3 Secrets To Writing Better Rap Songs
In today’s article, we’re going to provide you some songwriting tips for rappers by telling you three little-known secrets to writing better rap songs.
As hosts of the most subscribed YouTube channel on how to rap and learning rapping, we’ve seen artists who do NOT follow the secrets we’re about to tell you fail time and time again to learn the skill of writing better rap songs…
…So to avoid you going through the same painful process, we’re going to provide you both songwriting tips AND a few action steps to begin RIGHT NOW INSTANTLY to get writing better rap songs in this video.
So let’s begin to tell you the three secrets to writing better rap songs.
NOTE: Before we begin, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel “How To Rap” by clicking HERE because we drop weekly videos full of songwriting tips, how to be a better rapper and of course the keys to writing better rap songs… and if you are hungry to have a song completed TODAY right now easily and efficiently, be sure to pick up our free video course “How To Write A Rap On Any Topic” by clicking HERE.
3. Be Able Write Chorus-First AND Verse-First
Now, one of the most common question for those who want to start writing better rap songs is, “Should I write the chorus-first or the verse-first”?
The simple truth is this: you need to be able to do both, because depending on the way the beat is structured – which we’ll cover in a second – will most often determine which song section (verse or chorus) you’d like to do first.
The Question To Ask In Writing Better Rap Songs
One of the questions to ask yourself in this regard is: “what does the beat do musically in the first 30 seconds?”
No matter how you cut it, you’re going to need to START the song with something catchy and iconic, however that could be a CHORUS, that could be a FIRE opening line to a verse, OR that could be a riff.
If the beat starts with an iconic “riff”, or series of quickly identifiable notes, that may serve as the first catchy part of the song instead of a chorus.
Think about the way “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar starts:
“Nobody pray for me (riff of notes) / It’s been that day for me (riff of notes) / Waaaay”
That iconic intro / riff of notes REPLACES the need for a catchy chorus to start, so Kendrick can roll straight into the verse.
If the beat had not started with an interesting, choppy sample with syncopation, Kendrick may have decided to just roll into the chorus to make it instantly catchy,
But by having something memorable to begin the song, he probably felt confident he could go verse first.
Now, compare that to a song like “Don’t Kill My Vibe” which begins not only with the chorus, but a relatively LONG chorus compared to other rap songs of the recent era…
…Since it has both the “I am a sinner” section AND the actual repeat of “Don’t Kill My Vibe” at the second half of the hook.
“The Double-Sided Hook”
That’s a quick random aside to remember as well: don’t be afraid to do what we call “double-sided hooks” that have two distinct section within the entire chorus that both can become iconic catchy parts of the song.
I mean, let’s be real here: the “energy from two planets away” portion of the track is as memorable as the actual title of the song.
Now, I would say the fact the song starts with the chorus in this case likely due to the fact that the beat itself doesn’t not have as a iconic series of notes to begin, although the smooth bass-line the begins the track is an excellent beginning, no doubt.
Writing Better Rap Songs In Action
Okay, now it’s your turn.
As you notice in our recent articles, we like having you take action WHILE WATCHING THE VIDEO to improve your rap skills in writing better rap songs…
So let’s have you do a quick exercise to identify which beats are best for chorus-first or verse-first.
Step 1) List Your 3 Favorite Rappers
Get out your notes app or a notebook and list your top 3 favorite rappers.
Don’t overthink it, just find 3 rappers you listen to a lot…
This isn’t a rap debate when you need to have the “perfect top 3”
Step 2) Find 2 Verse-First Songs and 2 Chorus-First Songs For Each Rapper
You don’t need to do this at this second, but after finishing the article…
Look at your list of rappers and find two tracks of theirs that begin with the chorus first and two tracks that begin with the verse first.
So again in our example, if your rapper is Kendrick, you put “Humble” in the verse-first column, and “Don’t Kill My Vibe” in the chorus-first column, then maybe “Loyalty” in the chorus-first column, and then maybe “Money Trees” in the verse-first column, and so on.
By doing this, you will be able to lock-in what you need to study in order to identify which parts of the instrumental dictate what to start the song with.
Step 3) Take Notes On “What The Beat Does” For Each Song
After you’ve found the songs, listen in as we did for how the beat introduces itself and how the rapper decides to go verse-first or chorus-first.
That way, this exercise can help you any time that you’re wondering whether to start the song with a verse or chorus, but of course, as we said… you need to do both.
