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  1. #1
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    Default Discussion: Rap Writing Techniques

    By popular request, this thread is intended for the discussion of rap writing techniques.
    Post your tips, advice and opinions, ask and answer questions. etc.

    Everybody's input is welcomed regardless of experience level. We each have unique ideas, plus beginners can have fresh and interesting viewpoints which more experienced writers can be too stuck in their ways to think of.

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    Thanks SBU! I'm glad this was started! I have something to say, I don't know if it's really a tip or not, but don't rap about stories that aren't true to you. In my opinion I hate when a rap is completely fake. Unless you actually commit the act, don't rap about it. I highly doubt anyone that comes on here goes out and shoots people with a "crew" or a "gang." So put away the physical glock and use it metaphorically.

  3. #3
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    This isn't a tip, just my opinion in response.
    I agree with you in a way, but I suppose that if something is felt enough to be thought of and written then it's likely to be true to the writer in some sense or at least express an aspect of their personality or aspirations. I strongly dislike the lyrics of most rap which brags about violence and wealth, but that's due to the themes and I really couldn't care less whether it's how the writer really lives or not.. unless that impacts the lyrical quality, which it doesn't necessarily. A highly skilled writer who's not a gangster could research to write a more grounded and realistically detailed ganster rap that catches the spirit of that lifestyle better than the average real gangster rapper could.

  4. #4
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    ~here's a few very basic tips on flow, incase it's useful to anyone.

    usually an even number of lines will flow better than an odd number, with 16 lines being a common length for a verse. 32 lines is quite common too. it can be good to experiment and ignore those things though.

    write a rhyming couplet, a pair of lines where the final few syllables of line1 rhyme with the final few syllables of line2.
    rhyme with those syllables again in the first half of line3, then switch up to different syllables at the end of the line.
    then simply rhyme with those new ending syllables from line3 again at the end of line4.

    that technique gives a simple and smooth transition of rhymescheme between bars.
    the rhymescheme from the first couplet carries on into the start of the new couplet which comes after it.
    even when used occasionally throughout a piece this technique can stop it from sounding like a set of seperate stilted couplets by blending them together and helping flow.

    consider adding in another simple variation at some point and that can make for a decent flow overall. for example, at the end of the verse just carry rhyming syllables over the end of four lines instead of two (quadruplet instead of couplet).

    and maybe in the very last line of that verse, rhyme off the ending syllables again during the first half of the line.
    Last edited by _SBU; 08-08-2012 at 07:58 PM.

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  6. #5
    Senior Member Frankie Jasmine's Avatar
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    I have a question about rap/hip-hop. I'm more of a poet; but I have read rap by a few artists on ATL. Most of the lyrics are quite serious--talking about important issues, bringing things to light that need it, exposing hypocrisy, etc. That is what I liked about the lyrics I read. I like the descriptive street language which makes it very interesting (I don't like heavy curse words, though.) Anyway, my question is this:

    Is rap ever funny? Is it always serious? Is it an affront to write a funny rap/hip-hop song? I ask because I wrote a funny/silly rap-sound song, placing it on the regular lyrics section. I thought that it might not be viewed as "appropriate" for the rap section.

    Is there a "code" that rap must be serious? Almost all art forms have a lighter side to them.

  7. #6
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    Look ingto Redman, Methodman or Del tha Funkee Homosapien. There are tons of funny rappers, it's just not a common style. It's kind of like horrorcore in the fact that it seems to only appear sporadically in rhymes. Most rappers have put jokes into there music but its not really common to have your entire rap career survive on funny material. I personally think its cool to add that other dimension to your lyrics but its not really easy.

  8. #7
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    Although rap is more often associated with political or gangster type content, it does have quite a tradition in humor and lighthearted playfulness right from it's conception. In my opinion 'rap' should be defined by structure/form and not content.
    I agree that not many rappers base their entire rap career on funny material, but quite a lot of rappers steer clear of serious issues and keep it lighthearted.
    it's not generally considered "an affront" to write funny rap lyrics, although there is quite a large 'bars over jokes' movement in the U.S at the moment and spreading, largely in battlerap as a response to the increasing rate of shallow 'your momma' type jokes, but influencing rap tracks to some extent.

    Nice one Jimi, 'Del' is a good example. I'd add the canadian rapper 'Wordburglar' too, I recall most of his Burglaritis album being amusing when I was younger, some classic lines still. MF DOOM (along with all his other aliases) is the probably the most consistantly hilarious rapper if your mind's sharp and sense of humour is suitably bizarre. some especially funny moments on his collab album with Dangermouse.

