Do you want to learn how to rap? Maybe you have dreams of one day performing a freestyle rap in front of a crowd or in a rap battle? Then you have come to the right place!
Rap is one of the most popular genres of music in today’s culture, and for good reason. It’s an extremely expressive and individualistic form of music that has the power to unite people.
This article will (you guessed it) guide you on everything you need to know about rapping, from how to write a rap song down to how to freestyle rap.
Well, it’s categorised as having a mix of influences from poetry, prose, speech and song. Rap songs often incorporate rhyme and rhythmic speech which can be performed with or without a backing track or beat maker.
The history behind the music is an interesting one. Let’s take you back in time to the 16th century where rap actually meant to ‘hit!’ The word itself then took on a new meaning over the next couple of hundred years and came to be known as ‘talk,’ and this was cemented during 1960s America where it became a slang word for having a conversation.
The roots can actually be traced back to Africa griots, where villagers would tell each other stories while they play instruments that they had made themselves. It wasn’t until 1973 in New York that rap was to gain its official title. DJ Kool Herc and his family began organising parties, and these sparked the Hip Hop genre as we know it today!
One night he felt experimental and he used two turntables, and when one finished a part of the song he would move to the other turntable and play the same part. He invented what’s known today as a looping technique!
He brought in his friend Coke La Rock to MC at his parties and he spat his first bar, making him go down in history as the first Hip Hop rapper.
It wasn’t until 1979 that the first rap song hit the charts; it was by the Fatback Band and was called King Tim III. This song gained huge popularity in bars and clubs and soon cemented its place in the top 30 in Hip-Hop charts.
Soon after this, rapping became one of the most popular genres of music out there!
Firstly it’s important to get to grips with the basics, and that means learning how to write a rap song using music theory (Rhythm, Chords, Melody) and a step by step song structure. It really doesn’t matter what the content is yet, as this can come later.
The most important things are that you love rapping and interested in learning and want to start rapping and start developing your skills. A strong work ethic is highly recommended. So from a songwriting perspective, start writing and rap about anything!
Take inspiration from the world around you, especially your own personal experiences as this can help the words to flow naturally. If you keep a diary a good tip is to look over what you have written, absorb your thoughts and feelings and turn them into lyrics.
You could always buy yourself a rhyming dictionary if you are struggling with rhyming your lyrics.
Another good tip for how to write a rap song is to, no surprise here, listen to lots of rap music! This way you can immerse yourself in the style and garner inspiration from your favourite artists.
Listen to old-school rap artists like Kurtis Blow and The Sugarhill Gang, or to artists like Eminem whose style is more complex and fast-paced.
A big part of learning is mastering how to rap to beats in time. It’s not easy and will take some practice on your part, but once you’ve got the hang of it there will be no stopping you! Rapping to a beat means that you place your lyrics on top of the beat in a rhythmic way.
Looking at it visually, you will see that the beat is a repetitive sound with silence in between. If you think of it in terms of syllables and the emphasis that we put on them when we speak, it makes everything seem simpler!
The unstressed parts of the syllable represent the silence in rap, while the stressed parts represent the beat. Flowing rap is where you land stressed syllables on the beat in a regular manner.
A good example is Big Pun’s ‘Packin a mac in the back of the ac.’ It’s a really fast-paced song, and he repeats this lyric over and over. This repetition is satisfying, and it flows well. If you like slow rap songs, check out ‘It Was A Good Day’ by Ice Cube or ‘Smoking in the Rain’ by Curren$y/AlChemist.
They have catchy lyrics and the slow rap gives the songs a chilled vibe. A bad example of rapping is Noreaga on Capone-N-Noreaga’s ‘Bang, Bang.’ The lyrics don’t really work and the rhyme feels forced, take this line for example, ‘I aim you, so you should just let us be/Or find yourself shot up, in the hospit-ee.’
It’s all about the three R’s: rhyme, repetition and rhythm. If you have these in your rap song then you have a successful rap flow.
Rap songs have specific rhyme schemes and structure to them, but they are created using the artists’ different interpretations. Let’s break down the structure for a rap song, as this can really help you become a great rapper.
Learning how to freestyle rap is a great talent and one that usually takes a lot of time and commitment in order to hone your skills. Being a freestyle rapper means that you create lyrics off the top of your head with no prior preparation.
Often rappers will rap about the world around them, as this way they are proving that they haven’t prepared anything beforehand!
A good tip is to practice by mumbling and spitting anything on the beat. This way you can get used to what sounds work and sound good over the beat. This will lead to you being able to experiment with lyrics – it’s all about gaining the confidence!
You could also go to some freestyle rap battles, not just to learn but because they are seriously exciting to watch!
Tip: Practice, practice then do some more practising!
Want to learn more? There are some excellent courses out there for you to take, no matter what your level. Let’s start at degree level for those of you that want to take an advanced course.
The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) partners with UK universities like Middlesex University London, to teach their BA Honours in Music Industry Practice. This degree allows you to take a Rap and MC Pathway. This type of course is ideal for those that want to have a career as an artist or songwriter.
USA University Penn State offers similar courses, such as The Popular Arts in America: The History of Hip-Hop and Critical Approaches to Hip-Hop.
There are also a wealth of online courses on offer, let’s take a look at some of the best. A great one for beginners is the ‘Learn How to Freestyle Rap, Rap Like a Pro and Write Lyrics’ by Udemy. The rapper Pat Parra heads the course, which builds on your freestyle rapping skills.
You get to keep plenty of resources, from lectures, videos and articles. You also get a certificate at the end of the course! The price for this course is $195.
If you are an intermediate rapper then why don’t you try ‘Master the Art of Rap and Song Creation?’ This course takes you beyond the basics and looks into strategies that you can employ to create your lyrics. Hip Hop musician Dwayne Perryman takes you through this course, so you know that you are in good hands! This course will cost you $49.99.
A great choice for advanced rappers is the ‘How to Make Beats for Rappers On an iPhone or iPad.’ This course helps you to create your own beats and comes with downloadable teaching materials as well as videos for you to keep. The price for this course is $39.99.
Of course, you don’t have to spend any money at all! There are great free resources out there, such as YouTube, where you can learn to rap. After all, you don’t need a degree to be a rap artist!
So there we have it, our guide on how to rap! We hope this is helpful to all you budding rap artists out there.
Rapping is a skill and can take time to perfect, so be patient with it and remember to practice, practice, practice!
There are plenty of courses you can take if you want to progress your rapping career further. These can definitely be helpful, however, if you don’t have the budget for them you can learn all you need to know from free resources and simply putting the time and effort into your craft.
So what are you waiting for? Begin your rapping career today!