Many artists when they first start out don't like their delivery. The first section of this article is a collection of hints and exercises I've put together from experience, various hints picked up along the way by other rappers, and basic music principles.
#1 Confidence. The ability to know what your putting together is top notch and should be delivered with pride. Whether it is or not you have to have that mindset or its never going to be as good as it could be. It takes time to build confidence so don't underestimate the importance of practicing before you record the final project.
#2 Be Creative. Very few people rap in their normal voice so add someemotion to your performance. Don't be afraid to mess around and find what sounds good with your voice.
#3 Be Yourself. Don't strain your voice, nobody wants to hear a forced performance so it does more harm than good.. on the other hand don't under sell your voice, it soundsmonotone and is equally not enjoyable to mostpeople.
#4 Rap from abdomen not the throat, just like most traditional singing. This will help increase your mic presence and as you grow more confident you will notice this also opens you up to a wider comfort range compared to using your neck. You will also be able to rap at much higher volumes and really go after thebeat when you find the right voice.
#5 Keep at it! The most important thing you can do is keep grinding and keep working to perfect your craft. Writing and recording are two entirely different things, I've seen ghost writers that never pick up a mic simply because they can't spit their raps half as well as they can write so they don't want to ruin great lyrics with a sub par performance. If you have a piece and you know its solid keep working on the delivery, if your performance is up to snuff but your wordplay is weak in comparison do something about it.. Remember anyone can get better at what they do, never stop pushing the envelope on your artistic abilities.
If you want this exercise to actually work you must do it daily. No questions asked this will improve you ability to deliver lyrics more precisely and hold notes longer if your a singer.
When you cant quite spit out a rhyme scheme the way you want it, 98% of the time the problem is proper breathing i.e. breath control. A solid diaphragm is the backbone of any vocal artist, there is nobody in the world that will deny this. Listen to any double-time rapper like Krayzie Bone, Twista, Busta Rhymes, Tech N9ne, Tonedeff, or Yelawolf and you will see why breathing in the right spots, and being able to breathe correctly is so important.
Do this exercise about 5 times a day, about 20 minutes each set.. That's only 1 hour out of your day, If your serious about rapping you will be able to find time to do this at some point.
Breathe out quickly and steadily until your lungs are completely empty. Hold this position for about 5 seconds, it will probably hurt a little bit and feel like your lungs are ready to cave in, but thats simply because you are not used to fully extending the muscles in your diaphragm. After 5 seconds take all your air in, again quick and steady, and hold this position for about 10 seconds. Take a breather to establish normal oxygen levels again and repeat. You should get in about 15-20 reps per 20 minute set.
Start off SLOW! Believe it or not you can hurt yourself doing this exercise. If you hold too deep of a position for too long you could possibly collapse a lung or damage your esophagus . Use your best judgement and don't push it too far, you will know when your ready to increase the length of each rep.
If you do this daily, and yes by that I mean every day, you will see noticeable results within 4-8 weeks. What you are doing with this exercise is stretching the diaphragm and the surrounding muscles, this helps the muscles get more oxygen, increases range of motion, and overall allows you to breathe better. Doing this will allow you to flow stronger for longer periods of time, add more emphasis to your lyrics while your riding the beat, and sound much more confident while recording and performing in general.
Freestyle rapping, the ability to come up with coherent bars off the top of your head. This is an essential skill to almost every Emcee, so I figured I'd give you some basic information on the topic.
#1 Write - The more you write, the more rhyming words, bar structure, and flow get imbedded into your head. Having this skill set is essential to any freestyle situation so you can see where I'm going with this.. The more you write good lyrics, the more good lyrics and rhyme schemes get embedded, the easier it is to come up with something fresh and unique off the top of your head. You will probably notice that your freestyles are never as good as your written raps, and how you write will usually show through in your freestyles. If you use single word setups you probably wont be coming up with multi syllable rhymes when you freestyle and vice versa. Simple rule of thumb, write for at least half an hour a day to keep your brain sharp.
#2 Practice - I know it seems obvious, and to be honest this is what 98% of people will tell you if you ask them how they learned to freestyle well. Some of you may be embarrassed to start spitting around people, if thats the case do it when your alone until you feel confident enough to do it around other people, then get their opinions.. Once you feel that your on a competitive level jump in on a cypher at a party. If your from an area where there are no emcees convince your friends to pick it up and create a couple. When you practice freestyling work on several different paces, find the one that suits you best, and refine it. You don't have to freestyle the same way you write, there are very few artists who can come up with the same type of rhymes off the top of their head as they can when they sit down with the beat on repeat. Just stay calm, look a couple bars ahead, and dont try to over think it.
