|Despite the title of this article, the purpose of it is actually to HELP new emcees AVOID some common traps on their journey to learning how to rap better. You can come up with a million reasons why new rappers fail…or why any artist fails for that matter, but we’ve boiled the list down to three specific to new emcees.
The three reasons simply put are:
1) The Hobby Factor
2) The Experience Factor
3) The Focus Problem
Through dealing with countless aspiring rappers, we at The State of Hip Hop have noticed that most problems emcees face can in one way or another be traced to these three root troubles.
Simply stating the problems is of use, but of more use is what I’m sure you all are looking for…a solution.
So let’s begin…
1) The Hobby Factor:
Millions of people around the world play poker. Of those, only a few thousand are professional. The remainder would probably like to be…they sincerely like the game, yet they don’t have a passion for it…for them, poker remains simply a hobby.
This is the case with a good many aspiring emcees. They love rap, they have favorite rappers, know all the words to their songs…but in reality, hip-hop is simply their hobby – enjoyable entertainment. Even so, there is nothing wrong with this.
There are a good many rappers who are successful and yet don’t take rap very seriously. For every KRS-One and Common Sense, you have a pair of Ying Yang Twins or a Master P.
The idea of “not taking rap seriously” does not necessarily refer to the art of rhyme, but instead to rap as a career or business opportunity. So while Master P may not rack his brain trying to craft the most amazing rhyme, he does seriously analyze marketing strategies, distribution outlets, promotional events, etc…all part of the rap game.
But I’m jumping ahead. You may not think this pertains to you. You may think, “I’ll worry about that if and when I get that far.” But therein lies the problem…a mind that is not preparing itself for the big picture. It goes back to the old “thinking ten steps ahead” philosophy.
Some common signs that a new rapper is stuck in this rut are that they try and come up with good ideas, have writer’s block, and stop. Or come up with a few bars or verses, think they’re no good, get upset, give up for a while, and pick the pen up again in a couple of days or weeks. For these people rap is a hobby.
Rap is made a hobby by others because they are afraid to fail at it...Remember this! And it applies to everything you do; Success is achieved only after many failures. If you can't handle failure, you're not ready for success.
The Hobby Factor - Solution:
Make rap a priority, set some time aside to dedicate to it. This doesn’t mean “forget all your other responsibilities, but do write every day. Writing every day sounds very simple, agreed, but it is rarely practiced. The practice becomes understood to be “write a hot verse/song every day”…which it is not.
“Write every day” simply means that. Write down your freestyles, a poem, the opening page of a short story, ideas for a song, literally anything! You’ll be amazed at how drastically this will speed up your learning curve.
Another good idea is to change your entire frame of mind. Let’s say you’re living at home with your parents. Things are pretty straight, you’re not starving. You plan on being a mechanical engineer…What then is motivating you to improve your raps?
Now let’s say you got your girlfriend pregnant, are living partially on the streets, working two jobs to eek out a living…and you see rap as your way out. Well now you got some fire under your ass don’t you?
The point is not that you need to be in any particular circumstance to be a good rapper…but that if your situation isn’t motivating you, you need to force that motivation on you by some other means.
Rap with a hunger…like you literally need it to eat! Don’t treat it like a pastime. Whether you end up becoming a successful musician or not, the time you dedicated is never wasted. Good rap skills and song writing skills are amazingly beneficial to developing a good ability to express yourself in any field.
2) The Experience Factor:
This problem is very common among new rappers.
In the hood you might hear a 12-year-old kid spitting a raw 16 bars. That’s because 12 in the hood is like 21 anywhere else.
A lot of new emcees are hesitant about what to actually write about because of a lack of experience. They haven’t really seen the world first hand. It’s hard to write good raps when you don’t really know yourself yet…because part of what a rap does is communicate to the listener the personality and character of the rapper. Still, not knowing who you are is nothing to be ashamed of.
So while the 21 year old from the outskirts of New Zealand may be intelligent, he may not be quite sure he knows who he is, what he stands for and what really matters to him, perhaps precisely because he thinks too much.
On the other hand, the 12 year old from the slums of Tokyo may be illiterate, irrational, and arrogant, but he has already come to understand himself…he’s comfortable in knowing who he is (regardless of whether he is wrong or has limited his growth).
The Experience Factor - Solution:
Have fun, live, read, and think about who you are.
The best way around this obstacle, really, is just to put yourself into various situations, open your ears to knew ideas, learn your history, etc…All the while asking questions, analyzing things, finding out what in this world matters to you…
Everyone gets around this problem eventually, but for many it’s too late. Try to understand who you are at any given time, and spit your rhymes in that image…amped up a few notches…that’s what makes it art ;)
3) The Focus Problem:
We’ve realized that a lot of people who are interested in rapping are simply naturally artistic and expressive. I personally have always enjoyed drawing since I was a child and could always appreciate a well-written book as well as various types of music.
Being as I grew up in the “hip-hop generation” I naturally gravitated towards the art form of rapping. I loved it, the rhyme, the rhythm, the meaning and wordplay…
However, I actually dove into my obsession with rap before I fully developed any of my previous interests.
There is a negative side effect or problem that comes about here.
An aspiring rapper, for example, might be naturally more skilled at or inclined to being a poet, novelist, journalist, public speaker or other type of musician. He or she might then decide to pursue an interest in rap, essentially ignoring their other talents. This is not fundamentally problematic, however…
Rap is NOT (contrary to some beliefs) the same as poetry. It is poetry and more. There are innumerous factors involved in making good rap music. One factor is the fact that it is a form of music…which separates it from other forms of literature on a number of levels.
Furthermore the skills necessary to writing well, speaking well, etc…are all forgone if one decides to skip these optional outlets for expression. This is a HUGE mistake.
The Focus Problem - Solution:
Stay on track and stick to what you’re good at.
This not only applies to the above-mentioned outlets of expression but ANY outlet of expression. Dance, art, ANYTHING. You will learn tremendously from these. I can’t even begin to explain how much you’ll be missing out on if you decide to forgo these means of expression.
Everything that you learn about being a good public speaker, for example, can be effectively applied to rap…whatever you learn about developing a good storyline…can be used in rap, non-verbal communication techniques you might subconsciously pick up in dance class…they help in rap…the list goes on and on.
So there you have it, 3 of the biggest reasons why new rappers fail or quit…
Another additional reason why rappers fail to succeed is that they don’t fully understand the business of music. Our section www.thestateofhiphop.com/rap-industry.html can begin to help you understand the workings of the music business. We’ll refrain from further detail until a future article.
Until next time, stay on the grind and you should be fine…
See you around!
About the author:
TheStateofHipHop.com was created out of the tremendous worldwide demand for practical advice, pointers, rap tips, and more that aspiring musicians need on their journey to learn to rap.
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