What To Write Your Rap About: 3 Ways To Write Better Rap Lyrics

What To Write Your Rap About: 3 Ways To Write Better Rap Lyrics

In today’s article, we’re going to help guide you through an age-old frustration that many aspiring rappers go through the course of their career, especially the newer and younger beginning rappers: 

What to write your rap about? 

What we’ve done to give you a set of high quality set of ideas is go through what many people have ranked as the top 100 rap songs of all time and identified the patterns and commonalities that their first verses have in common…

…In order to give you a more legendary base of knowledge to work with and provide you with ideas that aren’t just “theories” or “opinions”, but based on some of the greatest rappers of all time’s bodies of work. 

So, if you’re struggling to think what to write your rap about and want ways to write better raps, this is the video for you. 

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NOTE: If this is your first time viewing our page, be sure to subscribe to our channel “How To Rap” because we drop weekly videos on how to write better raps, how to be a better rapper, and many other rap tips… and if you want to take your rap songwriting as a whole to a professional level, check out our free video course “The Top 20 Songwriting Secrets of Professional Rappers” by clicking HERE

What To Write Your Rap About: Viewpoints and Timelines 

The first overarching concept you should understand before we delve into the actual specifics of what to rap about is understand that YOU CAN RAP MANY WAYS ABOUT THE SAME EXACT THING.

Put another way, you can use different points-of-view (such as first person, second person, and third person), different timelines (such as present, past, and future tense)… 

And different emotional reactions (such as fear, excitement, anger, etc.) to describe the same exact event, environment, or emotion itself. 

Write Better Raps By Using Different Descriptions 

So, for example, let’s use a really simple, silly example and so that in a minute when we start to use real life RAP examples it’ll be really clear. 

Let’s say I’m looking at a clock in my room and I want to describe it in a rap. 

I could describe the clock in first person present tense “I’m watching the clock…”, first person past tense, “I WATCHED the clock”, or second person future tense, “You’re going to be watching the clock”, and so on. 

Note even by NOW the way your choose your tenses can affect the “feeling” of the way you’re describing the clock. 

Second person future tense sounds a little bit more commanding… “YOU’RE GOING TO BE WATCHING THE CLOCK”… 

Than first person present tense which sounds more personal and relaxed “I’m WATCHING the clock”

Anyway, when you not only decide your tenses and viewpoints, but add some sort of EMOTION on top of it… that’s when the MAGIC REALLY happens. 

So, let’s say that I’ve decided to use first person present tense to describe the clock, but I want to add emotion like FEAR on top of it. 

So, I might start a rap with something like “I’m watching the clock, and I feel like my TIME IS RUNNING OUT”

Notice how that now adds an emotion of fear or impending danger and makes the image of a clock of LYRICAL MEANING? 

But of course, the emotion doesn’t have to be just FEAR anymore than the tense has to be present. 

You can use the emotion of EXCITEMENT, “I’m watching the clock, and I can see that IT’S MY TIME TO WIN” or the emotion of JOY, “I’m watching the clock, and I see that my HATER’S TIME IS UP”, etc. 

This is important to understand because many of the best rap songs of all time describe SIMILAR things such as frustrating circumstances, poverty, succeeding in money or with women… 

…But as you’ll see in a second, they all use different tenses, viewpoints, and emotions to describe it. 

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#1 Describe Morals, Behaviors, and Emotions

Which brings us to our first vision of what you can rap about. 

After doing our research, we found that one of the most common ways to start a great rap song is to have a first person description of your MORALS and BEHAVIORS.

In other words, start by telling me in first person what type of actions you take to get what you want out of life or what kind of behaviors you’ll take if somebody crosses the line with you. 

A great example of this is 2Pac’s classic track, “Hail Mary”. The first lines of the song go…

I ain’t a killer, but don’t push me… 

Revenge is like the sweetest joy, next to getting pu$$y

2Pac, “Hail Mary”

Based on what we’ve already learned, notice how ‘Pac used first person present tense, but more importantly, he described his personal morals and behaviors when it comes to somebody pushing him or coming at him sideways. 

Of course, this doesn’t always have to be a threat or something gangsta. 

In the first track off of Nas’s classic album Illmatic, he starts the song “N.Y. State of Mind” by saying…

Rappers, I monkey flip ‘em with the funky rhythm

I be kicking, musician, inflictin’ composition, of pain 

Nas, “N.Y. State of Mind”

So, even though Nas is using the EXACT same present tense and first person viewpoint, because he’s speaking about his lyrical and rhythmic ability, it’s not nearly AGGRESSIVE as ‘Pac’s choice of description. 

Just to make this even MORE clear… let’s use another well-known example, but with a different tense and totally different emotion. 

“The Real Slim Shady” uses the same description of behaviors and emotions as the previous examples, but decides to start with a 2nd person description: 

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 a$$ worse than before… 

Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady”

Notice how by starting in 2nd person, he grabs more attention to start the track by speaking directly to the LISTENERS and FANBASE. 

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#2 Describe Frustrating Circumstances 

Now, much like many of the greatest rappers of all time, MCs like Eminem don’t just limit themselves to one moral framework or emotion in a song. 

Another way to think of what to rap about is describing frustrating circumstances, like Shady did on his sardonic anthem “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”: 

Have you ever been hated or discriminated against? 

I have, I’ve been protested and demonstrated against

Picked signs for my wicked rhymes… 

Eminem, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”

In this case, Shady is describing the frustrating circumstances of becoming a megastar while still being hating on for having controversial stances on the state of the world. 

