Hip-hop becomes more popular every year and many singers are learning how to rap as part of their artist development. Rapping is a completely different technique to singing but we’ll do what we can to show you how to rap.
There is far more to being a rapper than writing rhymes and spitting them out. Breath control is essential, as well as diction, flow and timing. Rapping isn’t exclusive to men either as many female rappers, especially in the UK, are beginning to make waves.
We’ve got some great tips to help you learn to rap, as well as some advice to help you rap faster. The hardest part is usually getting started so let’s look at how you can get into rapping.
How do you get into rapping?
Nothing is stopping you from learning how to rap. All it takes is a bit of courage and a love of hip-hop music to find the motivation to be a rapper. It isn’t easy and just because you can sing doesn’t mean you can rap. The same goes for those who can rap as it won’t guarantee you’ll be a good singer.
Different rappers have their own distinct style and flow. Some are lightning-fast whereas others like to draw out their words. Some are more melodic and some like to focus more on wordplay. Think about the rappers you like and what makes them unique. This will help you find your own style as a rapper.
How to rap
- Listen to hip-hop
- Rap with rhythm and flow
- Learn your favourite rap songs
- Go outside your comfort zone
- Find your attitude
- Rap acapella
- Work on your diction
- Play with dynamics
- Freestyle rap
- Write your own rhymes
Does rapping have to rhyme
Like poetry, it isn’t essential for raps to rhyme. However, it definitely helps. Many rappers judge their abilities by how well they rhyme. This isn’t just having similar sounding words at the end of a line or bar. This includes layering multiple rhymes and poetic techniques in a single delivery.
However, with rapping being so diverse, there is no real limitation on whether you actually have to rhyme or not. If it sounds good then there’s no problem!
How to be a rapper
#1 Listen to hip-hop
If you’re looking to learn how to be a rapper or simply want to improve on the skills you already have, then you aren’t going to do it well without listening to hip-hop. Whether it’s Eminem, Drake or Kendrick Lamar, there are countless incredible rappers that you can look to for inspiration.
Whilst hip-hop is very male-dominated, there are some incredible women who have made a name for themselves. Female rappers such as Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott and Little Simz are great examples for any girls looking to rap.
It’s a good idea to immerse yourself in the culture and the different sounds of hip-hop and rap music to understand the influences and foundation of this particular genre.
How to rap on beat
#2Rap with rhythm and flow
It’s important to remember that rapping is much more than just saying a few words that rhyme, it’s just as much about the rhythm. A great way to get the feel for rhythm in hip-hop is by focusing on just the instrumental of the song. You’ll start to get a sense of how the words fit into the beat.
The foundations of rhythm in rap are the syllables in your lyrics. Treat each syllable of a word as a beat to be synchronised with your instrumental. If your lyrics contain too many syllables then you won’t be able to fit it over the beat that you’re rapping over. This can push rhymes out of place or make your flow sound forced and unnatural.
With words that contain multiple syllables, some are emphasised and others that are not. When pronouncing words, we naturally emphasise a stressed syllable. It is good to identify the stressed syllables in a word as they are the most effective part of a word to use for rhyming.
What is flow in rap?
Flow is the relationship between the rhythm of your delivery and the rhymes you use. Every rapper has their own flow that can vary across different tracks. There is no right or wrong way to flow as a rapper. All you need to focus on is being authentic and sincere. Originality is also very important because ripping off another rapper’s flow isn’t going to win you any points.
It can sound like a rapper is never going to end when they have a great flow. The words just roll off their tongue in harmony with the instrumental. Even if they are a capella, their flow will make them sound interesting and be the difference between speaking words and rapping them.
#3Learn your favourite songs
Listen to your favourite rappers and learn from them. Practising their lyrics will help you find a flow to rap with and also teach you about rhyming. If you can learn your favourite songs to a point where you can deliver them a cappella then you will find it much easier to take the next step towards writing and performing your own rhymes.
#4 Go outside your comfort zone
You might find yourself drawn to a certain style of rap, whether that’s Atlanta trap, New York boom-bap or anything else. However, it is good to go out of your comfort zone and discover other forms of hip-hop. This will prevent you from sounding like your simply imitating a specific style. You will also become a more well-rounded rapper and also open your mind to new styles and flows.
#5 Find your attitude
Having confidence in yourself and your lyrics will help you connect emotionally to your song. The easiest way to build confidence with your vocals is to just enjoy the experience. You will find this helps you engage with your audience and put on a better show. The more you practice the easier it is to enjoy yourself and this will also help you to memorise your lyrics and relax.
