Top 5 Mistakes Rappers Make When Learning How To Rap

TOP_5_MISTAKES_RAPPERS_MAKE_WHEN_LEARNING_HOW_TO_RAP

I’ve been rapping for a little over 18 years and have been teaching on the subject of how to rap for about 1 1/2 years as I write this. In this article I will give you inside information on what I’ve found to be the top 5 mistakes I’ve found rappers making while their learning how to rap. I hope this article will help prevent you from making the same mistakes and give you more of a focus on the steps you need to take in order to get better at rapping quicker.

1. Can’t Identify Beats

If you’re wanting to learn how to rap there is a certain order that you need to follow in order for everything to work together like it’s supposed to. I’ve noticed quite a few rappers either skip this step or just don’t spend enough time on it before moving on. Consequently they rap off beat and their lyrics lack structure which makes it nearly impossible to rap their lyrics the same way twice.

Being able to count beats is the foundation you will be building everything else off of. A house is only as good as the foundation that it’s built upon so do not rush this step! In my opinion this is the most critical area to becoming a better rapper and it’s also the very first step.

A good exercise is to get in the habit of counting quarter notes, eighth notes, and then 16th notes to any song you listen to. Also try to do this without any music and see if your able to space the notes out evenly using your own internal tempo and play around with speeding it up and slowing it down.

A good indication that you’ve gotten good enough at this step to move on is when you listen to music and you can instantly lock into it’s tempo and easily do all the different counts without even having to think about it. At this point it becomes more naturally and instinctive.

Being able to count beats will also enable you to count bars. So when someone hits you up to be featured on a song with them and they ask you for 16 bars you will know exactly how long your verse should be.

 2. Can’t Identify Drums

I must admit that at first this one took be my surprise. After working with many rappers I discovered that quite a few wasn’t able to identify the kick and the snare drums in a song. This kind of ties into the previous mistake I just mentioned because kick and snare drums typically fall in line with the 4 beats in each bar. Being able to identify the kick and the snare gives you anchor points and kind of acts as training wheels .

I actually have gotten in the habit of asking my friends randomly if they know what a kick or a snare is and if they can identify them in a song. Most can’t because they simply haven’t trained their ears to do so. I first was officially introduced to music as a kid when I joined my elementary schools competition band so I’ve always been around a lot of different instruments and can easily identify them in a song.

However many people don’t have a musical background to fall back on when they start rapping so they don’t have a point of reference when trying to identify kicks and snares in a song. Your rap skills will benefit greatly once you’re able to identify the kick and snare drums as they will help keep you on beat. So spend some time training your ear to hear these two different percussive instruments as they will help keep you on beat and guide you as you start developing your flow and lyrics around them.

3. Can’t Identify The Structure Of An Instrumental

Another common struggle for many rappers who are learning how to rap is understanding the song structure of an instrumental. This can cause you two write verses and hooks in the wrong places and also cause them to be uneven in length.

Once again this can fall back on not being able to count beats. As there are 4 beats in 1 bar and typically 16 bars in 1 verse and 8 bars in 1 hook. Being able to count the bars out will give you a good indication of what section of a song you are in.

Another thing to pay attention to is different sections of a song typically sound different. For example intros and outro’s often have less instruments in them than any other section of the instrumental. Intro’s and outro’s often times don’t have any drums in them as well. Typically hooks are the highest point of the song and often have the most instruments. And verses typically have fewer instruments than the hook to create more room for the main vocals.

Spend some time breaking down each section of the songs you’re listening to so you can more easily figure out the songs structure.

4. To Much Focus Put On Rapping

You may be wondering how can someone put to much focus on rapping? Think of what happens when your eyes are focusing on something close up, everything that you’re not focusing on becomes blurred and out of focus just like how a camera works. However when you zoom out of that ultra focused position you can see everything at once.

Well there’s more to rapping than just rapping right? What do people rap?……LYRICS!! I’ve found rappers who are just learning how to rap tend to put more focus on their flow aka cadence than they do their lyrics. But here’s the problem, they both work together and each of them need much focus.

For example if you come up with a nice flow to a track and then just haphazardly write your lyrics then their not going to play well with each other. When you’re scatting to a track in theory you’re randomly playing around with creating different cadences. Once you’ve come up with a few cadences that you like you then need to write your lyrics to the cadence. This can take time in order to pick the right combination of words that have the right syllable count to play well with your cadence.

