.

While transitioning is important and since Lil’ Wayne’s ascendance in the mid-2000’s it seems that everybody is doing it more often…

…There’s absolutely NO reason why you should try to FORCE a transition where you might need to give the audience more in-depth information around the subject matter you’ve set in the beginning of verse.

Rules are meant to be learned so that they can be broken, and if you’re not a rapper who can think independently and based on the lyrics you’ve created, it’s going to be hard to reach that GOAT status.


Let’s review what we’ve learned here today: 

1. Transition Every Four Bars

Because most popular music is based on segments of 4, one of the best times to transition ideas is every four bars.

2. State The Message of The Song

Consider clearly stating the message of the song after you’ve concluded your four-bar lyrical intro.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Stay On The Same Subject

Rules are meant to be learned so they can be broken. Examples we’ve used from Jay-Z to J. Cole often just stay on subject after four bars and they don’t try to FORCE a lyrical transition.

COMMENT: What are some other common issues you run into after you’ve started your verse but DON’T know where to go next?

Drew Morisey, @drewmorisey on Instagram and Twitter