Once I got decent at rapping I still couldn’t write a good rap hook to save my life! Writing hooks for my rap songs was something I struggled with for many years and it’s very common for the majority of budding rappers to find themselves struggling with writing hooks as well. Well now, writing hooks has become one of my strengths and within this article, I’ll be sharing with you my top 5 tips to help you overcome this obstacle as well. LET’S GET IT!!
1. The Instrumental
You must first pick an instrumental that you not only think sounds good, but it must move you emotionally. Sometimes finding the perfect instrumental takes time. Once you find an instrumental that causes you to make that “doo doo face” like someone let one rip in the room and you start bobbing your head uncontrollably, then you know you have found “it”.
2. Storm And Board
Now while the instrumental is still fresh in your mind, determine the emotions that you’re feeling from it and write it down. Also, jot down any memories or thoughts that come to mind as the music causes this to happen, so it’s important to capture it while it’s fresh. This is called brainstorming.
Now it’s time to flesh out your brainstorm ideas and commit to a concept for the song. You will likely notice a theme to the random ideas and memories you jotted down previously. Your concept for your song can be a simple few words that sum up what the song will be about. Such as “growing old” or “It’s a cold world”
Now it’s time to create a storyboard which is basically a blueprint on how you wish to structure your ideas within the song. As a songwriter, you’re like a camera filming your own movie. With your storyboard, you can creatively determine different angles and perspectives to share with your audience. To learn more about this check out my article on creating storyboards. This will be largely based upon how many verses will be in the song so it’s important to identify the song structure of the instrumental at this point as well. If you’re unsure how to do that be sure to check out my video where I explain how to identify song structure.
3. Rap, Melody, or Both?
Now that you have a really good idea of what the song is about and where it’s going you are now ready to start focusing on the hook.
At this stage, you must determine if the hook should be strictly melodic (singing) or rhymic (rapping) or a combination of both. You really won’t know for sure which is going to work for the song until you start experimenting. But it all ties back into the emotion of the song. The hook must capture the emotion of the song.
At this stage, it’s important to identify the key of the song. The key of the song is the musical scale the song was created in. There are many musical scales and each uses its own specific combination of notes. So if you’re going to do anything melodic you need to know the scale the song was made in so you know which notes you can use that will sound good.
Some producers include the key and the tempo of their instrumentals when you purchase beats from them but this isn’t always the case.
If you use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) it may have the capability to detect the key of the song. If not you can use some free DJ Software like Serato DJ Lite to detect the key of the instrumental.
Once I have detected the key of the instrumental I then like to load up a Auto-Tune type of plugin and then I set it to the key of the instrumental. That way I don’t have to think anymore about what notes are being used in the scale for the song. I can then simply sing through the autotune plugin live which helps me come up with melodies with ease. It also helps with getting better at singing because it gives you live feedback on how much you are out of tune.
If you don’t have any Autotune software check out this article which shares several you can get for free.
4. Vibe Out
This is where the magic happens! Now it’s time to vibe out and start scatting all different types of cadences and melodies until you find that perfect combination that makes you feel the same way you did when you first heard the instrumental. Doo Doo face and all! lol!
There are times where I nail down the scat for the hook within 5-10 minutes but there are also times where I may spend 45 minutes to an hour doing this. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you. All that matters is you find that perfect combination that fits the vibe and emotion of the song perfectly. I like to call this process vibing out. Some people also refer to it as a “flow state” where you lose your sense of time because you get so caught up in the moment. If you would like to see me doing this live check out this video.
If you’re shooting blanks when it comes to coming up with melodies, the same concept applies that I share in this article on scatting.
You may need to take some time to learn more hooks that you love. It’s okay if you’re not an amazing singer! You can always get someone else to sing your hook if need be. But you need to learn as many melodic patterns as possible to help you nail down your own melodic patterns for your hooks.
Once you have found that magical combination of scatting for the hook it’s time to translate it to real words that support the concept of your song. The best tip to remember here is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple STUPID!). lol!
If you want your hook to connect with as many people as possible it’s best to keep it somewhat simple and vague. This is important for several reasons.
– It will relate to more people
– It will be easier to remember the first time someone hears it and get stuck in their head.
– It will give you much more flexibility when you write your verses afterward so you won’t feel boxed into a corner.
– It will create more suspense so that the direction you’re going in your song is as obvious.
Here’s an example of a hook that might be too specific.
“I broke up with Sammy last week because she was cheating on me with my best friend Jason”
Let’s revise that so it’s a little less specific
“Who can you trust? When everyone around you, seems to always down you”
You can always get more specific about how Sammy and Jason betrayed you in your verses.
So just to recap, the 5 keys to writing a good rap hook are as follows
1. Pick an instrumental that moves your emotionally
2. Brainstorm the concept of the song and create a storyboard
3. Determine if the hook will be Melodic, Rapping, or a combination of both.
4. Vibe out, get lost in the music with scatting melodies and cadences until you find the magic.
5. Translate your scat to lyrics that support the song but Keep it somewhat simple and vague.
And as I always say, there are no rules when it comes to rapping or writing a hook. This is simply a peek behind the hood of my workflow that has gotten me consistent results. But you should always follow the inspiration!
If you load up an instrumental and instantly start working on the hook before brainstorming and storyboarding then run with it! You can always go back to those steps afterward. The most important thing is for you to create your songs in a way that makes you feel free and not restricted and I hope these tips help you achieve just that!