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How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide
May 27, 2022
So you want to become the next global rap superstar? Well step right up. With some of the biggest rap artists like Jay-Z, Eminem & Cardi B breaking more records and releasing more tracks than ever before, rap is dominating the industry. So it’s not hard to see why there’s even more aspiring rappers out there than ever before.

Plus rap generates a huge amount of hype among current music trends and listeners. In fact, in the US alone, hip hop music has overtaken every other genre, taking an even bigger market share year on year. Which only begs one question - how can you start up your own rap music career (from scratch!) and set yourself apart from the crowd?

How to become a rap artist

First thing’s first, if you’ve got talent, your budget shouldn’t stop you.

Some of the most glorified rap artists in 2024 are living proof that making a career from rap music is achievable, even from the most humble of beginnings.

Eminem for example, came from poverty and a difficult upbringing and now he’s one of the most globally recognised and top-selling rappers of all time (not to mention he’s worth about however many zeros!).

So how can you utilise what you already have (i.e. passion and talent) to get your rap music career off the ground? Let’s open the floor.

10 tips for becoming a successful new rapper

1. Learn the genre

The key to becoming an expert in any field, topic or subject area is doing your research.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

And if you’re aspiring to become a legitimate rap artist, the same rule applies.

Rap is a huge genre with loads of different sub-genre pools. Dip into a mix of both modern styles, like Trap and Alternative rap, as well as older styles like Old school & Gangsta rap.

Exploring these different avenues will really help you come to grips with the different versions of the genre and craft your own unique sound within it.

You can obviously still look to your own favourite rap artists - it’s great to have aspirations! But by also looking towards rap artists outside your usual sphere of listening, you’ll have a competitive edge when it comes to the actual writing and recording of your music.

Here's some things you could do to direct your research…

- Hit up Spotify and stream some of the most successful acts who’ve entered the game

- Scour blogs and playlists for the biggest rap newcomers

- Segment your search by looking at rap in different parts of the world

- Get historical and find out the names of rappers who’ve pioneered the genre to where it is today

- Find out which rappers are some of the longest running (consider why these ones have stood the test of time and why others haven’t)

2. Get your head in the books

Reading and analysing poetry - especially aspects of rhyme, cadence, imagery and pentameter - could not only turn you into a lyrical word genius but it can also help you phrase things in new and interesting ways.

Now I’m not saying you need to be the next Byron or Yeats, but reading poetry and rap come from very similar word streams - they’re both based on the spoken word and they’re both a form of lyrical art.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

As strange as it might sound, cracking open the dictionary or even a thesaurus is also a great way to broaden your lyrical vocabulary and even offer some clever in-references.

Some of the best rap artists, including the likes of Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar & Kanye West, sprinkle references to pop culture into their verses all the time.

Industry Case Study: ‘How Much A Dollar Cost (To Pimp A Butterfly) by Kendrick Lamar.

"Starin' at me for the longest until he finally asked

Have you ever opened up Exodus 14?

A humble man is all that we ever need

Tell me how much a dollar cost"

In the song, Lamar meets a homeless man who asks him for money. When Kendrick refuses him, the man makes a reference to Exodus 14. This is a biblical reference to the story of Moses. Lamar uses it here to show how the man uses religion to try and guilt trip him into giving him money. Pretty clever right?

The more you read, watch and consume, the more you’ll uncover different understandings about what other rappers are talking about - and how you can use similar in-references to create connections between you and your listeners.

3. Practice until perfect

Just like learning how to sing or playing an instrument, your rap skills will take time and practice to perfect.

But if you’re patient, passionate and willing to put in the grind work, when you do eventually reach that performer skill-level, the potential for rewards is huge.

Build your skillset from the ground up through regular practice and rap exercises.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

This could be as simple as reciting other rappers' lyrics (mirroring their tone, rhythm and pace), speaking tongue twisters out loud, working on your breathing, improving your pronunciation and so on.

The more you do what might seem like trivial exercises and practice, the better rap artist you’ll become.

4. Go to a rap battle

If you’ve never heard of a rap battle, get to know.

A rap battle is when two rappers take to the stage and go head to head in what’s essentially “battle rhyming”. The rapper with the best creative punchlines, metaphors, name or wordplay usually wins.

Going to a freestyle rap battle is arguably the best place to see live rap right up in the action.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

Not only will you pick up some skills, tricks and techniques by watching and listening to other rappers do their thing, but you’ll also be immersing yourself head to toe in rap culture at its core.

