It’s one thing to know how to rap but knowing how to write a rap song is a completely different ballgame. In this article I will break down the key fundamentals to aid you during your future song writing journeys. These techniques will help you approach songwriting with a more methodical and foccused approach and will help you build your songs with finesse.
I like to think of a song like a movie. Movies are stories, experiences & journeys that captivate you. They give you experiences that you otherwise would have never had. They can make you feel scared, anxious, curious, adventurous, enlightened and inspired. They can effect you so much emotionally that they can make you cry, laugh so hard you nearly pee yourself and have you so excited and tense to where you’re on the edge of your seat. These are the side effects of skilled writing.
Plethora Of Variations
There are many different types of rap songs which serve different purposes. They range from story telling, poetic, social awareness, political, activism, self awareness, conspiracy, paranormal, spiritual, religious, educational, inspirational, club, dance and party, violence, self centered and boastful, comedic, parodies, battle/diss tracks, freestyles, cyphers, memorials and current events.
As you can see there is a plethora of different types of rap songs just as there are different types of movies. And the style and format that you write a song will be greatly influenced by the type of song that you’re writing.
A Different Approach
When we think of the concept of how to write a rap song most of us tend to only think about writing lyrics which I consider to be the 3rd and final stage of the song writing process. But before you move on to lyrics try using these 2 steps first.
An Introduction To Storyboards
Storyboards are used by people who make movies and interactive media. It’s basically just a series of still frame pictures they draw up that helps them visually organize their strategy and concept of telling their story. This often times includes camera angles, direction for people to walk during the shot, different scenes to cut to, wardrobe etc..
I recommend applying the storyboard concept to the second stage of your song writing process. Now you don’t have to draw still frame pictures or anything like that unless you want to. In this application i’m just recommending using the concept of storyboards. I consider this conceptual writing and it will allow you to write your song in a more well thought out way. This is how it works.
A Storm Is Coming!
Let’s say I’m moved to write a song about a friend that passed away. I would first start by organizing my thoughts by writing my concepts down of what I would like the song to be about and what overall message I would like to convey. This is called brainstorming and is stage 1 of the song writing process. It would look a little something like this.
Life is to short, cherish the time with others that you have, you never know the last time you will get to see a person, make time for those you care about, don’t allow unresolved matters to linger with people you care about, tell and more importantly show others you appreciate them, make the most out of life.
Painting With Words
Now that I’ve got my thoughts down I will then cherry pick through what I want to use for this song. Keep in mind that you don’t have to literally say what you want to convey to the listener. The art of painting pictures through lyrics is to present and describe something in such a way where the listener realizes the points you are wanting to make without you having to say it specifically. For example instead of you saying it was a beautiful day you describe your day in such a way where the listener thinks “that sounds like a beautiful day”.
So for this song I’ve decided to try and convey the following: Life is to short, cherish the time with others that you have, you never know the last time you will get to see a person, make time for those you care about, make the most out of life.
After The Storm
Now that my brainstorming is done I’m ready to move on to stage 2 and start creating my storyboard which will layout the basic format of how I want to present my story for my song. It’s important to pick out which song structure you would like to use at this point. For this example i’ll be using a standard song structure.
- Intro: Receive a voicemail from my friend inviting me to a strip club for his birthday
- Verse 1: Me responding back wishing him a happy birthday and explaining why I’ve chosen to take a pass on the invite since I’m a married man
- Hook 1: I’m sorry I couldn’t make it but I hope we can hangout soon
- Verse 2: Me talking to my friend about how 1 year has passed, the time has flew by, life is busy and congratulating him on recently getting married, briefly speaking on their wedding “so that the part in the hook that says sorry I couldn’t make it still connects with the verse” and having a kid on the way. Verse ends with me asking my friend to let me know when he is free so we can hangout and catch up.
- Hook 2: I’m sorry I couldn’t make it but I hope we can hangout soon
- Verse 3: I start speaking to my friend in the past tense about all the good times we had, telling him how much I appreciated him always keeping it real throughout the years, and how I’m proud of the man that he became. Towards the end of the verse I express how hurt I was when I found out he died in a car accident and how much I regret we never got to hang out one last time. “which connects with hook”
- Hook 3 I’m sorry I couldn’t make it but I hope we can hangout soon “Now hangout soon has new meaning as it’s referring to hoping to see him in the after life.
- Outro: As the music fades out sound fx of birds flying away enters symbolizing life moving forward, not being weighed down by the gravity of the tragedy, and being free and weightless.
Drawing & Painting
All that is left for me to do now is stage 3 which is writing lyrics that will paint a vivid picture of the storyboard that I’ve created. So to quickly recap the three stages of the song writing process are as follows
- Brainstorming ideas of what you want to say
- Storyboard & picking the song format
- writing lyrics that paint the pictures of your storyboard to the song format you chose.
How Did I Do?
I hope that you found this article helpful and that these techniques serve you greatly during your song writing process. If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you so make sure you drop your 2 cents in the comments section below.