Over the years, numerous studies proved that listening to classical music can aid concentration. As such, when you sit down in front of the computer and attempt to write, you may find that some Mozart in the background helps.
But if you struggle to write exciting content, you may be better off swapping Beethoven for Busta Rhymes instead.
That’s because the way that rappers write and deliver their lyrics can teach us a lot about our own writing.
Read on to learn what hip-hop can teach you about writing more engaging content.
It’s all about “flow”
The term “flow” describes the delivery of lyrics in rap. The rhythm, tone, cadence, and emphasis of the words all combine to create a distinct flow which, in many cases, is unique to a specific artist.
In the 1970s, when rap first emerged, it relied on simple beats and a basic flow. Rappers emphasised four syllables to coincide with the four beats in a bar. While this created a steady rhythm that is pleasing to the ear, it’s similar to using the same simple sentence structure over and over.
It quickly becomes repetitive and it’s not that exciting.
But as hip-hop took off and the genre evolved, rappers started playing with more complex rhythms. Kool Moe Dee is credited with developing the “triplet style”, for example in his track, ‘The New Rap Language’. This focused on more staccato delivery which made the flow more interesting to the ear.
In the decades since many rappers introduced new elements and flow evolved. Rakim, for instance, was one of the first to put a rhyme in the middle of a sentence instead of at the end.
Notorious B.I.G is known for his smooth flow that shifts in tempo and lands on the beat in an unexpected way.
It’s useful to take this approach to your writing and think about how it sounds to the reader. By varying sentence length and structure, and using punctuation to control the flow of the writing, you make it more interesting.
Ultimately, this means that you turn your writing from a series of repetitive sentences into something engaging that sings on the page.
People need to breathe
Eminem set a world record with his track ‘Rap God’ when he rapped 1,560 words in six minutes and four seconds. The record has since been unofficially broken by UK rapper Harry Shotta with his track ‘Animal’.
They both managed this incredible feat by mastering “breath control” – filling the lungs with air and slowly releasing it so they can generate power behind their words without losing their breath.
Most importantly, they pause in the right places so they can quickly draw in more air. If they tried to rap continuously without well-placed breaks and pauses, they’d probably pass out mid-song.
Rappers construct their verses with this in mind, making sure to split lines and add breaks when necessary.
Additionally, these brief stops become part of the flow, highlighting specific phrases and giving them more impact. That’s why, even though Eminem raps at lightning speed, you can still discern the lyrics of ‘Rap God’ and the song has some semblance of structure.
It’s worth keeping this in mind when you are writing because, whether they’re reading it out loud or not, people need time to stop and breathe. A huge wall of text that rolls on and on becomes exhausting and people soon lose focus.
But if you add a simple break, it makes things easier to follow. It gives them a moment of respite before they move on to the next section.
Every word carries weight
Hip-hop has a reputation for offensive lyrics and while most albums rightly come with a parental advisory warning, there is often something deeper hidden under the crude language.
The Wu-Tang Clan, for instance, used tropes derived from vintage martial arts movies to draw parallels with their experience on the streets of New York.
It’s common for rappers to use these kinds of intricate metaphors in their lyrics, and many rely on double entendres and wordplay to add several layers of meaning to a single line.
Often, important themes about politics, inequality, and identity are wrapped up in these carefully woven, concise, but powerful lyrics.
As such, every word is carefully considered and carries immense weight. Rappers rewrite their lyrics countless times to ensure that each word evokes an emotion, conveys information, or adds to the flow.
You may find it useful to approach your writing in this way, especially when editing. Consider each word and what purpose it serves. Think about whether it engages the reader or drives your point forward. If it doesn’t, can you change it or remove it?
By cutting in this way and being more selective about your word choices, you create succinct writing that conveys the relevant information in an engaging way, without overstaying its welcome.
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If you need to introduce more hip-hop flow to your content writing, get in touch today.
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