Frustrating circumstances don’t have to be limited to just people doubting you either, or 2nd person, or anything like that. 

Let’s check out how 50 Cent starts “Hate It Or Love It” by describing what we would assume is an admission his Mom was gay and he didn’t know how to process it… 

By the way, until this video I never realized that both 50 Cent AND Jay-Z have revealed their Mom’s sexual orientations on a rap song! 

Anyway, 50 Cent tells us… 

Coming up I was confused, my mommy kissing a girl 

Confusion occurs coming up in the cold world 

Daddy ain’t around, probably out committing felonies 

My favorite rapper used to sing, ‘Check out, check out my melody’” 

50 Cent, “Hate It or Love It”

50 has just given us a first person past tense description of frustrating circumstances, which is an extremely common way to know what to rap about. 

Now, even when describing frustrating circumstances, though… YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE IT ALL NEGATIVE OR SAD. 

Check out how Jay-Z introduces the concept of his “Hard Knock Life”, quickly juxtaposing the frustrating circumstances of poverty while ALSO quickly bringing us up to his present success:

From standing on the corners bopping,

To driving some of the hottest cars New York has ever seen

From dropping some of the hottest verses rap has ever heard

From the dope spot with the smoke Glock 

Fleeing the murder scene… 

Jay-Z, “Hard Knock Life”

So, we see here that Jay-Z is choosing to describe both frustrating circumstances WHILE giving a sign for hope that things will get better. 

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#3 Describe The Clothing, Setting, Characters

Now, you don’t even need to feel like you have to directly describe the emotion you’re feeling or some kind of literal description of the circumstances you’re in. 

Sometimes the best way to describe your mentality and morals to describe a metaphorical representation of what you seeing as a representation of how you think and what kind of person you are. 

Look at how Dr. Dre starts his anthem “Still D.R.E.”, interestingly written by none other than Jay-Z himself… 

It’s still Dre Day, n****a, AK n****a

Though I’ve grown a lot, can’t keep it home a lot 

‘Cause I frequent the spots that I’m known to rock

You hear the bass from the truck when I’m on the block 

Dr. Dre, “Still D.R.E.”

Notice how by describe the image of the bass in his system on the block, we kind of already know what type of dude he is…

He’s a boss, he’s well-known, he’s allowed to play his stuff louder than anybody else because when you’re as famous and respected as Dre, you can play your music as loud as you want. 

Little specific descriptions of the cars you drive, the clothes you wear, or your physical characteristics and completely EXPLODE how lyrical you are to your audience. 

One of the most iconic examples of this is Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” where he starts the track…

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy

There’s vomit on his sweater already Mom’s spaghetti 

He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready

To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down

Eminem, “Lose Yourself”

Now it seems likes everybody on the planet including parents themselves can QUOTE this song but the ability to reproduce it is a different art. 

Are you able to think of specific physiological descriptions of what the emotion you want to illustrate? 

Rather than just saying “he’s scared to get on stage”, can you do like Shady and describe his sweaty palms, his knees shaking, etc.? 

When you practice doing this more often, you will become more skilled as a rapper and impress more people with your rapping ability. 

How To Rap About vs. What To Rap About 

So, if you get nothing else out of this article, I hope that you understand that when you’re struggling to think of WHAT TO RAP ABOUT… 

It’s less about you not knowing WHAT to rap about because we ALL have interesting lives and things that happen to us that people relate it…

…It’s more of a question of HOW TO RAP ABOUT IT that should concern you. 

Take something simple like a clock or being scared to get on stage and then bring it to life by focusing on the viewpoint, the timeline, and the specifics of WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE to YOU as a unique individual, and you’ll become a MUCH better rapper. 


Let’s review the main concepts we described here today: 

1. Viewpoints and Timelines 

The first overarching concept you should understand before we delve into the actual specifics of what to rap about is understand that YOU CAN RAP MANY WAYS ABOUT THE SAME EXACT THING.

2. Describe Morals, Behaviors, and Emotions

You can describe your morals around people who cross you like 2Pac, your mic skills like Nas, or your audience’s surprise like Eminem…

3. Describe Frustrating Circumstances 

…Or you can describe frustrating circumstances like 50 Cent in a pained way or a hopeful way like Jay-Z on Hard Knock Life… 

4. Describe The Clothing, Setting, Characters

…Or you can even get more specific and describe things like your clothing, cars, or even how your knees are shaking and palms are sweating like in “Lose Yourself”.

COMMENT: Which description from this article will you use first?

Drew Morisey, @drewmorisey on Instagram and Twitter

3 thoughts on “What To Write Your Rap About: 3 Ways To Write Better Rap Lyrics

  1. I’m 17 and I have always wondered what it would be like to be a rapper. Becoming a rapper is something I would like to look into but to me it just seems like a fantasy because I feel like rappers need to go thru something in order to have something to rap about, is that true? I am inspired by a few rappers Ive heard like SPM and even a few of the new generation rappers like King Von, Fredo Bang, and Juice Wrld I figure that if they can do it I can too, its just finding something to rap about that gets me.

  2. Hey I just wanted to give some advice to my fellow future rappers. So I’m listening to different beats to try and give me an Idea for a song. I want to match the free styles I make with a good beat and need to make sure they flow with the beat. I think yall should do this because it might help.

    1. It kinda the same with me here bruh.. Same age…I feel the same sometimes… Share with me how you deal with all this
      Let talk on ig my username is completely-xo. Look it up and send a dm.. It would be nice to relate with someone with the same issue

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