“Identity is a prison you can never escape, but the way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow.” – Jay Z
With 50 million streams, rap music increased in popularity in the UK in 2020. Maybe you’d be interested in recording a rap album, posting videos of your raps on YouTube, or just rapping for a bit of fun with your friends.
Learning to rap is a completely different challenge from learning to sing. While experienced singers will already have the advantage of understanding timing and rhythm, they’re still both very different skills.
Here’s our advice to learn how to rap.
Listen to Lots of Rap
If you want to learn how to rap, we imagine that you’re probably already a fan of rap music. If this isn’t the case, you need to start listening to all different types of rapping, analysing the lyrics, and paying attention to the phrasing. You need to develop an ear for rap.
It’s not the only thing, though. Perhaps you love old-school hip-hip and Grandmaster Flas, prefer UK Grime and Stormzy, or maybe you like West Coast Hip Hop and G-Funk.
In any case, you must listen to different styles from around the world to get a better idea of how it all works. Don’t just stick to rap, though. The best artists, singers, and rappers all take inspiration from various types of music.
You mightn’t have thought about it yet, but rappers also need to write music or rhymes and to stay inspired, you must hear a wide variety of different musical styles.
Of course, if you like other genres of music as well as hip hop and rap, you can always listen to them for inspiration, too.
Managing the Rhythm
Rhythm is really important in rapping. A lot of early rap was in a two, four, kick to snare cadence. However, a lot has changed since then.
Listen to various rappers and how they rhyme, especially in regards to the drumbeat as rap is very rhythmic and percussive. A lot of rap is at a tempo between 90 and 105BPM. Syncopation is quite common, which means the raps occur on the weak beat.
Rap is defined as including:
- Rhythmic speech
- Street vernacular
At the end of the day, rap is about what you rhyme about and how you deliver it. You can’t rap if you don’t have any rhythm and can't keep to a beat.
Practise with Songs You Know
If you’re teaching yourself how to rap, as many do, imitation is a good way to do it. Start by choosing a song that you love and know well. We recommend you start with slower tempo songs. Not all rap has to be high-tempo, after all.
Analyse the rhythm and flow of the piece, listen carefully how to each syllable is pronounced, and pay particular attention to rests and pauses where you can take a breath, too.
Keep practising over the song until you can do it unaccompanied as this is useful for memorising the lyrics even if you are reading them. After all, you can’t forget the lyrics! From there, you can rap along to an instrumental version of the song or the beat. Don’t hesitate to record yourself and check for mistakes.
Work on Your Flow
Flow is the essence of rap. It’s the rhymes and rhythms in rap and this has to work well with the rhythm of the music. The words have to be delivered in time with the music and flow can also include the intonation, pitch, and volume, but this is sometimes classified as the delivery. Either way, flow is an important part of rapping and it needs to be done right, which is why you should analyse the text before you rap.
The flow is often unique to each rapper. Initially, you’ll probably want to imitate another rapper’s flow, but as you progress, it's a good idea to develop your flow and style. When you first start, you mightn’t even like the sound of your voice as you may sound too nervous or shy. Rap requires a lot of work, especially on your voice and flow.
Here are a few ways to improve your flow.
Improve Your Diction
Diction is an important part of rap. Improving your diction will improve your style as you’ll articulate better, pronounce consonants more clearly, and accentuate certain syllables.
Here are a couple of exercises you can do:
- Rap with a pen between your teeth. You’ll work so much harder to pronounce words. You can start by talking and then rapping as you get the hang of it.
- Practise with tongue-twisters. Even childish tongue-twisters are a good way to practise your diction and pronunciation and saying tricky combinations of words. Bit by bit, you’ll become more articulate.
There are also plenty of exercises you can try online.
Rapping can be quite quick and managing your breathing is an important part of it. However, you don’t want to garble your words as it’s not very nice to hear and it’s not very nice to hear a rapper gasping for air, either. If you can’t manage your breathing, it’ll harm your flow.
Practise diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing allows you to take in more air and sing or rap more powerfully as it also allows you to have to breathe less frequently and have more control over your voice.
Stand up straight so that you can project your voice more easily. It’s much easier to rap standing up than sitting down and if you have a microphone, make sure you hold it high so you don’t have to lower your head.
Work out when you’ll pause to take breaths and try not to shout and tire yourself out. You have to carefully manage your voice.
Don’t rap too quickly throughout the whole song, either, as you’ll struggle to manage your breathing.
Learning to Rap Quickly
Speed and accuracy is a key part of rapping. Just listen to Eminem’s “Rap God” as it’s fast but you can still hear what he’s saying pretty clearly. Rapping quick doesn’t automatically mean you’re rapping well. You need to rap quickly but not just steamroll through your rhymes.
Rapping quickly is a way to improve your flow and your breathing, but only when done accurately, much like with working with tongue-twisters.
Are you ready to give it a go?
You can also get help with writing rap lyrics and rapping from private tutors on Superprof! There are different types of tutoring available and since each comes with pros and cons in terms of the teaching and the cost, you'll want to think carefully about what's right for you and your budget.
Face-to-face tutorials are often the most cost-effective, but they also tend to be the most expensive per hour. This is because you're paying for a tutor to tailor the sessions to you, your level, and what you want to learn. Similarly, a lot of tutors will travel to their students and have more expenses to deal with than those offering online or group tutorials.
Online tutorials are a good option if you live rurally or can't find any suitable tutors in your local area. These tutors can still offer tailored sessions but can charge less as they don't have to travel to their students and can schedule more sessions each week. As long as you have a decent internet connection, webcam, and microphone, you can enjoy private online tutoring from tutors all over the world.
Group tutoring is an excellent option if you're on a tight budget. While you won't get as much one-on-one tuition from your tutor, you usually end up paying less as the cost of the tutor's time and expertise is split amongst all the students in attendance. If you and some friends, family members, or colleagues, are interested in learning more about music or rap, group tutoring could be a fun and rewarding experience.
Before you start contacting tutors, it's a really good idea to think carefully about the type of tutoring that you're after and what you're looking for in a tutor. Make a list of your requirements and keep them in mind as you search for tutors on Superprof. Once you have a few tutors in mind that meet your requirements, you can start getting in touch with them and discussing how and what you'd like to learn.
Remember that many of the tutors on the Superprof website offer the first lesson for free. Use these free sessions to try out a few different tutors before deciding on which one would be right for you. Remember to keep your requirements in mind when chatting with potential tutors and remember that since you're probably going to be spending a decent amount of time with them, it's important that you get on well with them.