And if you’re feeling especially confident, you could even brave the stage…diamonds are formed under pressure, right?

5. Form industry connections

The rapping community is extremely network-oriented.

Think about how many younger rappers have risen to fame under the guidance and wing of famous rappers and industry tastemakers.

Dr Dre is a prime example of one of these influential rap figures. He helped raise up the likes of Kendrick, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent, to name just a few!

Plus so many collaborations go on among rappers. It’s rare now if you hear a rap song that doesn't have a ft. artist.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

Start by making connections with other artists, songwriters, producers, videographers, promoters, DJs (the list goes on!) in your smaller circle. When you’ve got some footing, cast the net out to find out the names and faces of all the people who’ve already risen the ranks in the rap scene.

If you’re serious about creating a long-term music career in rap, this is a necessary step. Because while talent and passion is always the most important part, knowing how to work your way round a room will help you tremendously when it comes to making it big in the rap world.

6. Find your unique rap sound

Like we said in the beginning, there’s so many different avenues you could go down when it comes to making rap music.

So you’ll need to be really thinking long and hard about the kind of songs and music you want to make before you start putting pen to paper.

Experiment with different types of styles, genres, aesthetics and see which is the most naturally fitting to your own individual skills and talent.

If you know what you stand for and focus on one specific niche rather than being vague, you’ll be able to hone your audience and build a fanbase faster, than by casting your net too wide and trying to appeal to a huge audience who have different tastes and preferences.

7. Establish your rapper brand

‘I’m not a businessman, I’m a business…man.” - Jay Z

This quote by Jay Z perfectly captures the importance of not just focussing on the music aspect of your act, but also the branding and business-side too.

No matter what kind of artist you are, knowing how to create a music brand is a massive part of your overall music marketing strategy. But for rappers especially - unique branding is a huge part. Especially when there’s so many aspiring rappers out there eager to make it to the big leagues.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

Cultivating a strong, stand out artist brand is central to establishing yourself early on and growing a fanbase who’ll identify with it.

You can demonstrate your individual brand as a rapper through things like:

- Your image or overall aesthetic

- Your clothing/styling

- Your values, opinions and what you stand for

- Your story or background

8. Choose a memorable rapper name

Nearly all rappers refrain from recording and releasing music under their own name, usually opting for some sort of stage name instead.

And it’s not hard to understand why. The stage name ‘Eminem’ is arguably a lot more ‘street’ and in keeping with his brand than his birth-name ‘Marshall'...

The point is - your rap name resembles you more than anything. So when you’re choosing it make sure it’s a name you still want to have 10 years down the road when you’re thick in the industry.

Try to make it something catchy and unique, you could incorporate symbols, some unique formatting. Ty Dolla $ign & will.i.am are both good examples of this.

There’s also a lot of rappers out there with names that begin with the word ‘Lil’ (Lil Wayne, Lil Baby) and ‘Young’ (Young Jeezy, Young Thug), so try and avoid opting for titles like these if you really want to stand out.

9. Build your online presence

Once you’ve picked your rap artist name, lock it down across all your social media URLs before anyone else comes in and swipes them from you.

Then take to your social media channels to start shouting out about you and your new rap music venture!

Take a look at our list of the 10 best social media music marketing strategies for some specific ideas to get you started.

Getting playlisted on huge rap playlists like Spotify’s RapCaviar is also a great way to wedge your music in between other rappers and create an association between yourself and these big stars.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

Check out our best tips for how to get on RapCaviar.

10. Start writing your own material

Finally, get stuck in!

Writing is arguably one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a rapper (until the writer’s block hits that is!).

If there’s one main difference between hip hop artists and other artists you’ll notice, it’s that hip hop artists release music very frequently.

They do this by releasing their own work, but also by featuring on other artists’ cuts, using music samples (remember how we mentioned earlier about the importance of finding opportunities for collaboration??).

Even when you aren’t directly writing or releasing, keep track of your own thoughts, ideas and any moments of inspiration that might strike - either on your phone, or, kick it old school with a pen and paper like Eminem does himself.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

Jot down a note of any phrases, rhymes, puns, references, any things you want to bring up in your own work.

Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere and you’ll soon realise this as you continue to write.

How to Become a Rapper: A Beginner’s Guide

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