J. Cole Teaches How To Rap In Live Performance
“This is a tip to anybody that’s an aspiring musician… or a rapper, specifically.
If you take the craft serious, I think when you’re spending your childhood in your teenage years listening to music: you should rap along.
Let’s say you’re a big Lil’ Baby fan and you want to be a rapper… you have to rap with him when you’re listening. Don’t just listen. Rap with him.
That’s what happened with me and breath control and top tier breath control and the ability to use these lungs.
In this clip, J. Cole has provided young artists with a window into the hidden science of how to rap that often doesn’t get mentioned in rapper interviews:
How to consistently put on a world-class, top tier live performance.
This specific portion of the interview relates to the secret to breath control when performing on stage, but as we’ll show you in a minute…
Cole doesn’t just stop there. He also provides us with exactly how he instantly built the self-confidence for how to rap in live performance…
…And as he’ll show us… from that moment… used his stage presence to get free studio time, a rap crew, and truly begin what would become a legendary musical career.
How “Rapping Along” Helps Your Rapping Skills
When most people, including yourself, listen to music before deciding to become a musician is by listening to music WHILE doing something else.
That might be working out at the gym, that might be commuting to work or school, or that might be dancing along while out at a party or club.
The point is, most people are not proactively reproducing the rap the way they would in a live performance.
However, when the actual rapper is recording or performing the song live, they’re doing much more focused activity that the person just nodding along to the song while they drive:
The rapper is enunciating the lyrics using their voice, practicing breath control using their lungs, and so on.
By “re-enacting” the live activities of a rapper while listening to the music, you as a potential artist will vastly improve your skills in breath control, vocal delivery, and flow much like J. Cole describes here.
Building on that, by being able to perform the exact cadences and voices that your favorite artist has chosen for those particular songs, it will become easier to incorporate their (and many other’s) styles into your own unique sound over time.
Just imagine if you could “create-a-character” like your favorite video game of all the best rappers by infusing their skills into your own mash-up.
You would eventually feel like Neo in The Matrix when he’s spent 10 hours downloading every fighting style known to mankind, and when he wakes up, simply starts into the camera like a G and says, “I know kung fu”.
Here, Cole has described how to rap in live performance in a way that can help you truly become… The One.
3 Secrets To “Rapping Along” To Improve Your Skills
Now, let’s give you three secrets to rapping along with your favorite rappers to improve your skills:
A) Practice At Full Volume
First, be sure that you’re practicing at full volume. Don’t just mumble the words along, make sure that you’re delivering it with the same passion and vigor that the rapper is.
The reason this is important is because you need to stretch your vocal development and lung capacity to a point that you’re able to reproduce world class rap at the drop of a dime.
B) Record Sessions
Secondly, occasionally record the sessions in order to hear how you’re progressing in your rap along practice and get better at recording your raps in front of a mic.
The way I would personally do this is to have the mic in front of me with record pressed…
…And then have the song playing in my headphones from my phone as I rap. That way I’m distracted by trying to keep up with the music while actually recording my raps.
C) Don’t Use This As A Substitute For Writing
Lastly, don’t think that rapping along is a substitute for actually writing your bars or being able to freestyle if you’re actually trying to become a rapper and not just a karaoke champion.
With the improved lung capacity and vocal projection, you will sound much better when you actually start rhyming off of the top when you freestyle, for example.
One excellent way to master freestyling WHILE practicing your voice is picking up our “How To Master The Art of Freestyle Rap In 2 Weeks or Less” course which will teach exactly what it says in the title, AND comes with a rap voice mastery free bonus course. Check that out by clicking HERE.
In any case, as we said don’t make the mistake of thinking just knowing how to rap “Power Trip” or “No Role Models” perfectly is the same thing as being an actual rapper.
You need the power of the pen and more importantly if you want to actually perform in front of others, you need to be able to have the CONFIDENCE to deliver your bars in front of real live HUMANS…
Which is what J. Cole covers here when discussing how he got his first major break by performance at age 14 which lead to his eventual ability to get free mentorship and studio time from The Bomb Shelter crew:
“There was a chance that I MIGHT get on stage.
I went to Da Skate Zone and they had a part of their show where they invited ‘all the MCs that are in the crowd if you want to get up and rock, come up!’
I’m 14. I’m the youngest dude in there. Everybody is 19, 20, 24, whatever. I get on stage as a scrawny 14 year old.
I was skinny, I sounded like a girl, my voice was high pitched.
I was nervous as hell, but as soon as they passed me the microphone… I destroyed that s**t.
I was the best on the stage with all these older dudes and that’s when the dudes from bomb shelter was like, ‘he wasn’t lying, he really got it’, and we started working and they become my mentors.”J. Cole, Nardwuar Interview (2021)
How To Have More Confidence For Rapping
Inherent in this particular quote from J. Cole is the importance of performing at anytime you’re asked or ABLE to in order to open up opportunities for your career.
This is really case in point for what we just covered a second ago by saying that you can’t think just being able to rap along is enough.
I’m pretty sure when J. Cole got on that stage as a 14 year old he didn’t just rap a Nas song. What he probably did is either perform something he had written or freestyles off of the top…
…But those hours practicing proper vocal delivery and breath control FROM Nas songs probably helped him along as well.
Therefore, in order to gain more confidence to deliver your OWN raps, you can use the hack of rapping along we’ve broken down in the first half of the article.
Furthermore, that performance wasn’t likely the ONLY time J. Cole ever performed in front of people. He probably had (or would end up having) many, many “off the cuff” performances when he saw his opportunity.
So for you, I believe the best way to do this is to think of live performances more like individual songs rather than a “whole album”.
Meaning, rather that envisioning your live performance as “your one big moment”, you can understand that part of the ‘job description’ of being a rapper is performing often and at any time needed…
…Much like writing song after song after song is part of the job description a real rapper and not just another karaoke champion.