Before setting anything to paper, allow yourself to free-associate (or even freestyle out loud) to get your creative juices flowing. Then, make a list of every concept, unique perspective, or potential lyric that popped into your head. Allow these to guide and inspire the content of your song as you move forward.
1. Pick a topic for your song. Do you want to make a club record or address a subject of political or personal importance? Do you want to keep your tone positive or negative? Ideally, you should have a unique perspective or understanding to share with your audience.
2. Brainstorm. Before setting anything to paper, allow yourself to free-associate (or even freestyle out loud) to get your creative juices flowing. Then, make a list of every concept, unique perspective, or potential lyric that popped into your head. Allow these to guide and inspire the content of your song as you move forward.
• Let your ideas brew for a while. Carry a notepad around with you so that if you get a flash of inspiration while you’re on a bus, working out, buying groceries, etc., you can capture the moment and hopefully expand on it.
3. Write the hook. If you were writing a term paper, you’d start with a thesis. But this is a rap song so start with a hook (a.k.a. chorus). The hook should not only capture the theme of the song, but, more importantly, be catchy and unique as well. A great hook will often inspire other elements of the song such as the beat or other lyrics, so don’t settle for something that doesn’t prompt any other ideas.
• If you’re having trouble coming up with something out of the blue, riff off of or respond to a line you love from another rap song. Just don’t copy anything outright or you may find yourself in legal trouble.
4. Pick a beat. You can do this on your own computer or sound equipment (or even just by beatboxing for inspiration). If you don’t make beats yourself, search for a beat on YouTube or download from the internet. Pick a beat that invokes the emotion that inspired you to write your song.
5. Write rap lyrics. Choose points from your brainstorm list that inspire you and flesh them out. Of course, this is where your skills as a lyricist will show through.
6. Structure the song. Now that you have a good idea of the sound your completed song will have, arrange your rhyme into verses (16 bars apiece). You can start each verse with nearly any rhyme, but it’s a good practice to end with a rhyme that makes a point. This way your verse doesn’t seem to be left hanging. A popular song structure would be:
• Middle 8 (a.k.a. breakdown)
7. Rap and refine. Practice rapping your song on your chosen beat to work out the bugs and optimize your written verses. Cut out as many words as possible and then cut out some more. Remember, a rap song is not an English paper; only use the words that are needed to make your point, nothing more. Don’t be afraid to add a pause or two, which can help to enhance a certain point in the song.
8. Memorize your song. Rap your lyrics over your beat until you have memorized every breath and you are sick of hearing them. Only then will you be ready to produce your song.
9. Produce the song. Either hook up with a producer to get the recordings and mastering completed or self-produce the song.