  9. #8
    Senior Member Venomonology's Avatar
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    You could also consider the rapping of Lil Wayne and Drake... which I consider rather funny.

  10. #9
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    man that's a dark sense of humor. but yeah, it can be a good coping mechanism when facing the tragic.

  11. #10
    Senior Member Frankie Jasmine's Avatar
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    Thanks to all of you for clearing that up. I appreciate your comments and explanations. Now I know it is not a "No-No!" But that humor is more likely to lie within the song itself as part of a larger picture; and that there are some rappers that are "lighter."

    Please keep adding advice to this thread. I will watch and wait to be enlightened!

  12. #11
    Senior Member smoothtung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by _SBU View Post
    man that's a dark sense of humor. but yeah, it can be a good coping mechanism when facing the tragic.
    Hahaha that's what I was thinking

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    Senior Member smoothtung's Avatar
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    I think from the days of big l, biggy, gangstarr, wu tang etc. that humurous lines have been a way of keeping a track "fresh" and that most of the good artists had ways of using their senses of humor in various ways in various themes. What I mean is that "funny" lines have been incorporated in many 'serious' tracks as well and I think that was always the challenge, or the goal if you will. A track that hit home in every way, a track that can touch your serious, sensitive, and humorous sides all at once.
    For example I remember a wu tang track called 'ice cream' where the lines went like this

    "God damn, backyard's bangin like a Benz-y
    If I was jiggy, you'd be spotted like Spudz McKenzie
    I'm high powered put Adina Howard to sleep
    Yo pardon, that ***** been on my mind all week, but uhh
    Back to you Maybelline Queen let's make a team
    You can have anything in this world except CREAM
    So whatchu wanna do? Whatchu wanna do?
    Let's go ahead and walk these dogs and represent Wu"

    I always thought that this was hilariously funny growing up, but if you listen to the track it actually has a serious side to it.

    And of course every big l track had a dark/deep meaning to it but he'd throw in hilarious lines such as the classic.. "I've got mad hoes, ask Beavis I ain't got nothing butt-head"
    Or perhaps my absolute favorite line from 'L
    "breaking in cribs with a crow bar..
    When I was growing up I was po', I couldn't afford the 'or'"

    Haha growing up I could never get enough of that line.. Classic

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    "If you must" By Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. That song is a masterclass in originality, style, unorthodox rhyme patterns and hilarity. I'm a huge Del fan so I'll probably refence him as often as possible.

    M.O.P- "home sweet home" Lil Fame says: "BROOKLYN Military Killin every mother****er in sight get hard/ w-w-w DOT I-Will-****-You-Up DOT com"

    Big L- "All Black" "This ain't Cali/ Its Harlem ***** we do walk by's" (pretty much the ultimate don't **** with my city line ever) followed by "On the shelf is where your LP cold stood/ Because it was no good/ That **** ain't even go wood"

  15. #14
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    ~A few more tips and musings regarding flow.

    Consider how many syllables in a row you're going to rhyme with.
    For instance.. you could use a 5-syllable word at the end of a line, and then at the end of the next line rhyme it with a 2 syllable word + 3 syllable word.

    Commercial popular rap and old school hiphop tend not to use extended polysyllabic rhymes. so if you aren't familiar with more technical hiphop lyricism I suggest listening to some as an educational experience. The track Multiplicity by the British crew Rhyme Asylum is a fine example of how a polysyllabic rhyme scheme can be carried over many bars without seeming 'forced'.
    Check how many rhyme-repetitions they use and how long the rhymed syllable-chains are.

    Consider whether you want a rhyme scheme with lots of switching up between new rhyming-syllable chains or whether you want to keep rhyming from the same syllable chain over lots of bars.. or both at different points in the track.

    Consider where abouts in the track you want to use different flow chacteristics and why.
    ie. how flow and content interact as a whole.

    Remember that flow is not just about syllable count.. syllable duration and placement of emphasised syllables are very important factors, along with others.
    That might seem a bit daunting but don't worry about that, just recite the rhymes out loud as you're writing and check that the rhyme sounds good.
    From there you can go on to investigate 'why' some lines sound better than others later if you want to, but it's not strictly necessary.
    (assonance. also consonance. aliteration. syllable placement: count/duration/emphasis).

