Thursday, December 3, 2009

5 Steps to Better Rhymes

I follow a lot of independent music in the Hip-Hop and Electronic world.  The on thing I see happening the most is artists trying to force rhymes that don't work or are severely under-developed.  So I decided to offer these 5 steps that are guaranteed to make you rhymes double in value.  I can't make you more clever, but I can explain this formula that has worked for many, many other rappers, including myself.


1.  Rhyming the last word in the line as a last resort:

This means you only do this when you have no other options.  Too many raps out now have this formula where "as long as the last word rhymes, it's okay."  No it's not.  We can be more creative than this.  Instead try to match up the last 2 (or more) vowel sounds, and remember alliteration is everything.

2.  Step out of the conventional Formula:

This is the formula of 4 lines that rhyme on the last word all in a row.  It's okay to throw in a line that doesn't rhyme at all from time to time.  You can also end on a line that doesn't fit.  It get's attention if it's well placed.  You can also use a line against itself as in the next point.

3.  Using a line against itself:

In this technique you use alliteration and rhyming words (or vowel sounds) in only one line of a set of 4 (usually the 3rd line).  Here's an example.  In my newest track "Salvation"  I use alliteration and multiple rhyming words (vowel sounds) to create a string of rhythmic banter:

"I'm not a Pastor, a Priest or a Prophet
But Still I've been anointed to rock in the Pop,
and the Rock, and Hip hop Electronic, Electro
So Let's go, You can get a dose of my best flows

I'ma take the Gospel and Spit it to Techno
and everybody else can go just sit in the left row"


First I'm going to highlight all of the matching vowel sounds:

"I'm not a Pastor, a Priest or a ProphetBut Still I've been anointed to rock in the Pop,and the Rock, and Hip hop Electronic, ElectroSo Let's go, You can get a dose of my best flowsI'ma take the Gospel and Spit it to Technoand everybody else can go just sit in the left row"

When using lines against themselves, you break each line down into syllables and not words. Don't focus on the words themselves when alliterating.  The story is made cohesive only by the message of the song.  Carefully choosing your words by vowel sound is probably more important than getting the most precise meaning/interpretation of that word.  That's why it's good to have a broad enough vocabulary that you're not limited to conventional words.

4.  You can switch between 1st, 2nd and 3rd person in the same verse/line:

This includes present and past tense as well as word meant for pronouncing who is being highlighted in the verse. Remembering that the overall message is more important than the meaning of all the words or the structure of a line.  This isn't an English test.  For the most part, music is subliminal anyway and the brain will pick up on more discrepancies than conventional patterns.

5.  Every Syllable and Stress Matters!

Think your lines through to the fullest.  Don't try to force words that won't fit into you pattern of speech.  Lady Gaga does this in her song "Paparazzi" and I can't stand it.  Try to use words in the stress that they are meant to be used.  When you force a stress of a word like "perform" and try to make it into "PER-form", you sound like you have a bad vocabulary. 

The Syllables have to line up too.  Think of each line as a rhythm like on a drum.  You want those rhythms to be as similar as possible, right?  You also want to hit the listener with a barrage of syllables and alliteration that needs to be processed by his/her brain.  That's what makes a rhyme most impressive.

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If you follow these 5 simple steps as detailed as possible, your rhymes will at least double in value.  I Promise.

--XERO

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