T Nation

Learning to Rap


I thought it'd be pretty cool if I could to rap, at least passably. I'm starting to get reasonably good at singing - I couldn't even hum a tune in key last year - so, screw it, why not try this too. Just one more avenue of self-expression.

Anyway, I tried going at a few instrumentals today.. I'll probably need to spend a few weeks just rapping in my car and record again just to see what I'm good/bad at. But breath control, diction at a high speed, and emphasizing syllables to match the beat are some things to think on.

So, even though I kinda doubt I'll get any advice, I'd welcome any input on this. I'm gonna keep trying to get better whenever I have the time, and sooner or later post a track of me rapping, should anyone be interested.



I guess making sure you put more of an emphasis on rapping and freestyling then writing your lyrics may be a good idea. I'm not trying to rap either but I have noticed that a lot of the guys that are known for good persona's and flow (or "swagger" I guess) are guys that don't write down their rhymes but sort've memorize lines they come up with in their heads and then rap.

Jay-Z and Biggie are two that come to mind. TI was also like this until his last album, and maybe it's just me but I can tell the difference in how he rapped (he sounds way more relaxed and confident on other albums IMO). You'll probably hate me for mentioning this, but Lil Wayne doesn't write his lines down either (not shocking) and whether you like his lines or not, you can't really deny that he's crafted a unique and recognizable personal and flow.

Of course, if you're going for more conscious or serious hip hop, writing down your lines may be the way to go since it makes things easier as far as forming a narrative etc. It's just that I knew some guys who wanted to rap like that, and wrote down their lines and my impression was that they came up with good content and decent lines, but their personalities stank. They were kind of boring.

Hopes this helps, although my advice is from the view of a listener, I've never tried rapping.

What kind of rap where you looking to get into?


Here's a pretty good tutorial:



I'll sit right down on your face, and take a shit!


Haha, true, not surprising about Little Wayne. I knew that Jay doesn't write lines and usually does things in one take, but never realised Biggie used to do the same. Impressive. Here's the thing though - sometimes Jay is one of the greatest, but a lot of the time - especially on guest appearances - his lines are just hot garbage. Well, anyway, he's on a completely different level, and I think something like not writing down lines requires a great deal of practice.

True on the personality. Though, just look at Guru - he's good, even with a "monotone drone" as he himself says :).

If I ever do get good enough to make original material, I'd probably aim for good, rich instrumentals and a quality flow. Saying that makes me think of Lupe, Guru and Masta Ace.

malonetd, thanks for the link, I'll check it out at home, later on.



yo somebody throw a beat on
before you get pee'd on


Learn double meanings of words, even slang words. Learn how to use punchlines and make up allot of them.
You should listen to some of Celph titled lines, search for him on youtube or army of the pharaohs


I want to learn how to sex


Pfff. Why waste time on learning to rap? Put that effort into learning guitar or similar.


its a lot like learning a new language or "baby talk"

just move your mouth and let sounds come out for a few weeks to gain a sense of what your style is and to learn how to breathe

after you do this you'll have a mind/mouth connection and your thoughts will come out pretty clean as freestyles

the worst thing you could possibly do is try to use slang that you dont normally use..just be yourself and let YOUR WORDS be YOUR OWN.

I've written a few songs but I dont have anything recorded

My first Freestyle battle back in 10h grade ahhh the good ol days just schoolin boys....i need to figure out the beat making/music mixing shit so I can possibly make a good song,

"I'll slit your wrists diagonally then again vertically to purposefully rip your shit apart, yea its me God and the Devil playin cards for your heart. Watch your back whenever you decide to walk in the dark...My words are black lightning, your soul just felt the spark"-Rocky

I have a word document of a song I wrote last year...wanna see it?


Putting aside your condescending tone: rapping and playing the various guitars are completely different art forms. I own a classical guitar that I try to keep up with, currently trying to figure out electric and ukulele. Honestly though, I have so much going on right now that rapping/singing is all I have time to practice regularly, since I can do that in the car. I wish I could get back to playing classical/Spanish daily, but that ain't happening atm.

Rockula - Sure, but it would be more helpful if you could post up an actual rap. Anyone can throw some words together online, ya know?

Bokito - I'll definitely check out army of pharaohs, the members' list is impressive as hell.

JGerman - I can teach you how to shot web. Is that helpful? :smiley:


Yeah not writing down your lines does allow for some inconsistency as far as quality goes now that I think about it... And if your going for something like Lupe Fiasco I think writing down your lines works better for them.

I agree with the guy who mentioned not using words that you wouldn't normally use. Although I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to borrow elements of your style from rappers you like for now (as long as it's someone you can manage). It might seem unoriginal right now, but over time as you keep rapping, you'll automatically change the style as you make it suit your personality more, and pretty soon you won't even sound like the guy you were emulating. But the key with this is to practice rapping A LOT, so the transition actually happens. Even guys who write their lines, like Eminem were also very good at freestyling. I remember reading something about Eminem starting off trying to sound like Nas and Mobb Deep when he was new to rap (I read this a while ago, so if I'm wrong someone correct me) and right now you be hard pressed to find anyone accusing him of biting Nas's flow. But yeah I guess what I'm saying is the key is to RAP a lot, as I'm sure you'll be able to write good enough lines.

As far as writing good songs goes, I think a good idea would be to listen to guys like Eminem and Kanye West more (particularly their first two albums). I'm sure you familiar enough with their work, but these are two guys who not only could write good songs but are massively popular, so I think it's worth listening to them even more. And I think the key with those two is that they rap about themselves. Very few rappers can be very open about themselves, and really delve into social problems in the context of their own lives like Kanye and Em. This is important. Listening to their songs never gives you the impression that these are good people, but rather normal people that are struggling with their flaws. I really think few rappers can do that really well, and even Em and Kanye have gotten worse at it. Dunno if this is what your going for, but as far as popular yet serious rappers go...