NOTE: If you are particularly interested in step-by-step songwriting trainings like this one, be sure to pickup our free video course, “The Top 20 Songwriting Secrets of Full-Time Rappers” by clicking HERE.
2. The Best Songs Are Written In One Sitting
Now, because a lot of other “rap coaching” channels do not actually work with rappers directly, you won’t hear this point brought up very often…
…However we at How To Rap love working with new artists 1-on-1 so we have seen time and time again…
…Artists that STOP in the middle of the songwriting process, never actually finish the track.
Despite this fact, you listen to interviews with the world’s top rappers, and in fact, musicians overall, what you’ll find is most of them will claim that…
They write their best songs “almost as if the song was just already written for them and they just had to get the words out”.
For them, it’s like the song “just fell out of the sky”.
In other words, the best songs are written in ONE block of time, in one sitting…
…NOT pieced together over days, weeks, or months.
Now, again don’t overthink this point and say “Well, there’s exceptions to this, like Kanye West took years to get ‘Stronger’ perfect, or Eminem wrote ‘The Way I Am’ in several spurts”…
Look, we understand that, but those exceptions prove the rule.
In fact, whether it’s Eminem admitting that he wrote “My Name Is…” the day he first met Dre, IN ONE SITTING, one sustained block of time…
…Or Paul McCartney reporting Kanye wrote “Only One” so quickly McCartney didn’t realize they were even collaborating…
The point is that OFTEN the best songs come in one sitting.
The Best Songwriting Tips In Action
One thing I notice is that a lot of beginning rappers see to think that “taking a break” when they get writer’s block is a good idea.
You should NOT be taking breaks very often when you are creating, especially early on in your career.
What you SHOULD be doing is practicing your “creative stamina” by finishing songs in one sitting, in blocks of time.
Step 1: Pull Out A Calendar
So for this tip’s action plan, what I want you to do is pull out your calendar.
If you don’t have a “calendar” just use your phone’s calendar app, everyone has one. Or your email server’s calendar.
Step 2: Find a 3-Hour Chunk of Time (with The Date)
Find at least a 3-hour chunk of time to make a song from start to finish.
If you want to say “I don’t have 3 hours of time”, then frankly you don’t have the hustle it will take to become an artist and you should probably pick another goal.
Everybody has 3 hours of time to do what they love.
Even if you’re a high school student, you have 3 hours somewhere on Saturday, Sunday, or after school.
When I was in high school I would lock room door after about 6PM and just write rhymes. It’s possible for anybody.
Step 3: Resolve To Write A Song From Start To Finish In That Time
Last step is of course guarantee to yourself you will write the song from start to finish in that time.
Of course, if you are brand new and it takes you LONGER, then only set the goal to WRITE the song.
If you are more experienced, try to write and record a whole song in that time. It’s totally possible.
The key to this exercise is simply understanding that music is written from MOMENTUM rather than starting-and-stopping as we always say.
1. Momentum Over Music
That last tip transitions very nicely into this secret.
Understand that you will be writing better rap songs more often from the MOMENTUM you built up as a writer…
…Rather than just because you “got good at rapping”.
Writing great music is about collaboration.
That could be the collaboration between two major artists with a dueling future, or what could be the collaboration between a single songwriter and producer…
…But in its essence is about an unblocked flow of creative energy from multiple parties.
And how do we best “unblock” that creative flow? We do it by building… creative MOMENTUM.
Look, think about all the times you’ve most felt “IN SYNC” with your rapping.
It could be that one time you freestyle for what seemed like an infinite amount of time with no blockage, or the time you write a track right on the spot in the studio, or any number of things.
What you’ll likely remember about that time is that you DIDN’T do is try to “logically approach” the song or the freestyle…
…You let go and go into creative MOMENTUM to block away the doubt.
With this in mind, your goal should be first and foremost focusing on MOMENTUM over the “music” because that momentum will LEAD to great music.
How To Build Musical Momentum
Now, for this exercise, I want you to go back to your block of time you did in tip #2.
In your calendar, I want you to put a big red SQUARE on the first 30 minutes of that 3-hour session.
The reason to do this is because it will take about 20-30 minutes for you get into creative MOMENTUM in the session.
Again, going back to what usually happens, a lot of artists don’t allow themselves time to get into the rhythm of the session, and “start-and-stop” which leads to more and more blockage of creative facility.
So, take the step of IN ADVANCE knowing you’ll need a little time to warm up, and watch how your skills rise again and again.
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