Also I’ve noticed a lot rappers don’t put much thought into the song they’re about to write before hand. They just simply start writing and hope it comes out dope. This is a big missed opportunity because in many cases it produces a song that’s either to predictable or lacks any structured format at all.

Song writing is a skill in and of it’s self. Most rappers are not aware of techniques such as Story Boards that can make their songwriting process much more entertaining and well thought out. Using story boards also makes songwriting much easier because it allows you to plan your song out ahead of time so when you being to start writing your lyrics you know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.

5. Not Practicing Enough

I’ve put countless amounts of hours in creating content that teaches artists how to rap. But here’s the thing, knowledge alone isn’t going to make you a better rapper you have to effectively apply it by putting it into practice on a consistent basis which takes discipline. Learning knowledge but not applying it will give you the same results as being prescribed medicine but not taking it. Always remember that a hard work ethic will trump talent alone any day of the week!

We live in an instant and on demand world. But the truth is that knowledge is only half of the equation. I’ve seen many rappers putting so much weight and pressure on themselves as if they are expecting to be in their prime overnight. Some have been rapping for years but haven’t seen the improvement they expected due to either a lack of practice or an uncertainty of what they need to specifically be working on.

Consequently these type of rappers end up getting frustrated and seriously consider quitting all together. If you identify with this scenario I would say this to you.

You probably starting rapping because it was fun right? You also likely found it to be therapeutic as it’s an avenue that allows you to express yourself. Never loose sight of the beginning and take all of that unhealthy weight and pressure off yourself. This isn’t a race it’s a journey so pace yourself. It’s okay to be new at something and nothing grows to it’s full maturity overnight. I’ve been rapping for over 18 years and I’m still learning and growing. Take your time and practice a lot with implementing the knowledge you’ve learned.

And if you ever need some honest and detailed feedback on where you’re at and what your development opportunities are I would be more than happy to do a music review for you. Or if you feel like some 1 on 1 coaching would be more beneficial I would be more than happy to do that as well. I’m here to help you as much as possible along the way so hang in there and keep up the hard work!

How Did I Do?

Did you find this article helpful? What’s the toughest thing you’re struggling with as a rapper? I’d love to hear from you so make sure you drop your 2 cents in the comments section below!

Comments

  1. Constantin says

    Cole Mize, you helped me a lot to be a better rapper and I appreciate it :D

    Can you please help me with issues that I met? The first one is feeling tired when I perform. When I practice to perform my lyrics, I switch my timer on for 30 min and I start. In 10 to 15 minutes my voice is getting tired so that it’s actually hard to connect words in phrases (it would be much simpler if English were my first language) and in 20-25 minutes I feel really awful after my performance and I also feel like I overworked my voice. How not to overwork it?
    And the last problem so far is my thoughts. You see, as I said before, English is my second language and I’m afraid that people won’t like my music because of my accent. What do you think about it?

    Best wishes, Constantin

    • says

      Hey Constantin, Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback! I’m so glad to hear that my content has been helping you out! That’s what it’s all about right there!! :)

      In regards to your question. Yes you are overworking your voice. Keep in mind that when you perform live you will most likely be using a microphone so you won’t have to be that load anyways. Also you may have your music cranked up to loud while practicing which could be causing you to rap louder than you need to. So dial it back at bit and if you still notice your vocals are hurting after you’ve been practicing for a while make sure you’re drinking water to keeps those pipes nice and wet. And consider practicing for a shorter amount of time that’s more comfortable for you. If you’re vocals aren’t used to this kind of strain on them then you might need to build up to it gradually almost like weight lifting.