Actually starting to try and get good at this myself, just recently. Working with a lot of freestlye so far, eventually I want to start writing stuff down, but I just haven't gotten to it.

With the freestyling, as far as just being able to keep going I've kinda got that down pact, what's hard is going with any kind of rhythm or keeping any kind of message, but I figure that will get better. Plus if I start writing stuff down, I can have a few good back up lines when I run out of stuff to talk about.

Where you at man?


Funny about Eminam & Nas. Lupe, too, when recording "Food&Liquor" was trying to emulate Illmatic and has stated this in a few interviews. And Jay was inspired by Biggie.. Nas himself was inspired by Rakim.. So I guess everyone has to start somewhere.

I don't think you can compare Kanye and Eminem though. If you listen to the Slim Shady LP, for example, you'll hear how skilfully Eminem crafts his rhymes. It's pretty mind-blowing. Kanye, to me, isn't on the same level. His great production carries him more often than not. Though he is pretty good on some songs, i.e. "South side."

Thanks for all your input, btw, appreciate it!

Cool, man. Pretty impressed you started by freestyling. In my head, I view it as a progression:

Rapping someone else's lines
Writing and spitting your own lines

I don't think I'll be able to freestyle just like that :). I think few people really-really freestyle. Even in hip-hop battles, guys seem to have 75% canned material and then just improvise 25% to suit the occasion.

As for where I am => Moscow, Russia. Before you raise your eyebrows, though, my vocabulary and control of English put most native speakers my age to shame. Guess saying that makes me sound like a dick, but fuck it, languages are one thing I'm pretty good at :).


Eminem's definitely a better rapper than Kanye structurally, he's easily one of the best ever at that (his first verse on "Renegade" is still one of the best things I've heard as far as structure goes), it's more depth and complexity of personal expression that sets him and Kanye apart from many good underground MC's. I thought structurally Relapse was very good, and better than The Eminem Show and Encore, but his choice to put the most emphasis on the Slim Shady/less serious part of his persona made it a disappointing album.

Kanye's flow is pretty average and his rhymes can be unimpressive if not bad at times. But as far as personal expression goes I think he's up there with Em. Like Eminem he's not really afraid to discuss himself well outside of the posturing most big rappers use even when describing their lives before fame.

It's probably why there's a distinct break in the quality of their albums after the sophomore albums. These two make it a point to talk about themselves, so after their first two albums you see the quality drop as they come to grips with their fame. It's a bit harder to relate/sympathize with them after that, even if their songs are still good technically (Eminem) or still have good production (Kanye). And it's probably what makes people forgive them for what would otherwise make them stick out as jerks. I mean, you either have to be an asshole or a genius to make a song about your wife like "Kim", or to make a full album (albeit with subpar lyrics) about breaking up with a specific girl (808s & Heartbreak), knowing full well that millions will buy your album and hear the songs.

I guess what I'm saying with the example of Em and Kanye is to weave serious themes into the context of your own life. People wonder why a lot of very talented underground rappers with serious topics to discuss don't get popular, and usually the excuse given is that most pop fans are "too stupid" or that the industry pushes bad rappers into stardom, but truth is a lot of those rappers can't get regular people to relate to what they're talking about, and since they can't do that, they're just preaching to the converted.

But yeah, I see what you mean with Em being a better technical rapper than Kanye, and with that in mind I agree that he's probably a better rapper to emulate.


kanye is a producer who raps


the first question you have to ask yourself is whether you have a decent rap voice

if not, you will sound like a fucking tool, like most of the people who try to rap


this is me at 15(5yrs ago)


I can't believe it's been 5 yrs since i made this...listening to this is so funny lol...Especially near the end LOL! If you guys want to hear more i'll upload some more...I stopped rapping at 15 though, so I never got really good...I could write better than I could rap pretty much...


Honestly, I don't think that's why most people who try to rap sound like tools. Most people who rap sound like tools because they don't have the confidence and are constantly checking themselves in their minds. As a result, their flow is disrupted. Either that, or they sing/talk fast instead of rapping. That's about 90% of the toolage right there.

Many famous rappers have annoying voices. A lot of people hate Eminem's voice; I, personally, dislike Lupe's rapping voice and I remember a lot of people feeling this way when he was on his way up; I don't like Celph's voice. And, FFS, Guru only raps in one tone. I'm sure there are even people who can bear Freeway's voice.

Points well taken. Honestly, I've never viewed Kanye as being expressive in that way; maybe I just block out his lyrics most of the time, because they do get to be awful at times, lol.

Haha, I actually like the song "Kim," and was listening to "97 Bonnie & Clyde" the other day. I haven't listened to Relapse yet; honestly, never liked his material that much post SS and MM. I'm gonna pick up Relapse and 808's & Heartbreaks this week actually and give both a spin.

Also, cool point about the underground rappers.. I never looked at it from that angle. I think that, at the end of the day, you have to rap or really be into the music genre to appreciate certain things, e.g. battling or a lot of the underground artists. I'm not going to listen to Immortal Technique, because I prefer reading to hip-hop as a source of information. Same with a lot of freestyle rappers - they can freestyle well, but their actual flows are so generic and bland that listening to the battles gets stale, fast.

Are you active on any hip-hop boards? I used to be a lurker at sohh.com but left because 90% of the threads were just dumb as hell. I've picked up quite a lot from you already, so thanks again.

Wow, man, that's really good. How long did it take you to get to that point? Are you sure that's the right file? That doesn't sound like any 15 year old I know, lol. From where I am now, it'll probably be a few months of regular practice until I get to where you were at 15 :(.