Choosing the Right Rap Beats to Rhyme Over


 
This is probably one of the most important decisions you can make as a hip hop artist; the perfect match between emcee and beat is what often makes or breaks a track, or even an entire album and career.

On our catalogue you can find a huge variety of rap beats, and because we want you to make the most of them, we have compiled a list of useful tips to keep in mind when making those important artistic decisions…

BPM

All of our rap beats have detailed BPM info next to them, because different styles are better suited to different tempos.

Depending on your personal musical tastes, faster or slower beats may often have an indirect influence on how much you like the sound of an instrumental. When rapping, we often went for faster beats, there was just something about tracks at 100 BPM that sounded better to us compared to say 90 BPM.

However, faster beats require tighter vocal diction skills: you have to be able to clearly pronounce words without getting them blurred or twisted; this sounds easier than it actually is. Most rappers can rhyme up to 98 BPM, but go faster than that and you will realise that it has an impact on your flow.

Our advice

If you really like a beat with a BPM of 100+, write your lyrics over the beat directly. This will ensure that the words you chose will blend nicely with the instrumental and not sound like you’re struggling to keep up.

If your lyrics tend to be more complex and feature intricate word play, we would recommend going for slower BPMs, as this will allow you to chose a broader variety of words to express your creativity.

Be honest with yourself, is your rhyming and diction good enough to work well over a fast beat? There is nothing wrong with having a preference for slower instrumentals and a generally more laid back style.


Musical Complexity

This aspect refers to the instrumental density and general complexity of a beat. In other words, is it just drums and bass or is it an epic work featuring a broad variety of sounds and instruments? Is it a complex lead line that runs for two bars non stop, or is it just a chopped up sample triggered a few times across a single bar? To understand what this means, think of how different a Premo beat sounds to what The Roots or Lupe Fiasco have recently rhymed over.

This isn’t about one style sounding better than the other (both are equally dope) but about you as an emcee choosing the best style suited to you. Top emcees (Nas, Jay-Z, Eminem) can easily manage both styles, but can you? Again, this is about being honest with yourself, asking others to give you honest feedback and making the right decision.

Our advice

If you have an energetic, strong and charismatic flow, a simpler beat will work for you. The simplicity of the beat will give your lyrics more space to “breathe” within the sonic spectrum of the track.

If you have a more laid back, slow flow, in other words your style is closer to spoken word than rapping, complex beats will work best. The music will fill the gaps in your flow to create a more powerful track

The above are extremes, most emcees are somewhere in the middle, the only advice in this case is therefore to listen back closely to anything you record and ask yourself: does the track sound too full? Is there too much going on here? Or does it sound too weak and lifeless, do I need the beat to help carry me? The key is to be artistically mature, being aware of and accepting your style and choosing what works best with it. For example having a slower spoken word style isn’t in any way a bad thing, it can lead to some beautiful lyrics, therefore just go with it and make the most of it!


Mood

This may seem like an obvious one, but flipping the convention around here can lead to original and interesting tracks.

It is often the case that a sad/emotional lyric will demand a similar beat, while a happy/party track will work best with a fast and bouncy instrumental. But there is no written rule about this, so why not do things the other way around? An upbeat instrumental can add an entire new dimension of hope and optimism to a more emotional lyric, while a slow and dark beat can add an interesting angle to a party track…

Our advice

Try different beats for your rhymes, no matter what the theme of your lyrics is, don’t automatically go for the obvious choice. You may be pleasantly surprised and end up creating a fantastically original track.


Originality

This is where you need to make a difficult artistic decision: do you want to ride the wave of what is fashionable at the moment in the hope of getting easily noticed, or do you want to go for something new and unheard to stand out?

There is no right or wrong answer, it depends on your artistic objectives. Our personal view and beatmaking philosophy rotates around originality, or at least a different take on what is fashionable, but there is nothing wrong in disagreeing with this, it really is up to you.

However again, be aware of your style. A hugely innovative and alternative beat may require a certain lyrical skill, can you really handle it?

Our advice

Don’t automatically go for “crunk, down south, west coast, timbaland, neptunes, dr dre” beats, try everything. While rhyming over a fashionable style of beat may help you get noticed, it is no way a guarantee; it may in some cases even work against you as you could be dismissed as yet another clone.

Listen to as many beats as possible (20+) before making a decision, try rhyming over all of them and see what works, what feels right. Try and ignore fashion and focus on the sounds and the feel of the beat.

If you like a very unconventional and alternative instrumental, get feedback and make sure that your style works well with it. While going for the tried and tested may be seen as “boring”, going too extreme may give out the impression that you’re trying too hard to stand out at the expense of quality.


Ignore all of the above!

Yes, ignore everything we’ve said. Rules can’t be applied to art, what you feel inside is what should guide your choices. Also, this article is just a view on things, there are exceptions to all of the points we have made.

What we have tried to do is give you some thought starters, ideas to consider, for when you choose beats. But in the end, what really matters is your instinct…go with it and put together some great hip hop music!

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