      You may also benefit greatly from some vocal warm ups before you start practicing. I highly recommend you watch and practice along with these videos https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA5COi4BROahh0GxeO7QR6K6IuFTF7B_q

      And as far as people not liking you because of your accent, I say forget about those people. People who matter don’t mind and people who mind don’t matter. Anyone who doesn’t like you because of your accent isn’t a fan you want anyways. Just be yourself, have fun and make music that’s true to you :) I hope this helps you out! Keep up the hard work and thanks again for reaching out! Much love! :)

  2. Joshua Abbott says

    I having problems rapping what I wrote if its on Evernote or my ipad. When I go to rap it I put feeling in it but it just don’t seem I’m spitting it out fast enough. Thanks again for the tips

  3. says

    Reminds me of a time I asked someone to jump on my track.. I asked for 16 bars and he returned the beat with 20 bars that went into the slot for the chorus.. it surprised and frustrated me because I was sure he knew how to identify a chorus from a verse in an instrumental. So, I had to post-edit some of it out and had to tweak the song structure a bit so I could match what he did. If that was now, I would’ve just scrapped him and asked someone else!

    • says

      I feel your pain bro! I’ve had it happen me on the opposite end. I’ve had artists ask me for 16 bars and wrote it inline with the verse section of the beat and everything and then they tell me I didn’t write 16 bars but it was 12. I just scratch my head and say oookay?? After breaking it down for them on how to count bars it just goes one ear and out the other. But it is what it is lol Thanks for sharing your story. Hopefully this content will help others not make the same mistakes. Thanks for reading and commenting Mike! :)

  4. says

    Thanks for the advice Cole. I’ve been rapping for over ten years and still haven’t totally grasped the concept of counting bars and the musicality of it all. I’m just beginning to make beats, as I hope it helps me better identify song structure, musical notes, etc. since I have little to know experience playing an instrument. God Bless.

    • says

      My pleasure bro! I’m glad that your finding my content helpful! I understand where you’re coming from. I know it can seem overwhelming at first but stick with it! The way you eat an elephant is one piece at a time :)

  5. Constantin says

    Cole, what’s the difference between mixing and mastering? And tell me please what these two actually are because I’m just a beginner and I can’t find out what’s going on. I want to record my vocals and create beat in FL Studio, but I don’t know how to do it, could you please give me some links with the lessons?

    • says

      Constantin, basically mixing music is kind of like mixing a recipe together. Mixing music is all about balancing out all the sounds by giving them their own space in the overall mix so they play well with each other. This is achieved basically by effective use of eq, compression, and volume faders. Mastering is taking a good mix and making it loud as possible and adding additional subtle tweaks if needed. Mastering an album is doing the same thing but also making sure all the songs are relatively equal to one another in volume and sound. If you’re interested in learning more about mixing and mastering check out my fellow mentor and college Graham’s 5 minutes to a better mix series. I couldn’t recommend him more highly! Here’s the link to his youtube playlist

  6. Daniel (Data) says

    How do I ride the beat? I feel like I have trouble finding when to end a bar. I know I have rhythm because I can perfectly execute and make my own click tracks to the snare and kick or to the “pocket of the beat” (where I’m not interfering with any other instruments). I can do the 1234, or 12345678, and I know when to start but ending the bars is difficult. (I just started to try rapping to a beat, so I’m new to this, sorry). Also, I tried doing your scat rap thing, but when I try it, it seems as though my flow just sounds the same throughout the whole verse. Could you help? Thanks. -Data

    • says

      Hey Data,

      It’s great that you have your rhythm down pat. The real easy way to figure out where a bar ends is right after you say 4 when using the 4 count method.

      So when you are going from saying 4 to saying 1 again that’s where 1 bar is transitioning into the next bar.

      Also in regards to scatting, you just need to practice learning different cadences and then start applying several different ones to a beat every 4 to 8 bars or so. I discuss ways you can learn cadences in this video

      I also practice cadences with you in this video

      I hope this helps you out! Keep up the hard work! :)

  7. Constantin says

    Hey, Cole. I just wanted to hear your opinion. I want my voice in rap to be calm, something like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urma71sQXpY
    I don’t really want to shout in a mic like Eminem, but I’ve read somewhere that I have put emotions in my track, I’m so confused now. Watsky raps calm and a lot of people like it, though. What do you think about it?

    • says

      Yeah, emotions being present in a track doesn’t mean it has to be loud and aggressive. It can be smooth and chill as you pointed out. Feel free to study the tones and emotions of more mellow artists such as Jay Z and Common. They do a great job of putting emotions in their songs that aren’t really loud and aggressive. Study them and practice applying a similar feel and tone to your music. I hope this helps :)

      • Constantin says

        Sure, it helps, thanks :D I have one more question. I don’t know how to get onstage, my friends tell me that club owners won’t let me perform because they don’t know me, so how am I to be a performer then? I’ve written lyrics, but I haven’t record them yet, so I don’t have tracks so far, but I can record them any moment on a studio in my town.

