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learn How to write great rap lyrics

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Whether you're a beginner or an expert, this guide will teach you how to write better lyrics. After all, that's what RapPad was originally designed for. Below you'll find all of the things lyricists should know.

1. What is a bar?

In music theory, a bar is a measure, and there are 4 counts in a bar.

A bar is therefore just 1 line with 4 counts. A verse in a typical rap song will contain 16 bars.

The term bar gets thrown around a lot in hip hop, and you'll find some people who think a bar is a single line. Whenever in a freestyle battle or a collaborative effort, it helps to clarify what your opponent or collaborator deems as a bar. Otherwise one of you may end up writing 4x more content.

2. Incorporate Different Kinds of Rhymes

Here's a breakdown of the major rhyme types you need to know about. If you're struggling to find rhyming words, the RapPad Editor has an integrated rhyming dictionary.

  1. End Rhymes
    • Single syllable rhymes that appear at the end of consecutive lines
    • Easiest to do
    • Example
      • This is my CAT,
      • Look at its HAT,
  2. Multi Syllable Rhymes (multis)
    • "Holy Grail" of rhyme types, where multiple syllables of words rhyme
    • Example
      • This is a job – I get paid to sling SOME RAPS,
      • What you made last year was less than my INCOME TAX,
  3. Internal Rhymes
    • Rhymes that don't appear at the end of lines
    • Instead, they appear "internally" within the lines
    • Example
      • You will see the INSANITY, can you HANDLE ME now?

Putting it all together, we get ourselves a solid bar. This bar is from RapPad's Botanist. Notice the internals, multis, and end rhymes.

Example of Rap Bar With Rhymes

3. How to Structure Your Rap Lyrics

The most common way to compose your rap is Hook, Verse*, Hook, Verse, Hook. However you can mix and match different song components differently. Below are the different components of a song you'll need to know.

  1. Intro
    • Can sometimes be a skit, or recorded dialogue
    • Sets up the theme or mood for the song
    • Can be time allotted to allow the instrumental to play and build up
    • Typically 4 to 8 bars of the instrumental plays
  2. Hook/Chorus
    • Most memorable and important part of the song
    • Must be catchy and convey the message for the song
    • Usually the first part of the song to work on
  3. Verse
    • 16 to 32 bars each.
    • Considered the "meat to the bones" of your song (with bones being the hook)
    • Typically 2 verses per song
  4. Outro
    • Same as intro, except at the end of the song
    • Serves as a conclusion for your lyrics or rap song

4. Make Your Lyrics Stand Out by Telling a Story

Ask yourself what your goal is with rap? Are you trying to get out a message? Are you venting? Are you just trying to exercise your creativity?

One of the most important things about writing lyrics is to be authentic. Writing songs that are true to yourself. If you make things up or exhaggerate beyond a point of belief with no purpose then you will lose credibility as well as your audience. Write something original.

The best rap lyrics are the ones that invoke an emotional response from the listener. Ask yourself what kind of response you'd like to get from a listener. It can be laughter, sadness, and everything in between.

5. Use Literary Devices

Writing lyrics can be thought of as a mastery of skills and creativity. A major component of great rap lyrics is the ability to incorporate different literary devices.

  1. Metaphors
    • comparing two things which are not literally applicable, highlighting the similarities between the two.
    • Example
      • “I'm so breaded you can call my money fish sticks.” - Don Dada

Example of Dope Lyrics

  1. Similes
    • comparing one thing to another thing using a connecting word (such as, like, so, etc.)
    • Example
      • "Bouncing around, to the sound of the nice beat,
      • Hands in the sky, LIKE I'm practicing Tai Chi" - Botanist
  2. Wordplay
    • Wordplay is an elusive beast and the hardest to implement. It's when you manipulate words in a clever way to captivate the listener's attention.
    • Example
      • "I'm not a businessman, I'm a BUSINESS man" - Jay Z

6. How to Beat Writer's Block and Consistently Improve

I'm going to share with you the two best ways to conquer writer's block while improving your writing skills at the same time.

  1. Learn by analyzing great rap lyrics
    • Pick one of your favorite rap songs
    • Break down the lyrics into their rhyme schemes
    • Extract the major topic, themes, or keywords that the artist uses
    • Using those topics, themes, or words, continue to step 2.
  2. Learn by writing
    • Choose a couple of words, a theme, or a topic that interests you
    • Begin writing sentences incorporating those words
    • Try to compose those sentences into paragraphs that form a narrative
    • Convert your short essay into a verse

7. Find The Perfect Instrumental Beat

A huge part of your song is going to be the instrumental beat. Some artists come up with a topic to rap about by listening to a beat. Others search for a beat to suit a topic they've already written about.

RapPad is by far the best place to find instrumental beats. You can search by artist, mood, and genre to either match your lyrics or get inspired to write lyrics.

8. The Best Tips to Improve Lyric Writing Skills

Now that you have the fundamentals, here are a handful of tips and reminders that you should keep in the back of your mind whenever you're writing lyrics.

  • NEVER add rhymes just for the sake of rhyming
  • Your hook should be catchy and memorable
  • Incorporate the use of similes, wordplay, and metaphors
  • Use internal, end syllable, and multi rhymes
  • Be authentic, original, and creative
  • Spend time finding the perfect beat for your lyrics
  • Practice delivering to the beat while writing

Are you a high school or college student that loves to write lyrics or poems? Did you know you might be eligible to win a $1000 scholarship? Check out PowerPoetry for more details.

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