If you want to know how to write better rap, you gotta learn what sounds good.
It ain’t all about rhyme…
You wanna know how to rhyme, you better learn how to add – Mos Def
Everyone thinks rhyme is all that goes into rap. This could not be further from the truth. There’s at least 4 other things you gotta hit on if you wanna spit fire.
Alliteration is to consonants as rhyme is to vowels, so you can’t just ignore it. Alliteration is pretty much just the repeated use of consonant sounds, but you can use words with totally different vowels in them to get less of a formulaic rap that still sounds like it belongs together. In Cool, Earl combines alliteration and rhyme to get a doper sound than either alone.
Prime Example: Earl Sweatshirt in “Cool”: Sick, cynical, cyanide spitter so when I kick rhymes my victims die quicker
Switching up the rhyme scheme
Sometimes, with great rappers, their voices sound more like melodic instruments than vocal contributions. I think the way to achieve this is constantly switching up your rhyme scheme. Don’t get me wrong, some great chill rap is made with the same rhyme scheme for an entire verse, but the way to sound like more than a rapper is by constantly switching it up.
Prime Example: Big K.R.I.T., any song. It’s actually hard to find an instance of K.R.I.T. staying with the same flow for even 4 bars.
This is gonna sound weird, but some dope lines come from rappers purposefully mispronouncing words (and then sometimes following with the proper pronunciation, sometimes not). This gives the rapper an illusion of power, where he can bend words however he wants to for his purposes. It’s hard to tell someone they’re wrong when they’re so confidently using words however they need to.
Prime Example: Method Man, any song, but specifically “Shame on a Nigga”: The head from the shoulders, I’m better, than my competta. You mean competitor whatever, let’s get together
Let me say it again because you don’t believe me. Repetition. This is the easiest and most ignored way to sound like you’re spitting fire. If a rapper repeats himself, he somehow sounds like he’s referencing ancient wisdom, even if it was just some dumb shit he said 10 seconds ago. But seriously, what sounds catchy, what stays in your head? Repetition.
Prime Example: Kendrick Lamar/backup vocalists in “Money Trees”: A dolla might just fuck ya main bitch, that’s just how I feel… a dolla might, say fuck the niggas that ya came with, that’s just how I feel… a dolla might just make that lane switch, that’s just how I feel… a dolla might, turn to a million then we all rich, that’s just how I feel
Practice these and sound dope.
Of course there’s plenty of other types of wordplay (or structure), but these are just some that are often overlooked. Most folks think it’s all about the rhyme. What do you think is some wordplay guaranteed to make a rap hot?