How To Rap Good For Beginners
This article will discuss how to rap well for beginners. In many ways, a great place to start is with the amazing text by Howie Nave on why the “from the neck down” style is the best place to begin.
If you have never written raps before, read Howie’s guide first. That said, here’s how to rap well for beginners.
When you start writing raps, you’ll notice that many beginner rappers seem to fall into a few common traps.
Rappers are notoriously bad at rhyming at first. There’s a straightforward way to improve your rhyming skills — avoid homophones. Basically, homophones mean the same thing (i.e., change “then” to “too”) and are more common in rap than in many other types of writing.
For example, words like a bear and cook usually rhyme because they both start with the same letter but different sounds, while bartender and summer often rhyme because they both start with the same sound but different letters (so it could be Babar or bab-ar). Even looking at the word list, you will probably notice that some of the words don’t really have rhyming equivalents in your native language (e.g., watch and not so watch).
This also applies to homophones that start with different letters. How many times have you seen “murder” and “rap?” If you answered “too many,” you’re right; it happens a lot.
In most cases, though, it’s better to use a different word rather than just rhyming the two words together. The best way to deal with homophones is to add a short word between them (e.g., “definitely a murder” or “definitely a rap.”)
The solution for this last type of rhyming is to rely on your reader to figure out the rhyming words (e.g., use one “the” in the middle and one in the end, or two “f”’s at the end and one in the middle).
Another reason to avoid homophones is that it prevents you from rhyming with your own words (e.g., not start a sentence with “muggle” or “verify.”), And that’s pretty much all you should ever have in a rap.
Rappers don’t just need to avoid homophones. They also need to avoid “substitute words.”
A substitute word is a word that sounds like the word you want to rhyme with but isn’t the same sound. They’re especially common in rap because rhyming words tend to sound the same, so it’s easy to fall into a repetitive pattern.
For example, the word bus is a substitute for father, a substitute for brother, which is a substitute for brother again.
Substitute words also tend to fall into different categories, such as “often” words (e.g., let’s, for “for sure”) or unusual sounds (e.g., shit, for “bodily excrement.”). I learned a lesson from a rapper named Fly Gonzo, who used a lot of substitute words (e.g., “flatulence” for “abnormal digestion”). He lost me when he used “fecal matter” instead of “sample” in a line (this song is called “Gonzo”).
Don’t be afraid of starting with a phrase you know how to rhyme.
Except for “Transylvania” and “fecal matter,” almost all rhymes in rap are formed by pairing words with similar sounds. These words are called constituent words and are easy to rhyme because you already know how to use them in your native language.
For example, if you say something like “Germans are very disciplined” (or “French are very lazy” or “Berliner is very frank” or any number of other common rhyming phrases), you’re almost guaranteed to come up with a line that rhymes with “substrate.”
Some rhyming words rhyme with different syllables or letters, which you’ll rarely encounter in your everyday language. These include “obscure,” “purple,” “flask,” and “sanitize.”
They might not sound like a lot of fun, but you might have to use them if you want to impress your rhyming readers. You might also want to use them when you’re not rhyming, for example, when you’re quoting someone or writing a limerick.
Lots of rhymes in rap are done with a consonant- and vowel-based rhymes. Rhymes like “opportunity” and “reconcile” are just two examples.
Rappers usually ignore the fact that some rhyming words start with consonant sounds and only pay attention to vowel-based rhymes. This is so important to remember that you can make “wrong” rhymes (not start a line with a vowel) without having to rhyme them with another vowel or a consonant sound.
For example, there are words like “patient” and “pronounce” and “incorrect” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” In the popular vernacular of English, these words can be pronounced or written however you’d like.
But when you’re trying to write a rap, you must make these words rhyme with their correct pronunciation.
For example, you might rhyme “patients” with “nuisance” or “vain,” but you’re not allowed to rhyme “patients” with “nymphs.” That’s because you don’t start a line with a vowel.
You can also make “wrong” rhymes that are also done in English. For example, “right” rhymes with “rapture” and “tragedy,” but it doesn’t rhyme with “Celtic,” “corn-on-the-cob,” “macaroni and cheese,” or “zipper.”
If you find yourself writing “bacon” or “tortoise” or “short circuit,” make sure you either stick to these common rhymes or at least consider rhyming these words with other words like “croissant” or “insane.”
Write a line outline before you write
For most people, writing rap is easier if they first layout the structure of the rap, as shown in the picture below. The key to writing a song in this way has one or more main ideas.
Each of these main ideas (or “rants”) is connected through rhymes. If you want to be successful, then it’s your job to make sure that each of these main ideas has a direct and obvious rhyme with one of the previous ideas or rhymes.
The first idea can be about anything, while the last idea can be about anything. However, it’s important to choose something that can be used to create a surprising line of rhyming words that will make people (and your audience) think.
While it's good to have goals, it's also good to also be flexible. Trying out new things is one of the most effective ways to evolve as a musician.
Remember, you only live once.
We should also not be afraid of taking risks. To borrow a quote from Bob Dylan, 'Keep Your Ego Out the Door.'
Trust yourself; you will be okay.