#3 Exercises - Listed below are three of the most important exercises to building a strong freestyle rapper. Do these regularly and i can guarantee you will see an improvement in your freestyles within a month.
a) Think of rhyming words, literally just sit down with your notebook and come up with a list of words that rhyme. If you cant think of more than 10 different rhymes for the same set of words I would strongly consider getting a rhyming dictionary and using it. A good place to start would be with your moniker, your opponents name (if its a scheduled battle), your , and other other word combinations that are sure to come up at some point. You can make it more in depth by using multi syllable rhymes instead if you utilize that style into your rap, either way I guarantee this will help you ride the beat while your in a cypher because you will already know a variety of ways you can work with a word without it being a pre written rap. A strong and flexible vocabulary is the backbone of the freestyle artist, nobody can argue it and anybody that does has no clue what they are talking about.
b) Freestyle on topic, it requires two people for the best results. It's always appreciated when somebody can "rap about anything" and honestly with freestyling it kind of simple to hone this skill if you spend the time on it. Either in a cypher or with a friend, have somebody start feeding you a topic. Come up with the first thing off the top of your head that pertains to it and spit. Go on for about 4 lines, and have the person give you another subject.. It really helps if you have either one creative person or multiple people to work with because they wont always throw you the same subjects and that is the point of this exercise. You can do this listening to the radio or watching the news but it honestly does work best with a live person feeding you topics.
c) Observational rhyming. This is as simple as it sounds, simply look around you and start rapping about what you see. Do it until you run out of things to say or are simply bored, then move onto the next thing. This is working on your ability to take the things you see in front of you and turn it into rhyme form. This is commonly referred to as imagery and is a critical skill in story telling and battle rapping as well.
d) Filler phrases - Almost every freestyle emcee has a line they use when they cant think of anything and need to fill in a gap while they come up with the next rhyme. To this effect it's best to have a couple open ended bars pre thought up before you enter into a cypher, battles in particular. This way you don't look like an idiot with gaps in the middle of your verse if you cant think of something to spit, trust me it helps. A filler is not cheating, it's having a quick crutch you can rely on to give you the time needed to recover, think of the next line, and get your head back in the game. I would advise thinking up about 2-3 fillers that you can make distinctly "You" when you deliver them so people think its more branding than being lazy.. Be advised though, never over use your fillers, EVER. It will stick out like a sore thumb if you repeat your every time you spit.
In its most basic form, wordplay is the art of playing on the multiple meanings of words in the English language (or whatever you happen to speak, englesh has pretty much the most grey area so its a good example). A major element in good wordplay is the trope, a figure of speech in which the words are used in nonliteral or unconventional ways. Since every rapper MUST have good wordplay in my opinion I figured I'd hook you up with some of the most commonly used types to get you started.
a) Metonymy is the substitution of a word or phrase for another that is closely related. In practice, this is typically accomplished by substituting a word representing something concrete that stands as a symbol for a concept that is abstract, such as referring to being a champion as "the belt."
b) Alliteration is the repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in certain stressed syllables. Alliteration is predominantly consonantal, but you may also alliterate using vowel sounds and other wordplay schemes.
c) Double Meaning - This is one of the most effective punch-play methods. By using double meanings you are connecting two homophones (your rhymes) into a punch. Notice homophones, this does not work as well with words that sound similar. To find out if your rhymes are forced go through word by word and make sure everything has a counterpart.
d) Word Fission - Basically this is splicing a word into two or more separate words based on the syllables. This is relatively easy wordplay since all your doing is breaking down words and seeing if anything fits. You will want to go over these lines syllable by syllable to find the best ways to beak these words into new word combinations.
e) Word Fusion - All thats required in this branch of wordplay is that the words be adjoined and have double meaning. These lines can pack a powerful hit if used properly but will sound forced if not well thought out.
f) Punchlines - These are insults aimed at the opponent or somebody in particular. These are targeted remarks that should allow you to lyrically assault your competitor. A good punch is usually a simile, metaphor, or wordplay based off of the other artist in general, be it his bars, clothing, habits, anything you can think of that would draw an emotional response. Use words to describe how you plan to damage your opponent, and don't be afraid to exaggerate at times.
g) Similes - The comparison of objects or topics using the words "like" or "as".
h) Metaphors - The comparison of objects or topics without using the words "like" or "as"
i) Multi Syllable Rhymes - A rhyming scheme involving rhyming sets of two or more words together.
j) Vocabulary - Never underestimate the power of being able to use unique words in your rhymes. The more words you know how to use properly the easier it is to flip them into a verse. If you don't have a great vocabulary strongly consider getting a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus to help you step up your word game surrounding the words or topics you find yourself using regularly. Never underestimate the ability to put unique words over the track in new combinations or multiple contexts,.
If you would like more information on this topic please see the articles section.
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