I recently issued an extremely ambitious rap challenge to both myself and my subscribers. I asked them to to write 4 bars themed around the topic of New Year’s without an instrumental. And then I would have to construct a full verse out of all these random lyrics and try to figure out a way to rap them over an instrumental of my choosing.
Now The purpose of this challenge is to demonstrate techniques for making lyrics work perfectly over an instrumental that you didn’t even write to.
Also, I wanted to display the songwriting process. Even though these aren’t my lyrics I still have to use songwriting techniques to figure out a way to make all of these random lyrics work together to convey some type of cohesive message.
And I also have to use scatting and engineering/problem-solving techniques to create a dope rap flow that pairs well with the lyrics so I have a lot of work cut out for me. Do you think i’m going to be able to pull this off? Let me know in the comments section below.
So here’s my game plan.
First I’m going to take inventory of all the lyrics I received and then I’m going to set aside the lyrics that really stood out to me.
Next, I’m going to look at all the lyrics that I kept and see if any of them seem to connect to each other in any type of way and if so I’ll group them together.
I’m also considering which lyrics may be good for starting and ending the verse.
And I’ll get rid of anything that feels redundant, or unnecessary in context with how the verse begins to take form.
My goal is to preserve as much of the original lyrics as possible that I decide to keep but I do expect to have to tweak the lyrics at times to make them flow better over the instrumental. Remember, my audience wrote these lyrics without an instrumental and it’s on me to make sure they have an awesome rap flow.
STEP 1: TAKING INVENTORY
I received 38 submissions and got rid of 24 which left me with 14
At four bars a piece I now have a total of 56 bars which is still way more than I need for a verse.
I’m going to try to keep the verse around 24 bars but I’m willing to go over that amount as long as the verse doesn’t feel like it’s dragging.
STEP 2: ORGANIZING STEP 01
Now that I have all of my favorite lyrics together I’ve started to put them into colored groups based on their similarities.
Pink: Serious Tone
Purple: Thriving For Success
Green: Making Music
And I’ve placed my lyrics that I felt could be good for starting the verse at the beginning and the the ones I felt could be good closers at the ending.
I really liked Condraks lyrics for the beginning because of it’s repetition and that he asked the question “why am I still here” The intro of many stories regardless if it’s in a song or a movie begins with some type of conflict. Condrak introduced an internal conflict when he asked “why am I still here” which gives us room to create a resolution to this conflict by the end of the verse.
Also, Rebecca’s lyrics felt like the perfect follow up because she shared a similar serious tone as Condrak did and she also asked the question “will I run into unkind sands of time at midnight” I like how she personified sands of time as if it were a person. Also, by saying “time at midnight” she’s established a time frame for this verse. This is another helpful thing to establish during the intro of a story sometimes.
Also her use of the word “fine” rhymed with Condrak’s last end rhyme “line” which created a smooth transition.
The Seige/Flippin Bars
I felt like The Seige Flippin’ Bars was the strongest candidate for an ending. He provided a resolution to the conflict from the beginning of the verse by stating “I cannot be stopped, I keep evolvin”. Also since he’s juggling multiple rhyme schemes both internal and end rhymes this will sound very impressive which allows the verse to end on a high note.
Purverse & Explained Through Rap
I liked how Purverse and Explained Through Rap’s lyrics played off each other. They’re both themed around partying which I felt also belongs toward the end of the verse so that we end on a fun, upbeat, celebratory type of vibe.
Perverse set up Explained Through Rap’s lyrics because he said “we don’t care who hears”
And then Explained Through Rap said “Speakers bumpin got tha people jumpin”. Because of this I decided to put Purverses lyrics before Explained Through Rap.
STEP 2: ORGANIZING STEP 02
Now that I have a solid beginning and ending established I’m going to start focusing on the middle.
This is an important songwriting technique I don’t want you to overlook. It can be very advantageous to think about the ending of a verse or song at the beginning of writing it. This gives you a destination that will allow your songwriting to have direction. I often like to approach songwriting like driving a car. When I start driving a car I already have a destination in mind and a route on how to get there. This will prevent your songwriting process from being like a freestyle and will give you a clear direction in your writing.
Now I’m going to focus on lyrics that help me transition out of the beginning of the verse.
