The previous articles show you how to practice creating rap lyrics everyday, what music to listen to and fundamental ideas to become a good rapper. The foundation of the rap game has been set. Moving forward, we will build upon this foundation by adding techniques to make our lyrics more entertaining and meaningful.
The Writing Process for Rap Lyricists
Think of the process of becoming an artist like a map in your mind.
When you move to a new city, you come to know your neighbourhood, the main streets, the routes you routinely take. Your mental map is relatively low resolution. The longer you live in the city, the better you will come to know the back streets, different parts of town. The resolution of your mental map gets better..
The Micro Level
We start the process with a narrow view of the map by focusing on the most nuanced techniques. We analyze the game down to the level of a single bar, and break it down to it’s syllables.
That is the subject of the posts in this category, titled “Tha Foundation.” How to make each bar the best it can be. Adding in techniques, depth of rhymes and vividness of language.
The focus of the micro level is the answer to the question: “what do I do?” That is the first thing people want to know. What do I say? What are the exact actions to take to become good at what I do?
In this level we show the exact things to practice. When you internalize the smallest techniques, writing becomes second nature.
The Meso Level
Next, we zoom out to a wider view of the map. This section is called “Tha Advanced,” where we focus on how to create verses out of your written lyrics from the micro level.
The question is no longer ‘what do I do?’ but ‘how do I do it?’ How do I structure my verse? How do I perform this piece in the most effective way? This point in the process is called the ‘meso’ level, the middle level. This is the process of learning to form a complete thought and idea.
The Macro Level
As you build a repertoire of verses you learn how to present your art to the masses. You get to the core of rapping. The question is now ‘why?’ Why do I rap and what am I trying to say? You begin to think on the level of completed songs. The best sub-genre to use and it’s conventions. What is the purpose of my song and what am I trying to say?
This is the category I call “Tha Master,” the macro level of the game. This is the game as it appears to everyone on the outside.
And when you complete the macro-level, where do you go from there? You take all of your material and turn it into songs. Then you go back to the micro level and do it all over again, this time with experience under your belt.
The Principle of Iterations
In mathematics, they call this method iterations. They set out to find the answer to an equation, by plugging a number in and taking it to it’s natural conclusion. If they are wrong, they try again with a different number. This time, if they are closer they proceed in the same direction. If they are farther away from the correct answer they go in the opposite direction. Eventually, after several iterations, they find the correct answer.
As writers, we do the same thing. We write, revise and rewrite. Sometimes we put it away and come back to it later. They call this ‘chunking.’ You get frustrated with your work and you stop. You play a video game, or watch a show. You come back with a new perspective. Suddenly your problems are gone. You figured it out in the off time without any effort. This is your brain learning and building new pathways. Creation doesn’t happen instantly, it takes time.
The Problem of Low Resolution
Most teachers of rap and critics of rap music approach the game with a macro level point of view.
The critics talk about themes and subject matter, applying labels of “good” or “bad” to a project with little or no knowledge or acknowledgement of technique and structure.
Rap music teachers provide superficial insight to their students, inaccurate details on technique or focusing on the wrong methods. They tell you how to get lots of followers on Instagram, but they can’t tell you how to write a decent punchline.
The problem is that the critics and teachers are giving you a low resolution map to follow. They give a macro level view, how to write a song, how to build an image and a persona. How people see the game from the outside. Why teach someone how to write a song if they can’t write a bar? Approaching the game from a macro level without awareness of the micro level makes you rely entirely on your talent, instead of letting your talent flourish with a foundation of knowledge.
Now that we have discussed what a bar is, how to practice and how to gain inspiration, your focus should be creating a high volume of lyrics to take apart at a later date and turn into verses. As you continue to refine your craft I will show you figures of speech to add to your bars, like metaphors and wordplay, so you can double down on practicing the most effective techniques.
Most importantly, these techniques aren’t worth anything if you don’t practice regularly. Create a habit. Practice every day. Any amount will do. Just make sure you write everyday. Make a commitment. If you can’t commit to your craft you should quit. But, if you choose to dedicate yourself to something bigger than yourself, turn to the next post…