Rapping is about attitude and performance as much as it is about technique. To give a stand out performance you have to be able to feel the music throughout the whole of your body. If your brain and body are not in tune with the beat, it’s safe to say your rapping will look and feel stiff and unnatural.
One of the most common reasons for this is often from overthinking, such as trying to make sure you stay on time or not being confident in your own words. Learn to be in the moment and deliver your best performance when it matters.
#6 Rap a capella
Try and rap a capella once you have learnt how to rap to a beat. This will not only improve your confidence but if you can rap without any aid of a backing track then you know you have mastered rhythm and staying on beat.
Learning to beatbox is also a great tool to help learn rhythm. It’s a great technique you can use in your performance alongside rapping and help you connect with other rappers.
#7 Work on your diction
It’s no good mastering a good rhyme if you’re unable to rap the words effectively. Emphasise the consonants – don’t try and rap the way you would normally talk. Keep your words clear and sharp. Remember the rhythm is more important than rhyme. If you’re freestyling, don’t stop if your words don’t rhyme. If you keep on beat then everything will be fine, as the rhythm will help you get back on track. It’s ok to think about your next line but remember to still give 100% to the line you’re currently rapping.
#8 Play with dynamics
Having complete control of the dynamics of your voice will help you deliver the right message in your song. Intonation (the rise and fall of your voice) and pitching are powerful ways to change the meaning of your lyrics. Take one of your bars and try playing around with how you deliver it. Think about the following line as well and how your dynamics relate to it.
Delivering one line more softly allows you to make the next one sound harder. Compare this to a constant dynamic that won’t allow for any significant changes in your delivery. This can make your rapping sound boring. By switching up your dynamic you can put more emphasis on important lines and make a bigger impact.
#9 Rap with emotion
Learning how to embrace the power of emotion is vital for giving your audience a convincing performance and conveying the lyrical content. Emotion is characterised by your tone of voice, which is conveyed through changes in pitch, volume, speed etc. Focusing on the emotions of your lyrics will help you deliver the message to your audience more effectively.
A good technique to practice is to identify the emotion connected to a keyword in your rap, then try and act out this emotion whilst saying the word.
#10 Freestyle rap
Freestyle rapping is essentially improvisation with words. Unlike soloing where you only have to focus on notes, freestyling requires a focus on notes and lyrics. This presents an extra challenge that can put many people off. However, it is well worth learning to freestyle as it will make you a better rapper.
Put on an instrumental and take some bars to get some lyrics in your mind. Try using a website like RapPad to help you come up with ideas on the fly.
#11 Write your own rhymes
Once you feel comfortable and confident you know how to rap to rhythm and beat, start making your own rhymes. If you’re stuck for ideas, then a good place to start is by being influenced by what’s around you.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like what you’ve written at first, just keep practising. This will help you in developing your own style and you’ll gain more confidence as you improve. Use a rhyming dictionary to help improve your rhymes and try and develop your vocabulary by reading as much as you can.
Exercises to rap faster
Rapping as fast as possible is something many rappers try as a way to challenge themselves. Some rappers make this a part of their style and might say as many words in 16 bars as others will in a whole song. Here are some exercises you can use to rap faster.
Learning how to rap fast isn’t going to happen overnight. Rapping is like playing an instrument and you’re going to have to take small steps to start with. You can focus more on quality and delivery by practising your rhymes at a slower tempo. Try practising at a slow tempo and gradually increase by 1 bpm as you get more comfortable. The change will be so gradual that you won’t even realise how much faster you’re rapping.
Breathe with your diaphragm
Rapping is just like singing when it comes to controlling your breathing. If you’re going to rap fast then you are going to require more breath and have less time to take it. This is why you need to focus on using your diaphragm for breathing. It is located above your stomach and it helps pull more air into your lungs. This will give you more capacity to deliver more in a single breath.
Get plenty of words ready
If you’re going to rap fast then you’re going to run out of words more quickly. You’ll need plenty of words to supply yourself over 16 bars, let alone a whole song.
Female rappers UK
The UK has a whole new generation of incredible female rappers. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite female rappers in the UK right now.
- Little Simz
- Kate Tempest
- Nadia Rose
- Bobbie Johnson
- Shay D
- Lady Leshurr
- Ms Banks
Who are your all-time favourite rappers? Let us know in the comments below!