If you ask 10 rappers how they write lyrics, you’ll get 10 different answers. The one technique that everyone agrees on, however, is that you should write as much as possible.
Use a notepad that you can access anywhere, like Evernote or Google Drive. These apps are free and can be accessed from your desktop, phone or tablet. If you’re really artsy, you can use an actual pen and paper. However you do it, being able to write down lyrics as they come to you is a crucial part of the process, and allows you to be creative every day. One you’ve got a place to write them down, you can focus on your lyrics.
Rappers generally write lyrics in one of two ways: based on an idea or theme, or for a specific beat.
Writing based on an idea or theme is usually easier, since one idea will lead to another and keep the creative juices flowing. Get into the zone. Put on an instrumental beat (check out our free rap beats page to download free instrumentals) and see what comes to you. If you’re just starting out, pick a beat that’s a little slow (try between 80-90 BPM), so you don’t feel rushed. See what kind of lyrics sound cool, and what fits the beat. People might think you’re a crazy person talking to yourself, but who cares? You’re the next Eminem.
After you’ve written a few lines, your lyrics will naturally be different in terms of tempo & rhythm, and may not fit in with the original song. As you write more and more, you’ll build up “ammo” that can be used later, when it fits the lyrical theme, rhythm, or feel of the next song.
The second option is to write lyrics for a specific beat. When doing this, keep the dynamics of the song in mind. When the song is slow and mellow, do you mirror that in your delivery or do the opposite? Are you following the breaks in the music, or filling the space during those breaks? One of the most powerful techniques when it comes to dynamics is to build up intensity in your delivery along with the song, then let loose at the peak. A good example of this is “drop the world”by Lil’ Wayne.
Switching up your delivery throughout a song can make a huge difference, and makes your music interesting and enjoyable for your fans. Listening to an artist yell throughout a song can be exhausting. Unless you’re Snoop Dogg, you shouldn’t be so relaxed that you’re nearly falling asleep, either.
Last but not least: get creative! Here’s a clip of Eminem making words that scientists say do not rhyme, rhyme. The possibilities are endless!
Now get off your couch and get some life experiences under your belt. No one wants to hear you rap about eating Cheetos and browsing Facebook.
Tempo & beats per minute (BPM): how fast or slow a beat is. 70-90 is slow, above 120 is fast.
A bar of music: 1, 2, 3 4. Every time you count to four in a song, that’s a bar. 4 bars make a phrase, and 16 bars make a verse. If you have 2 or 3 verses, throw a chorus in between them and you’ve got a song. Rhythm (half time, double time, etc): on any given beat, you can match the speed of the song, go half as fast, twice as fast, or anywhere in between. Check out this example of Lil’ Wayne switching between timings on the track “No Love” with Eminiem.
Dynamics: To put it simply, how loud or soft the music is.
Metaphors & word play: metaphors compare two things that are completely different, using ‘like’ or ‘as’. For example, “Me without a mic is like a beat without a snare… I’m sweet like licorice, dangerous like syphilis.” – Lauren Hill on “How Many Mics,” The Score