        • says

          Hey Constantin, I’m glad that you found it helpful!

          Good question! Step 1 before performing live on stage you want to be as polished in your craft as possible. The same thing applies before recording in the studio. Do a rough draft recording of your best song even if it’s recorded on your phone with the beat playing loud enough in the background and submit it to me for review at http://colemizestudios.com/music-reviews and I will be able to give you tons of helpful feedback on where you’re currently at what you need to be doing to take your rapping to the next level.

          If you need 1 on 1 help applying my critiques and advice I also offer coaching at http://colemizestudios.com/coaching

          Focus on getting as polished as possible before recording in the studio. This also includes your delivery which is something most artists struggle with and I do a lot of coaching on this as well.

          Also go ahead and start focus on building your confidence to perform live in front of people if you feel like you need to.

          One way to work on this in private is to practice rapping in front of a mirror and study your movements and body language and work on being more animated with your body movement. If you need a reference just watch Youtube videos with rappers performing and study their body language. While your practicing at home visualize and imagine that your rapping in front of a group of people and practice working the crowd by making eye contact, pointing at them, interacting with them etc.. If you don’t have a good imagination put you up some teddy bears or something in the room lol! anything physical to represent a person.

          Get your stuff sounding tight in private, so you know for sure you’re going to rip it when you have a live audience. Part of building your confidence building is going to be just rapping in front of crowds period. So if you’re still struggling with being shy in front of crowds keep doing. It will only be temporary.

          After you get your song recorded in the studio. Get some cover art made for it and get some cd’s printed up so people will take you more seriously when you approach them such as club owners. Another way to start doing gigs is to look for open mic events, talent shows etc..

          There’s so much more I could talk about on this topic which again is why I do coaching sessions lol I hope this helps you out! Keep up the hard work bro! :)

          • Constantin says

            Thanks, Cole. You help me out a lot :D By the way can you tell me more about booking gigs? Cause I’m new here and I don’t know how to speak and what to say and where to find those club owners.

          • says

            My pleasure Constantin! Glad to help out! :)

            As far as booking gigs, if you don’t already have a decent size following that you can bring to the club or venue then you will most likely want to approach them asking if they are having any open mics in the future or if he or she would check out your EPK and consider you for opening up for other talent.

            Start doing heavy research in your area and figure out everywhere who has live music, karaoke, concerts, talent shows. Search facebook or google for events going down in your town and see where they’re being held at and find out who to contact. And with this research start building a list of contacts that you can call on and start building a relationship with. I hope this helps :)

          • Constantin says

            Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it :D Here in Russia, it may be difficult because we don’t use Facebook, but anyway we have another popular social network, you can check it out, by the way (vk.com), really great thing :D
            By the way, not long ago I realized that English has a lot of unfamiliar sounds, for example in Russian we use something that seems like /ʌ/ and that’s all. And imagine my expression when I got that this is different from /ɑ:/ and /æ/. So, now I’m learning how to pronounce all the 44 sounds just like a little kid, so difficult, by the way, but I’m going to make it, though :D

          • says

            Hey Constantin My pleasure! Glad to help :) I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be learning a second language. Which language is your native language? Are you going to rap in both languages? That would be pretty cool! Keep up the hard work bro!

          • Constantin says

            My native language is Russian and don’t know if it is a good idea to rap in it. I don’t really like the sound of it, but what I love is the sound of English, so I’ve been studying it for a while to rap in it :D Because I really love rap too.

          • says

            That’s cool man! I think being bilingual can be and advantage. If you ever wanted to make a song targeting your native audience then you could. I think rapping in English will allow you to connect with a broader audience. There’s nothing wrong with doing either or both if you want. Just have fun with it and do what makes sense and sounds good to you :)

          • Constantin says

            That’s right, Cole, music is about having fun, but I’m a bit confused with a couple of thing that I don’t understand. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to sell my music (iTunes, Google Music) now because I’m under 18. I don’t know anything about rights on music, sometimes I see title at sites of rappers like, “All rights reserved”, but how can I reserve my rights? Or how to prove iTunes and Google Music that my music is mine and nobody else’s? Or what if I share my music for free on sites like Bandcamp and somebody will put it on iTunes for money, telling that my music belongs to him. It’ll be just awful. So all these questions confuse me so much now. Could you please bring some clarity here? :)

          • says

            Hey Constantin, I’m not sure about the age restriction for selling your music online. I would imagine there would be an age restriction because you will have to have payment information setup such as a PayPal or banking account. You may be able to ask a family member to help you out in that regard.