    The range of elements which make up flow is so large that it's possible to rap with an intricate, elegant flow without using many rhymes. Ex Anticon artist 'Sole' with his old track 'Bottle of Humans' is an ideal example of that.
    Last edited by _SBU; 08-10-2012 at 01:10 PM.

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    Little Brother- "whatever you say" In Phonte's verse he doesnt once rhyme anything. The flow is based strictly on cadence and negative space; if you create a rhythm in your vocal placement you can sometimes entirely bypass rhyming. But it's not an easy thing to wrap your mind around

  18. #16
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    Oh interesting, I'll have to check that one out Jimi.

    I have a question for everyone who uses multi syllable rhymes..

    Do you tend to already have a fixed idea of precisely what you want a bar to express when you're thinking of rhymes?
    Or do you brainstorm candidate rhymes first, perhaps with a wide theme in mind, and then construct bars' concepts from possible relationships between the potential rhyming words?
    If you use both of those techniques at different times, what determines which one you use for a bar?

    I usually do more of the latter as I find it to be more fun to write, to be more productive and to yield more interesting lyrics.
    I find thinking of the fixed concept first and then writing the line to be frustrating, I'm more likely to use that technique toward the end of the writing process though.
    I'm interested in hearing other writers' opinions on this.

  19. #17
    Senior Member Frankie Jasmine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimi Popp$ View Post
    Little Brother- "whatever you say" In Phonte's verse he doesnt once rhyme anything. The flow is based strictly on cadence and negative space; if you create a rhythm in your vocal placement you can sometimes entirely bypass rhyming. But it's not an easy thing to wrap your mind around
    @Jimi: What you're saying makes a lot of sense to me. I can get that from a poetry-writing point-of-view. Rap is not something I really know how to do. But I've done a few poems in what people at ATL call "automatic writing" (but I call it "stream-of-thought"/"train-of-thought" to differ it from the late-19th century "automatic writing" where a person went into a trance and the "so-called dead" or spirit realm used them as writing tools) . . . Anyway, back on point, sometimes the train-of-thought poems turned out to be in the "voice" of someone else (not a spirit, mind you! just the subconscious mind expressing itself). E.g., one time it was an older black man going back to his "home" in his old 'hood, and that had a bit of a rap sound to it; yet it was symbolic of a personal emotional experience I was going through. For whatever that's worth. It's rather too personal of a poem; not ready to post it on ATL yet.

    Anyway, my point is that because of writing poetry I know the masterful kind of writing you're refering to that has the rhythm, the cadence, "streamlined", without always requiring true rhyme. I am agreeing with you, plus adding a little personal experience with poetry in there.

    I understand rap is different; but both are word art forms, and rap is meant to be spoken; poetry sometimes spoken. Some similar things can apply, as those you mentioned above. I get it!

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    Senior Member Doug Denslowe's Avatar
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    Frankie J.,thanks for explaining what "automatic writing"is.I had asked on another Thread,but was not happy(I couldn't understand)with the answer I got.Now I get it perfectly.I believe I've gotten rhymes from"the great beyond"because I have no clue where they came from!

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    Hahahaha I never read much poetry but when I used to write it all my english teachers would love it. I used to wtite tons of stream of concious free verse poetry; so when I say the transition from poetry to rap is hard! But its cool, requires patience and an MP3 player. If you want I'll give you examples of rap that got me understanding it.

  22. #20
    Senior Member Venomonology's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by _SBU View Post
    Oh interesting, I'll have to check that one out Jimi.

    I have a question for everyone who uses multi syllable rhymes..

    Do you tend to already have a fixed idea of precisely what you want a bar to express when you're thinking of rhymes?
    Or do you brainstorm candidate rhymes first, perhaps with a wide theme in mind, and then construct bars' concepts from possible relationships between the potential rhyming words?
    If you use both of those techniques at different times, what determines which one you use for a bar?

    I usually do more of the latter as I find it to be more fun to write, to be more productive and to yield more interesting lyrics.
    I find thinking of the fixed concept first and then writing the line to be frustrating, I'm more likely to use that technique toward the end of the writing process though.
    I'm interested in hearing other writers' opinions on this.
    I almost always use the second technique. I get an idea of the wider concept, then some key phrases or potential lines I'd like to use within the verse, then brainstorm a load of potential rhymes. Next I brainstorm a load of similes or metaphors I'd like to use, or imagery I'd like to produce. Very rarely do I try to force rhymes, which is why my projects take a long time to complete. Once I've exhausted a particular rhyme scheme for one part of the concept, I'll shelve the whole thing until something comes to me at a later date.

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