Sunday, October 2, 2011

The 10 Secrets to Having a Successful Rap Career

The 10 Secrets to Having a Successful Rap Career

October 1, 2011

By Sahpreem A. King, Multi-Platinum Music Producer, Author, Educator, and Music Business Guru

The minimum requirements for being a rapper are having a broad vocabulary, being a great salesman, and having a huge amount of self-confidence. Without these core components, an aspiring rapper has as much of a chance at success as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Being a rapper also means having confidence and a larger than life persona. A rapper should be his or her own biggest fan. You cannot sell me on you, if you haven’t first sold yourself. If you are a person that is an introvert, camera-shy, self-conscience, or insecure, then this is not the vocation for you. There is no dishonor in moving on to another part of the music game if the spotlight is not for you. Since you insist on being a rapper, a master of ceremonies (MC) if you will, then here are a few suggestions.

1. Get your hands on a rhyming dictionary and learn it well. You cannot be a lyrical god if you don’t know how to make words rhyme.

2. Learn how to pace your flow to the beat. In other words your timing. There is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to flowing to the beat. You can ride the beat, be in front of the beat, or even behind the beat. Depending on how you pace your words and phrases you can come up with some serious cadences, but it must purposefully be consistent or it will sound like crap.

3. Speaking of cadence, study the greats and find a rapping style that best suits you, learn it then master it. Remember, even Michael Jordon had a mentor.

4. Make sure that you properly project your voice when you rap. No one will be interested in a rapper who whispers and speaks like he is afraid to be heard. This concept worked only once for the Ying Yang Twins and you see where they are now?

5. As a rapper or an artist in any regard, you should have a huge presence both physically and more appropriately vocally. Your voice should always be large and in charge so that your lyrics are felt by all. Your vocal presence is a sure fire indication of your passion. It’s not enough that the audience can hear you, but they must also feel you.

6. A rapper must be a super-fan of rap music. Just as a medical student would study the history of medicine, you must learn, respect, and honor the history of your craft. There are tons of books that have been written on the history of rap or hip-hop culture in general. You can also learn the history of rap and hip-hop by listening to old school artists and hip-hop pioneers.

7. Breath control is important to the art of rapping because if you cannot breathe you cannot flow. Yes, you can get away with this in a studio environment, but the first time you have to perform live you will be dead in the water. Breathing while rapping is no different than breathing while singing you must breathe using your diaphragm muscles. If this is an issue for you, I suggest walking briskly on a treadmill while spitting your verses. This exercise will increase your breath control while decreasing your waistline. Think of a drill sergeant in the military calling cadence while his troops take a morning jog; same principles apply here.

8. Learning how to hold a microphone is crucial to rapping because it is a tool of your trade. Sure you can spit without one in a quiet room of two to four people, but what happens when you have to rock in front of two to four thousand people? You may be familiar with a studio microphone, but you never have to hold it in your hands and trust me it’s a totally different animal. I recommend that you go to your local music store and purchase yourself a Shure SM58 microphone. The SM58 is an industry staple for doing live shows and small venues. They are available in wired and wireless models, but the wired one will do just fine for your application. Practice rapping through it and holding it so that you become accustomed to how it sounds and feels. Also get in a habit of bringing it to smaller places where you’re performing. The last thing you want to do is have a bad show because the house microphones sucked. In addition, I must note that on a grander scale, concert halls, large auditoriums, and major venues use wireless handheld and headset microphones of a far superior caliber, but once you learn how to handle the SM58 style mic, you will have the basic understanding on how microphones work.

9. Rappers such as the late Ol Dirty Bastard, JayZ, and Lil Wayne all pride themselves in their ability to spit lyrics from the tops of their heads. This phenomenon is known as freestyling and is one of the essential elements of MCing. Not everyone can do it, and not everyone that can do it, does it well. Freestyling takes lots of time and practice, but it is an art that everyone rapper should master. Back in the days, rappers used to freestyle at parties and shows once they had exhausted their written lyric banks or wanted to give the crowd a little treat by offering them some impromptu flow. Any rap master will tell you that freestyling is an accessory to your written repertoire, but nothing can replace well thought out, polished lyrics. Freesytling is a great tool to use in a rap battle similar to using a boot gun in a gunfight. Rap pioneer and legend KRS One has mastered the crafts of freestyling and writing and its part of what make his a superior world class MC.

10.  Education is important to a rapper as going to law school is to an aspiring attorney. Rappers of yesterday weren’t versed in the principles, policies, and practices, of the music industry. For this very reason they were taken advantaged of, exploited, and ultimately disenfranchised. In those days the music industry was a tight knit operation more or less a good ole boys network, where rap was viewed as another way to pimp and profit from the talent of minority artists. Today, much of the same ideologies and practices still exist, but rappers today have lawyered up. Also, there are courses and degree programs being offered at colleges and universities specifically for music business education. I suggest that every rapper take at least one class if not pursue an entire degree program. As an artist, your days of fame and fortune are limited; therefore, you must think beyond rap. What are you going to do when your ship crashes into the rocky shore? Having a degree in business or music business is not a bad idea as a back up plan or insurance policy. If money and time is an issue or just your excuse, pick up a book, read an article, attend a seminar, or find a mentor. Do what needs to be done in order to obtain and maintain success-fulness.

As always peace and blessings…and remember an uneducated man is a financially disadvantaged man…stay humble, stay hungry.

Sahpreem A. King, Music Business Guru
© 2011, Sahpreem A. King,

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