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How to Write a Rap Song

By Philip “Sharp Skills” Jacobs ’08

Sharp SkillsThough Kerry Park provides a famous view of Seattle’s skyline, John Keatley used the viewpoint’s cloudy skies as a backdrop for this portrait of reconciliation leader John Perkins to remove distractions, focusing the image.

How I compose:

When I compose, I ponder what I want the song to convey, usually from a list of song concepts that I have brainstormed in advance. From there, I find a beat that matches the song concept. The beat is crucial because it has to have the same emotion as my words, mindset, and cadence.

Next, I often ride around listening to the music in my car, because I’m in my car a lot and alone there most of the time. I like being alone when creating. I freestyle to the beat and see what sticks. Whatever sticks is what I write down, and those notes give me the basis for the rest of the song. I’ve written many a song in my head just listening to a beat I’ve created several times.

Tips for aspiring rappers:

  1. Hone your craft through continual practice; talent is not enough.
  2. Find as many opportunities as you can to share your gift with others when first starting out. This will help build confidence and also help build awareness of your music.
  3. If you are pursuing this as a career, learn the business by reading books, attending seminars, and getting information from credible websites and other artists.
  4. Be original. Be yourself.
  5. Be humble and appreciative.
  6. The Internet is the indie artists’ best friend; learn how to make it work for you.
  7. Get a good job; don’t try to make your living from music when you’re just starting out. Let your music get to the point where it demands you to leave your job. Having another source of income will also allow you to make decisions based on good judgment and not desperation regarding your music career.
  8. Finally, have fun. It’s not worth it if you aren’t enjoying what you are doing.

Sharp Skills began writing and recording rap lyrics at age 10. A manager and rap artist, he will release his new album, Anno Rebelio, in 2012..