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HipHop Wordplay Introduction

by on July 12, 2011

It has been said that there is a lot of monotony plaguing the hip hop genre of music in recent years. With the same subject matter and music production, it seems that the teenager/young adult’s aspiration of becoming a mainstream hip hop artist has a solid format already laid out for them.

However, people are silently craving a new sound and perspective that has yet to be spread to the masses. The problem that many fail to realize is that one of the strongest varying factors that separates the unique lyricist from the common rapper is his/her wordplay.

Enhancing this “rhyming/word manipulating technique” will define an up and coming artist’s skill as an elite wordsmith. Some of the “mind-set” steps to consider when working on one’s songwriting abilities are as follows:

Elzhi Examples

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Step 1: Understanding Metaphors and the Power of Meaning

There are many ways to rhyme in a literal sense, but it becomes an entirely different dynamic of poetry construction when words are manipulated and used in “unconventional context” so to speak. It is almost considered a staple to use metaphors/similes in hip hop rhymes due to the adage of creativity and power that they introduce.

This is an aspect of wordplay that greatly divides the mediocre and elite lyricists. Working with different word schemes, understanding the multiple meanings that can be derived from words and listening to a rich variety of other artists will assist one in increasing the complexity of their metaphors and making their meaning their own, hence establishing an individualistic style that is not lost in the crowd.

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Step 2: Word Choice

This is simply a matter of knowing what words are intriguing and intricate as opposed to simplistic, bland and overused, depending on the circumstances of the subject for the song. For example, if an artist wants to convey the point that he or she is the greatest artist, which would be more “profound” to hear:

“I’m the best in the game, no need for comparison/ I rest in the same place as heroes and heroines” OR “The dope vocalist, never settling for failure as aftermath/ So terms flip in my head like like telekinetic acrobats”. The first example is more direct while the second is more illusive, still hinting at the same idea of being very talented as an artist. Both are usable, it’s just a decision based on personal preference and style.

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Step 3: The Personal/General Substance of a Subject/Topic

Some of the common themes that come about in the world of hip hop have been exhausted ten times over. The artist that is truly dedicated to conditioning their wordplay into something that’s untouchable has to attempt to find the ideas that have not been touched on (at least not as often as others).

This goes into digging deeper into one’s interests and exploring all their facets. From there, learning descriptive words that are connected to the topic and utilizing them to create a song is essential to defining one’s prowess as a wordsmith.

Then there are topics that contain so much depth that writing a song about them simply requires one to incorporate intricate wordplay to convey the message. Either method, with practice and persistence, will enhance one’s rhyming techniques.

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Step 4: Multi-syllables

Another “staple” in the hip hop is the use of multi-syllables when rhyming bars, even to the point of maintaining the same tone/sound scheme throughout an entire verse.

For example, just to provide a straight to the point definition of what multi-syllables are, “The model make of my skill exceeds the average human balance/ I’m something of a legend, a talent few men fathom”. The “average-human-balance” and “talent-few-men-fathom” when said almost sound as if they are one long rhyming word at the end of the line. Developing this tactic is truly a lethal weapon to one’s arsenal.

1. Read!!! This will only familiarize you with different writing in general and help stimulate the mind to write with more thought and imagination. Also, a spike in the vocabulary that housed in the brain comes with reading more.

2. Free-Write. Put pen to paper and write whatever comes to mind. It’s a surprising and revealing way to find out your true identity, hence finding your style.

3. Keep a pad on hand (if possible). You never know when you’ll think of an idea or concept that could transform into a hook, a verse, an entire song or a complete album.


Complacency is a dangerous state of mind. **Always know what you don’t know and crave to learn it.**


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