Writing Rap Songs With Students

This is the fourth lesson in my unit on Rap Music.

In this lesson, I set the parameters of the rap songwriting assignment, I share a few examples of rap songs, and then I put the students into groups and have them start writing.

You can download the Smartboard file of this lesson for free to use in your classroom.

rap songwriting assignment

In the last lesson, I shared a song from Run-DMC so the students could see how the two rappers in that group took turns saying rhymes and lines of their songs.

I have another example of this to share with them today.

Rap Songwriting Assessment Criteria

Right up front, I let the students know the five elements I will be focusing on when I mark their performances. I want them to speak clearly, to have creative lyrics, to adhere to the four bar structure of rap, to stay on beat with their lyrical delivery, and to be a good audience member for all of the performances.

Audience etiquette is something that we should teach and reinforce in class. Making it part of the mark stresses its importance.

A Simple Diagram of Rap Song Structure

This slide was part of the last lesson but I included it here again to help students remember to stay on beat.

To show them a good way to find and keep the beat, have them use both hands to tap their lap on beat 1, to clap on beat 2, and then repeat these two steps for beat 3 and beat 4.

The rhyming words should fall on the claps.

Mission 5 Write About Now

I then share with them one of the songs I did with my rap group Mission 5.

Mission 5 band members

I used to go by the name of DJ Unconventional and I shortened it down to Uncon. I was the lead rapper in the group.

Abomination was our DJ.

Rime-On is my younger brother and he and I trade rhymes back and forth in this song. My lyrics are in red and his are in blue.

Mission 5 Lyrics Explained

I display the lyrics to the first verse as the students listen to the song. I then stop the MP3 and break down what those lyrics mean.

When I say “Kill that noise,” I really am telling people to stop all of the negative talk and to just listen to the music.

We then see that the 5 in our group name doesn’t refer to the number of group members. It shows that we were trying our best to get a 5-star rating in magazines.

We all like football and include that interest in our rhyme.

When Rime-On says “You see me you say, ‘Uh-oh!'” It shows that we are tough to compete against.

We then compare ourselves to the Wright Brothers. The line is even more effective since we are actually brothers.

Our tracks are so explosive you get hit with debris. This is an effective image since we can shorten down our deejays name to A-bomb so we are talking about a bomb or an atomic bomb.

What Rappers Do in Their Rhymes

As you can see, we did a lot in that short rhyme. We traded lines back and forth. We used multi-syllable rhymes.

We used slant rhyme by rhyming “afternoon” and “game or two.” This works because of the ‘er’ and ‘oo’ sounds in both rhyming words .

We used internal rhyme. “gusto” and “trio” were said in the middle of the line. “uh-oh” was said in an end rhyme but all these rhymes fell on the snares.

We use simile – “taking off like the brothers from Ohio”

And we use metaphor by suggesting our tracks fly like airplanes.

In the chorus, we repeat the title of the song on every snare. It’s a catchy hook that is memorable and helps set the mood for the piece. It helped us write the lyrics for the entire song.

Some rappers start with the chorus just for that reason.

Ngajuana Writing A Chorus

I love the chorus to this song. It really sounds like the words are falling down. It’s brilliant!

This song also starts out with the chorus.

How to Write a Rap Chorus

NGA is a friend of mine and a very talented musician. I was also to share some of his creative process with my students.

Inspiration for the song "Time is the Fire"

I have rapped my song “Time is the Fire” to the class a few different times this year. Now, I get to share with them the inspiration behind it.

Song Ideas (Write Your Own Rap)

Of course, some students will have no idea where to start writing so I gave them a few basic themes here and ideas on how they could write something about those themes.

Have Fun and Write Something

I close with this doctored Calvin and Hobbes comic. I can just imagine Hobbes being the beatboxer and Calvin kicking some rhymes.

This almost makes we want to write a rhyme about comic strip characters becoming rappers. Hmmmm! Maybe I’ll do just that.

Inspiration can come from anywhere after all.

GROUP WORK

I wanted this to be a group assignment because I know some students will be too shy or nervous to perform raps by themselves.

I decided to partner up students instead of letting them choose their own groups. This way I was certain everyone would end up in a group.

I did give them a little bit of choice with the groups though because I then let them join with another partner group to make a group of 4.

For the most part, this strategy worked well.

Download the Smartboard file of this lesson for free.

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