How to Write a Rap Song for beginners

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Rap songs often come off as effortless, but they actually require a lot of time and effort to write. You need lyrics that are catchy yet real. You also need top-notch rhyme and rhythm. In a way, writing rap is not all that different from writing poetry.[1] If you are struggling to write a rap song, then this wikiHow is for you.

Writing Lyrics

1. Brainstorm. While listening to a beat on repeat, allow yourself to free-associate or even freestyle out loud to get your creative juices flowing. Do this for a while without setting pen to paper. When you're ready, make a list of every concept, unique perspective, or potential lyric that popped into your head. Allow these to guide and inspire the content of your song as you move forward.
  • Let your ideas brew for a while. Carry a notepad around with you so that if you get a flash of inspiration while you’re on a bus, working out, or buying groceries, you can capture the moment and hopefully expand on it.
2. Write the hook. If you were writing a term paper, you'd start with a thesis. But this is a rap song so start with a hook (a.k.a. chorus). The hook should not only capture the theme of the song but, more importantly, be catchy and unique as well. A great hook will often inspire other elements of the song such as the beat or other lyrics, so don’t settle for something that doesn’t prompt any other ideas.
  • If you’re having trouble coming up with something out of the blue, riff off of or respond to a line you love from another rap song. Just don’t copy anything outright or you may find yourself in legal trouble. "Drop it like it's hot" was originally a throw-off line from a Hot Boys single in the early 2000s, but Snoop Dogg turned it into a huge hit several years later.
3. Follow the words. Choose points from your brainstorm list that inspire you and flesh them out. Of course, this is where your skills as a lyricist and as a rhymer will show through. If you're an experienced rapper, play to your strengths. If metaphors are your game, let yourself move on the strength of your metaphors. If you're a natural storyteller, let a narrative emerge from the words.
  • Stay out of your own way. The biggest mistake you can make when you first get started writing lyrics is that you want to "say" something, and force abstract concepts into your lyrics. Be specific. Use concrete words, phrases, and images in your words to keep your idea in the background.
4. Be believable. While some people might take an "I can rap about anything I want to!" attitude, it's best to avoid rapping about your global cocaine trafficking empire if you're a teenager from the suburbs. Also, keep in mind that just because popular rappers write about certain things, it doesn't make your raps any more or less rap. The Beastie Boys rapped about partying and skateboarding in a talented, unique, and creative way, even though they didn't necessarily rap about traditional topics or fit into the traditional image of what a rapper should be.
  • If you really want to write a rap about something you don't do, make sure you make them as ridiculous as possible. Buff up the braggadocio; exaggerate to insane levels. Don't do it often, and not in serious songs, but have fun with it. Be creative.
5. Revise, revise, revise. Unless you're a world-class rapper who makes magic every time straight off the dome, your first draft of a song won't necessarily be the best. That's okay. Bob Dylan's first draft of "Like a Rolling Stone" was 20 pages long and terrible. As you're writing, let everything that wants to come out come out, but then you'll need to scale it back to a workable and efficient set of lyrics.
  • Focus on the most memorable lines and images, and cut out everything that doesn't match that theme, that tone, or that story. If you're having trouble figuring out what works and what doesn't, try to rewrite the song from memory, without looking at it. This will act as a kind of strainer--you won't be able to remember the less effective bits, and you'll have to fill in stronger material for what you can't remember.
  • The average song will have 2-3 verses of 16-20 bars each, and 3-4 chorus sections of a variable number of lines. Try to aim for trimming down your output to that amount.
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