How to Make a Great Rap Album

Last month I posted up a story titled How to Ruin Your Rap Album. The point of it was to show the tired clichés being used far too often in rap music today and how the vast majority of albums have become nothing more than cookie cutter - fill your name in the blank - affronts to the brain. Quite a few message boards picked up on the article and PackFM hit me after reading it to ask if I could follow it up with a post on what qualities I feel make for a great rap album. Well, since it was asked for, and since I love being on the positive tip whenever I can, here goes.

Start With a Thought – I know, this sounds like something that should be common sense, but the vast majority of songs I hear nowadays seem to be started with no real thought in mind. The only idea is “I’ll rhyme words about stuff.” That doesn’t cut it in 2007-2008. We’ve had over 30 years of Hip-Hop and the bar has been raised significantly. You need a real idea, a real thought, to start with. The MCs that conjure up the most interesting thoughts are usually the ones I enjoy most. And if the only thought you have is of how great you are…

Be Creative Lyrically – Bragging is OK, though as stated in the previous article one shouldn’t be bragging at the expense of the listener, i.e. directly telling the listener you’re better than they are. If you decide you want to brag on record there’s one very important rule to follow; be original with it. Every rapper has bragged at some point in time so there are clearly a lot of ways to say you’re the man. Be witty about it and if you have nothing new to say find a new way to say an old thing.

Be Honest – Nobody is one way all the time. No one is 100% gangster and no one is 100% socially conscious. Be honest with yourself and your listeners. You have likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, causes and a myriad of other things that make up who you are as a person. Make sure those things are also in your rhymes. Nobody would want to hang out with a person who is only about one thing all the time, so what makes you think that ideology would work for an album?

Make Me Feel an Emotion – If you can get listeners on board with you emotionally you will instantly win. What do I mean by this? Well, think of your favorite album and how you feel when you listen to it. Maybe it gets you amped, maybe it makes you smile, or maybe it simply eases your mind. Even if you can’t put that feeling into words it’s something distinct and you should want your album to create a feeling like that in listeners. If an album doesn’t make you laugh, cry, smile, or pump you up, what’s the point of it?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Respect the listener. They’re the ones who are going to make or break you by buying your album or leaving it on the shelf. Respect their knowledge. Don’t talk down to them and don’t insult them. Also, show a little respect for women and the society we all live in. Talking about “bitches and hoes” and dealing drugs has been done to death. I’m not saying you have to suddenly start talking about female empowerment and “say no to drugs,” but just by leaving the negative side of such topics off your album, or at least cutting down on them, you’ll make it immeasurably better.

Find a Producer You Mesh With – One of the biggest problems with rap albums today is that artists attempt to get multiple top producers on their album in hopes of having a number of hit singles. While this might generate a few hits it will also make the album sound incredibly awkward. Think of your favorite albums, most of them probably only have one or two producers on them and all of them had multiple great songs. This is because the artist meshed with the producer and they created magic in the studio. Just because Timbaland has hits with Justin Timberlake doesn’t mean he can do the same for you. That guy down your block that you grew up with, however, or even an artist you met online, might be a perfect fit and if you continue to work with him (or her) you could develop a sound all your own that will make you unique and interesting.

I’m sure I could continue to go on and on with this list of ways to create a great rap album, but I’ll stop at an even half a dozen. Of course, there’s one major provision to all this, you have to have skills! That being said, if you have lyrical ability and try out some of these ideas I’m willing to bet you’ll create something memorable. ATLiens anyone?

Related Links

Adam’s World: How to Ruin Your Rap Album
Adam’s World: Super Producers – A Double Edged Sword


WEKetchum said…
Well-done. Basic, but necessary.

Got a joint out there you might enjoy:
Paper Chasr said…
Man... You are surely a beast for this one. Peace, Ope aka Paper Chasr
Unknown said…
I sat through and read your whole article!!! Great stuff and very helpful. I'm planning on making an album by the end of 2012. It's going to be deep yet very catchy! Thanks for the post and keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for Demise!!!
Unknown said…
I sat through and read your whole article!!! Great stuff and very helpful. I'm planning on making an album by the end of 2012. It's going to be deep yet very catchy! Thanks for the post and keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for Demise!!!