Firstly, if you’re new to rap and just started off with writing thinking that rap is easy because you think it’s easy, STOP. Emcees have given blood, sweat and tears to make it sound easy. In reality the process of writing takes more than just inspiration. It requires precise technical knowledge, motivation and dedication to the art form. And, by extension, love and passion for the culture.
Many people mistake rap to be words on top of a beat. They see artists who rap online and think to themselves, this must be easy because it will only take my voice and a beat to make a song. This is where people go wrong with Rap. Rap is ‘r’hythm ‘a’nd ‘p’oetry. And as long as you write even the most crude poetry even by chance during your scribbling, you cannot find and maintain rhythm and vice versa.
BUT, if you’re someone who is really interested in learning the art form. If your desire stems from a place of real passion. Then it’s time for you to step inside the booth. Give it your all because it’s going to be a long, long ride.
Many emcees when they start off don’t really think much about the concept of “rhythm” in Rap. There are 2 major steps when it comes to spitting lyrics on a beat. One is called Flow, and the other Delivery.
Flow is how your words move on and off the beat. Flow defines your rhythm. Delivery is the way your voice modulates when you speak the words you rap about. It creates the sound of the song. Both of these elements require emotion when put into writing and recording.
Here’s a list of 5 things you can do to improve your flow and delivery. Please keep in mind that the first rule of learning is actually listening. Study the artists you listen to and you will discover many techniques that will help you on your way.
1) Study Your Voice
Your voice will sound different on the mic than it will in real life. Most artists get stuck due to this. They get confused after playing back the song they recorded because it just doesn’t sound the same. Your voice is your instrument. Master it and you will master delivery.
Record yourself over and over on a mic or a cellphone or any other way. This will help you understand your sound when you playback. Delivery is how you throw your voice at the mic, so discovering and getting acquainted with different parts of your voice will propel your skills to new levels.
2) Remix songs
This is a two step process. The first being, picking a song that you really like and understanding the flow. We recommend using any song out of the 90’s or early 2000’s for this. Understand how the artist has written the song.
In the song “Forgot About Dre” there was a line “Got a crib with a studio and it’s all full of tracks, to add to the wall full of plaques, hanging up in the office in back of my house like trophies//”. Notice something peculiar? The words “in the office in back of my house” were tailored into the flow so that Dre wouldn’t miss a beat. It’s a play on syllables. The extra “the” in between “in the back of” was cut out so that the perfect number of syllables lie in flow.
This is a tiny example of how you can play with words to flow better. But do not force things. Learn as you go and keep practicing. That is the key to being better. Pick songs online, understand them, then write over them for comparison. You will get a reference point to study yourself.
Try this – take any beat from the internet, write any 16 lines over it, and record different emotions over the same beat. Spit the verse sounding sad, happy, aggressive, laid back etc. This will sharpen your delivery.
You will now learn to understand how to deliver in different ways. You will also understand that different beats bring out some emotions better than others. This is because each beat has its own feel to it.
4) Switch up
One of the best things you can do to practice flows is to write on a beat in a way that each line or every 4 lines cover different flows. The standard flow (meaning all the rhyming words hit the snare drum perfectly) is the most basic and yet the most used flow till date. It is simple, effective and powerful if combined with the right amount of delivery.
Switch the flow and delivery in different ways now and then to understand how they work. Without practice, you will not be able to understand the kinds of flows going on. Do a double time flow, switch to an old school one, then a standard flow and so on.
5) Mic Presence
Mic presence is the confidence, the swagger and the mind-state you get into while recording your song. This presence dictates the emotion that you are going to put in while recording your song. Hype yourself up or numb yourself down, it’s your energy that will dictate the energy of the song.
Some emcees pull this off effortlessly, some take time to get into the zone and some cannot seem to grip it no matter what. This is because you will need to get comfortable with yourself. You will need to bring in energy and cadence before you start to deliver. Get loud, get soft, get happy or sad. But most of all, be yourself when you spit. Write your own chapter in the book of rap.
These are some of the basics in flow and delivery. A book called “The Rappers Handbook” is available online, if you’d like to get more knowledge about the art of rap. You can check that book out. It is a must-read for budding emcees because it mentions every aspect of an emcee and gives in-depth analysis of songs, artists and musicians. The book is easily available online and will definitely get you started on your way to be an emcee. Good luck on your journey! Keep the culture alive. Practice is the key.