            As far as copyright’s go, there’s nothing you can really do to keep anyone from taking your music and using it. But there are precautions you can take to help prevent it as much as possible. Remember locks only keep honest people out and contacts are only for honest people. And you can simply put all rights reserved on anything you want. It’s just a warning to deter people from abusing content that’s all.

            Nowadays when you do a digital release of music on platforms such as iTunes and Amazon music through a company such as tunecore they will embed your music file with a code or the music will be stored in a data base so when someone else tries to upload your music on youtube or soundcloud it will get flagged for using 3rd party copywritten material. I’m going to look more into the details of how this all works and will be writing a blog about it soon. I hope this helps you out :)

          • Constantin says

            Thank you, you did a great job and sometimes I think the only person who really cares of my rap career is you :)

          • says

            My pleasure Contanstin! I really do care and I’m just trying my best to be a positive influence and resource for up and coming rappers do grow in their craft. I have a passion for seeing others succeed and I love to see others doing good for themselves. That’s what it’s all about :)

          • Constantin says

            Well, you have already done a great job :) By the way, I did some calculations and realized that recording my first mixtape is really expensive and I have no money to do that, but I can create beats so what I wanted to ask was, do you know some shops where I can put my beats to sell them? If so, would you recommend me put a limiter on the master channel in FL Studio before I sell my beat? If I do that then mixing with vocals will be impossible, but beat will get a great sound, though.

          • says

            Hey Constantin, Thanks again for all the wonderful feedback! I appreciate that! Yes a few stores you may want to consider selling your beats off of are mysflashstore.net, beatbrokerz.com, and soundlick.com There are more so feel free to keep searching if you wish. There’s nothing wrong with putting a limited on the master fader to make the beat as loud as possible. This is a technique of mastering. The main thing you should be concerned about is making sure that the beat is mixed properly. When an artist goes into the studio the overall volume of the beat can easily be brought down as low as desired to give more headroom for the vocals. I hope this helps and I’m wishing you the best with your best selling endeavors. :)

          • Constantin says

            Thanks, I checked a couple of stores out and saw that one beat can have a lot of kinds of licence (some cost cheap like $25, another cost a lot (from $200)) and how do I make sure that the person who bought the cheapiest licence won’t do anything that licence bans. For example, he’s allowed to record one track, but he is going to record 2 or more and not going tell me about this. Do I have to track every person who I sell beats to?

          • says

            Hey Contantin, that’s a good question. Contracts are just like locks on doors they are only for honest people. Unfortunately there’s no sure way to know if someone is violating the contract unless you are following their work very closely. If you’re selling beats to hundreds of artists this will be impossible to keep up with.

            Here’s a good video breaking down copyrights and protecting yourself as a producer/artist. Hope this helps :)

    • says

      Hey Edgar, thanks for reading my article and I’m glad to hear that you really really really enjoyed it! :) That’s what it’s all about! I hope it helps you in continuing to perfect your craft. And thanks for sharing your song with me I really did enjoy it! I think you did a good job with it! You’ve got a lot of potential! I have a lot of feedback I could give you on that track to help you polish your future songs more. If you ever want me to review your music feel free to get a music review from me at http://colemizestudios.com/music-reviews

      Keep on making good music! Much love and respect! :)

  8. says

    Cole you have some good stuff to say about the art of becoming a proficient lyricist. I would like to think that I have some sort of background in music but I still see where improvements can be made, so in essence, I find your objective yet introspective method to be refreshing. It’s definitely a good approach to circumventing writer’s block which can haunt those who are critical of everything. I sometimes develop artist by having them to start with a story board of sorts and then map out rhyming words. I then ask the artist does the lyrical energy match the song, this helps some identify the cadence a little better. Also identifying the artist influences also gives me a more concise idea of what sound the artist is striving to master. Content is important as well, this is easier to monitor when outlining or story boarding the song.