I felt K.C. James lyrics would be a perfect way to pick up after Rebecca because his tone still sounds serious and the timeline matches up because he says “it’s almost 2024”
Lil Chewy’s lyrics was a perfect follow-up because he shifted the focus from what he was doing to what veryone else was doing in regards to writing a bunch of empty promises that they’re not going to fulfill. This also shifted the tone of the lyrics from sounding soft, gentle, and serious, to sounding more aggressive and confrontational. This shift in tone and perspective gave the verse some momentum.
Ken At Rap Opera Central
And Ken At Rap Opera Central was the perfect follow-up to Lil Chewy’s lyrics because he’s stating it’s redundant to make resolutions when you’re constantly in a state of improvement. This also matches the tone of Lil Chewy’s lyrics.
Now since I used Ken’s lyrics this is going to eliminate some of the other lyrics I have to choose from that talk about using resolutions to make improvements since that would create a contradiction in my position that I have now taken in my verse with not making resolutions.
Because of this I had to get rid of the following people’s lyrics
Vivid because his lyrics spoke about surrendering bad habits.
DJ Glenn because he was talking about making changes, not making the same mistakes, etc..
I also decided to get rid of Mad Soldiers lyrics because he said “rising up from the shadows”. So coming from a place of darkness into the light. If the direction of the verse would have been about overcoming adversity this would have been perfect. But since the verse started from a place of uncertainty, and has now evolved to a position of confidence and assurance it wouldn’t make since to say “I rise up from the shadows” at this point of the verse.
I also decided to get rid of Zom B’s lyrics for a similar reason. His lyrics are about starting a business which doesn’t really connect with the other lyrics I picked. Also “It’s rising from the underground” is a similar angle as Mad Soldier as far as rising, coming up, which doesn’t match the new confident stance I’ve taken with Ken’s lyrics.
X The Elephant
I also decided to get rid of X The Elephants lyrics because it was speaking more from strictly a battle rapping perspective.
And I decided to keep MC Benny’s lyrics because I felt it was a good transition into the partying lyrics since he spoke about “being grateful to be alive, so let’s spark some bud up and get fried”.
The main songwriting takeaway here is this. When you’re writing lyrics be mindful of how everything is connecting together to ensure it makes sense. I’ve already been keeping tabs on the tone that’s being used, and the time being before New Year’s and now the position of not making new years resolutions.
I also double-checked my ending bars to ensure that still fit my new position and even though The Siege used the word “resolution” the context still fits because he said “I resolve to keep revolvin” “I cannot be stopped I keep evolvin” which connects with Ken’s lyrics “peak stay the goal”. They’re both talking about improving on top of improvements. Not correcting bad habits.
STEP 3: TRIMMING
Now I have a total of 36 bars and I’m going to back through and trim out anything I feel I don’t need.
On Condrak’s lyrics I decided to cut out his last two bars because it’s talking about breaking out of a loop that you’re stuck in which doesn’t connect with Ken’s position of “no need for change”
On Rebecca’s lyrics I decided to get rid of the last two lines because I felt her lyrics transitioned into K.C.’s lyrics better without them. KC mentioned 2024 in his lyrics and she already said 2023 in her first line and I didn’t want there to be an overuse of years in these bars.
I also find her question “will I run into unkind sands of time at midnight” kind of funny now because by the end of this verse to ring in new years we’re going to be partying like crazy! This creates some good contrast to be unsure at the beginning and by the end of this verse were confident and having a great time.
Also by me removing her last two lines it creates a new rhyme scheme with KC with her “night” and his “life’s”.
On MC Benny’s lyrics I removed the last two bars for a similar reason as Rebecca’s with their being an over usage of the “year” since perverse begins his lyrics with “2024”
STEP 4: ENGINEERING
Now that my verse is laid out for me it’s time to start doing some engineering. Engineering is when we fix problems. These lyrics will not automatically sound awesome over the instrumental. This is where I’m going to lean on my scatting skills to come up with cadences that fit these lyrics perfectly.
But I’m not just tweaking the cadences here, I’m also tweaking the lyrics to make them all work together.
Some bars may have too many syllables to fit within the bar and I may have to say the same thing in fewer syllables in order to fix it.
