As an educator in the field of learning how to rap I’ve picked up on many common misconceptions. And lies unchecked can become one’s truth. So in my efforts to prevent you from being held back, below I’ve compiled the top 5 things rappers misunderstand the most about songwriting. Let’s get straight to it, shall we?
1. Every Song Must Be About You
We’ve all likely been guilty of this one.
You sit down to write your next song but you are “shooting blanks”. This is commonly known as “writer’s block“.
You’ve already written songs about the horrible EX, why you’re the best rapper in the world, and you have thoroughly explained why you ain’t worried about your haters. Errrrr! What’s left to talk about?
I believe most of us begin rapping because we have something internally that we wish to express. Rapping is an amazing outlet to vent your frustrations and problems about the world around you.
From a songwriting perspective, this is the equivalent of taking a selfie. But guess what? Our lives really aren’t that interesting all of the time!
Shift in Perspective
But there’s good news! Every song doesn’t have to be about you! You see, when you’re songwriting you can flip your lens out of selfie mode and now you can capture what’s happening in the world around you.
You can even come up with completely fictitious stories and let your imagination run wild!
The main take away here is sometimes you need to get out of your own way and not be so self-absorbed in your songwriting. Every song doesn’t have to be a selfie. Sunsets and landscapes are dope too!
2. The Best Formula
I often get asked, “What the best formula for songwriting?” While I have laid out my 5 step process for songwriting that I use all of the time, it comes with a caveat. “There are no rules, only techniques!”.
You see rules can kill your creativity! Remember when you’re writing songs you’re not on an assembly line at a factory. You’re not a robot! Every song is going to be different and your approach may vary as well.
If I were to insert a rule here it would be this, “follow the inspiration“.
If you’re listening to an instrumental and you get a dope idea for a verse, go ahead and capture it. Even if you don’t finish it at that moment you can come back to it and build the rest of the song around it later.
If you’re riding down the road and a dope melody or hook comes to you, record it on your phone. Even if you don’t have an instrumental yet, you can figure all that out later. Just capture that inspiration.
I’ve written songs every way I can imagine and I’ve learned to be flexible with my creative process and allow the inspiration to guide me.
My 5 Step Process For Songwriting is a tried and true method I’ve used for many years but I don’t always follow the steps in order and neither should you. My 5 Step Process is like a blueprint or a GPS system but I always leave room for my creativity to reroute me.
3. The Song Must Be Perfected Before Released
Oh, I’ve been guilty of this one!
Our songs are so personal to us, so much to the point, they’re almost an extension of ourselves! We tinker, delete, revise, and tweak until everything is “perfect”.
But here’s the messed up thing! Chasing perfection is like chasing a mirage in the desert; it only exists in our minds! Another way of putting this is, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
There are two main reasons why we chase perfection.
- Because we take great pride in our work.
- We’re insecure about our current abilities and skill set and we’re afraid of others finding out that we’re not as good as we’d like them to think we are.
But there needs to be a balance here.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking pride in your work. In fact, if you’re not proud of the work you’re doing then you won’t truly find satisfaction in it.
However, it’s the insecurities that really screw things up for us!
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t take pride in crappy songwriting. There needs to be a standard you hold your songwriting too. However, there must be a point when your songs are good enough to call it done.
If not you will never complete anything. And the only way you can truly gain songwriting experience is by completing a song and moving on to a new one.
A Work In Progress
As a rapper and a songwriter, you are always going to be growing and improving upon your craft. In 3 months you’re going to be more skilled than you are now. So what’s “perfect” to you now, you’ll be picking apart 3 months from now! lol!
My standard of a perfect song isn’t one without flaws, but rather one that is complete and lacks nothing.
A quote to take away from this one is “Done is better than perfect”. So with that being said… GEEET ERRR DOOOONE!
4. What Matters To You Matters To Everyone else
This one kind of picks up where we left off with the whole “chasing perfection” conundrum.
You see, once you’ve spent 10 plus hours working on a song you’ve totally lost your fresh perspective. At this point, two main things will happen.
- You will lose excitement about your song because it’s lost that “new car smell”, and you will be tricked into thinking that you are just now realizing it sucks. TIP: Don’t forget how excited you were about the song in the first few hours of working on it.
- You will keep tweaking it so it’s “fresher” to you in your attempt to revive your excitement for the song.
Here’s something to keep in mind. When someone else hears your song for the first time they’re not going to care about how much time you spent on it.
In fact, they’re not even going to notice all of the subtle tweaks and nuances you “perfected”.
Wanna know what most people are listening out for?
- Is the beat dope?
- Is the hook catchy?
- Are there good rhyme schemes?
- Does the lyrical content resonate with me?
You see, most of us think the more complex our songwriting is the better. And in some cases that may be true. However, sometimes you can do too much!
Think of your techniques as spices. Just because you have a pantry full of 50 spices doesn’t mean you have to use them all on one dish.
Sometimes less is more and a dab will do ya!
Being a songwriter is kind of like being a chef. Each song can have different purposes to try and satisfy different pallets with different flavor profiles for different types of people.
For example, one song may be very deep lyrically and nutritiously rich (main course). While another song may be more lite, simple, and comedic (dessert).
People like variety so when you’re whipping up your next song try to create a different experience for the listener than you normally do. And remember! Don’t obsess so much over things people won’t notice anyway.
5. Songwriting Is Only Lyrics
Ah ha! A lot of people get confused about this one!
Songwriting isn’t just lyrics. Songwriting is also the music that the lyrics are going along too.
Most rappers think that just because they bought the exclusive rights to an instrumental that they now own 100% of the instrumental. The key word here is “rights” which means “permission“, NOT full ownership.
Unless you purchased the instrumental from a producer who isn’t up to speed on how the music business works you’re going to have to pay the producer a percentage of any songwriting royalties that are earned.
For example, let’s say your contract with the producer stated you both get 50% of the songwriting royalties. If your song got featured in a TV Show, and the production company paid $1,000.00 in songwriting royalties you would get $500.00 and the producer would get $500.00
This is because songwriting is considered half music and half lyrics. So anyone who contributes to either the music or the lyrics are entitled to their fair share of the songwriting royalties.
When you purchase exclusive rights to an instrumental you are essentially forming a partnership with that producer for that song. This is why it’s great for producers and rappers to work together if possible because you both are mutually invested in the success of the song and you both need each other.
It’s important for both producers and rappers to know their rights when it comes to songwriting royalties. In fact, this is the most important aspect of the music business you need to understand! It could be the determining factor between you getting screwed or becoming wealthy!
A real-life example of this comes from of a famous rapper named “Skee-lo” whose label was trying to screw him over, but because he knew his rights he came out on top. To learn more check out my article on Skee-lo “I Wish”.
Was This Helpful?
So there you have it! These are in my opinion, the top 5 things rappers misunderstand about songwriting.
Did any of these help you understand songwriting better? If so, I’d love to know, in the comments section below! YO! See what I did there? lol! 🙂