    • says

      Hey William, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’m glad that you enjoyed this article! And I sincerely appreciate all of your positive feedback! :)

      I’m a big fan of the storyboard method as well and am glad to hear that you are incorporating it in the lessons you are giving other artists! That’s what’s up! Keep up the hard work bro and I will continue to do the same! :)

    • says

      Hey Liam, thanks for the positive feedback and for sharing your work with me. I just checked out your article and was very impressed with it. I think it’s a great overall guide for rappers just starting out. It’s good to see others giving back to the community. Keep up the good work and I wish you the best in helping groom the next generation of rappers! Much love and respect! :)

  9. Zackaroni-n-cheese says

    hey man im a new rapper and you seem like you know your stuff pretty well. im asking if i can send you some of my songs and give me positive and negative feed backs. my rap name is zackaroni-n-cheese and i follow the strange music group. my favorite rappers are tech n9ne and stevie stone. so if you could help me out id really apprecitate it. thank you

  10. Tom tucker says

    Honestly this wasnt good advice on a descriptive level. But did ease my nerves. Lately ive been frustrated because i saw a demotion in ny rapping and has led me to a depressed frustrated stage. Almost to the point of quitting but now i see a lot of things i could work on that ive always noticed but couldn’t figure out. So i guess it was good advice. This article really soothed my nerves and helped me gain my confidence back. Thank you. I will bookmark this and analyze it tomorrow and trouble shoot my issues.

    • says

      Hey Tom,

      I’m glad that you found my article helpful. Yeah this article didn’t go into much details about the details of the problems because I’ve already spoken about them at great length and I linked to those articles within this article so make sure you check those out if you are wanting to dive in deeper. I’m really glad this article was timely for you and encouraged you to keep pushing forward! Feel free to stop by anytime and check out more of my articles :)

  11. Tari says

    hey cole,
    people say I’m really good when I rap buh I listen to other rappers and score their song but wen I wanna write mine its so difficult like I just cant come up with .
    What should I do?

    • says

      Hey Tari, rapping someone else’s lyrics compared to writing your own lyrics are totally different. If you want to learn much more about the process and how it works make sure you check out my new video series I’m currently doing called How To Rap A Verse I think it will help you greatly! :)

  12. says

    I Think One of the first mistakes new rappers make is reading a blog about how to write a rap lol. I’m not clowning this blog. I come from an era when you learned how to rap just by listening to other rappers. That was it.

    • says

      Hey XiK, thanks for checking out my article and I understand where you’re coming from because that’s the era I came from as well. Tho I respectfully disagree that someone learning from a site such as mine is a mistake. I consider it an advantage for someone to be able to learn techniques quickly that otherwise may take them years of frustration and trial and error. But regardless of how a person learns the most important thing is that they learn. And when someone listens to a song all that matters to them is if the song is dope or not. :)

  13. dreasdaprauphit says

    I have a question. ok people tell me that I rap too fast and I try too hard when I rap but the main reason is because each bar I use hella syllables and I want to fit it to a trap beat. (which takes many agonizing hours of practice and thought) how do I manage to keep the same flow but make people understand what Im saying? (I hope you catch my drift bc honestly idk how to say what I want to say)

  14. says

    Hey cole i have a video of me spitting acapella now what my question is would you be willing to listen to it and maybe give you some feedback I’m trying to find my voice you know I know it’s a lot of rappers that change their voice when they rap well I really don’t like my voice so I try to play with you but I feel like it doesn’t have feeling emotion and I feel like it’s forced I just want to find my voice you have any tips is that what Cadence’s is Cadence the way you sound

    • says

      Hey Jeff, if you would like to me to review your work please check out my 1 on 1 coaching service or my music review service I offer here on my website. What you’re referring to is delivery which is all about your vocal tone, and emotion. Cadence is how you dance to the track with your words. If you would like a quick and simple break down of all the main elements of rapping watch this old throwback video of mine entitles WHAT IS RAP?

      Also feel free to search my website there’s tons of great content on here that will help you out. If you have anymore questions please let me know. Keep up the hard work Jeff! You got this bro!! :) – Cole Mize

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