Or the opposite may occur when I don’t have enough syllables within a bar and I need to say the same thing in more syllables so I don’t have to pause as much or stretch out syllables in an unnatural way.
Also, I may tweak the lyrics just so it matches the cadences that I come up with a little better.
These are the 3 things we’re using during engineering to make our lyrics and cadences work perfectly together.
For this challenge, I decided to rap over a MF Doom inspired instrumental that I produced called “Ground Zero.” If you like this instrumental and want to support the channel I’ll post a link to it in the video description below.
Okay, on Condrak’s lyrics I had previously removed 2 bars. He originally submitted 5 bars so now I only have 3, so I wrote 1 bar leading into his 4th bar to even things out. his 2nd bar was pretty empty so I filled it in with some more lyrics. And on his last bar I added the word “really” because I felt it made it flow better.
My rap flow is pretty straightforward here. I lead into the 1st beat by saying “one more” at the end of the bar before and I placed the rest of my “one more’s” that are at the end of the bars at the same place.
Rebecca’s lyrics worked perfectly as is. I placed the first “twenty” at the empty space left on the end of the 4th bar of Condrak’s lyrics. And the cadence I used here and delivery reminded me of DMX. Here’s how it sounds.
I made a couple of small tweaks to KC James lyrics. I added the word “an” on the 2nd bar to help it flow better and on his 4th bar I removed the word “the” and shaved the “s” off of “new years” because it was causing this bar to feel too dense.
I placed a pause after rebecca’s last word “midnight” and I placed his first word “man” at the end of Rebecca’s last bar and I added a pause on his 1st bar after “book”. These pauses were needed because the verse as been really dense up until now and needed just a little bit of space to breathe which also gave me some flexibility to play with the rap flow a bit more.
Now I didn’t have to do much to LIL’ Chewy’s lyrics. All I changed was on the 4th bar I shaved the “r” off of “they’re” to say “they” just to make this line roll off the tongue a little better.
Since I filled in all of KC’s last bar I started on the 1st beat of lil chewy’s bar.
Ken At Rap Opera Central
Now when it came to Ken’s lyrics I didn’t have to do much tweaking either. His lyrics weren’t very dense so I added 3 pauses. One at the beginning of the 1st bar and after the word “go” and on the 2nd bar after the word “flow”.
I also added stress on the word go and no to make those rhymes stand out more. I did the same for “matter” and “calendar”. And here’s how it sounds.
Now when it comes to MC Benny’s lyrics, his first bar was filling a bit too crowded so I removed a syllable from “doesn’t” by replacing it with “don’t”.
Now on Purverse’s lyrics, he left plenty of room in his bars, and since we are now partying I wanted the flow to sound more relaxed and drawn out so I decided to stretch his end rhymes out alot! This reminds me of Ludacris, TI, and Young Jezzy’s flow. I punched in every line so that I could start rapping on top of the tail ends of his words. And it makes it sound so smooth.
The only change I made to his lyrics was on his 2nd bar because I needed to fill it in more to match my flow so I removed “and” and replaced it with “open up” which is 3 syllables.
Explained Through Rap
Now I didn’t have to do much tweaking on Explained Through Raps lyrics. On the 2nd bar I added “is” just to get it closer to the rap flow I was going for. And I added a pause at the beginning of every bar which is a big part of the groove I created for my cadences here.
The Siege/Flippin Bars
And for The Siege I didn’t have to tweak any of his lyrics. I just made sure he had a fair amount of pauses because I wanted to create a climactic build-up for his 4th bar. Having more pauses allowed the energy of the cadences to fall back just a little while still sounding aggressive. I also made sure to pause on the 1st bar after ”revolution“because this was the end of his first statement. If I didn’t pause here it wouldn’t have the same impact on the listener and would sound like a run-on sentence instead of a completed thought.
I wanna send out a special thanks to everyone who submitted lyrics! Ya’ll are awesome and I sincerely appreciate your participation!
Again my name is Cole Mize with colemizestudios.com where I strive to make you a better rapper now! Check below for a link to my eBook The #1 fundamental to rapping. And always remember when it comes to rapping, there’s no rules, there’s only techniques, peace!