How to Rhyme Better in Rap Lyrics
Learn the art of rhyming
Last Updated: December 2023 | 2875 words (14 – 16 minute read)
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It’s synonymous with rapping…
Hell rapping is even called “rhyming” and the lyrics are called “rhymes.” So naturally, one might think everything in your rap lyrics have to rhyme together.
But the truth is, it can be pretty dynamic. So in this guide on how to rhyme better in your rap lyrics, we’ll help you master the art of rhyming.
We’ll dive into rhyme schemes, how to do it well, different types of rhymes in rap and give you some tips on how you can keep getting better.
If you’re brand new to rapping, check out our beginner’s guide on how to rap first.
If you’ve already read that, let’s get into the art of rhyme…
Audio Version of Article
Do You Have to Rhyme in Rap?
Pop quiz: does rap have to rhyme? Answer: yes and no.
Contrary to popular belief, not everything has to rhyme together in your rap lyrics.
But there’s no doubt that rhyming is an essential part of rapping.
However, the way the rhyming happens can be pretty diverse. True masters of the word are able to create intricate and interesting rhymes that surprise people.
And this brings us to another point – not everything has to be a “perfect” rhyme (two words that rhyme exactly – like toy and boy).
16 bars of perfect rhymes back to back is actually kind of boring and uninspired.
Some of the best emcees are able to rhyme words together that are nowhere near that similar in sound. But they make it work.
How to Rhyme in Rap Lyrics
Rhyming in rap is pretty self explanatory.
The simplest way to think about it is like any children’s poem – you have two lines of words, and the last words of each line have a very similar sound (especially in the words’ endings).
But it can become more complex than just that (more on this later…).
Rhyming in Rap Step-By-Step
Here’s a basic set of steps to rhyming in your raps.
- Start by writing an opening line (1 bar)
- Pay attention to how many syllables that line is and the rhythm of it
- Think about your next line and what you want to say
- Brainstorm some of the key words you can use in line 2 that will rhyme with certain syllables from line 1
- Decide what parts of each line you’ll rhyme, and piece together line 2
- Determine what rhyme scheme would work best to complete the rest of this stanza
- Think about how you want to continue or finish this “thought/idea” and brainstorm words you’ll use that can compliment the rhymes in line 1 and 2.
- Finish writing the lines of the stanza based on your rhyme scheme, word/syllable choices and overall topic/idea for your rap
It’s important to also consider your rhyming across your entire verse and song in general. You don’t want things to be stagnant – you want them to evolve and change over time.
Using the same rhyme types or rhyme schemes over and over again will become boring and stale. So change things up regularly to keep an element of novelty in your writing.
This will become more clear once you’ve read the rest of this guide.
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Syllables are the emphasis points in specific words. A word like “boy” has 1 syllable. But a word like “congratulations” has 5 syllables (con-gra-tu-la-tions).
Each of those syllables has the potential to rhyme with various syllables in other words.
Boy rhymes with toy, but also rhymes with convoy (a 2 syllable word). In that instance the rhyme occurs with the ending syllables of both words.
But boy can also rhyme with the word loyal, depending on how you bend the syllables in your rap lyric’s rhythm.
You could rhyme “the boy / is loy-al” – putting your emphasis on the LOY part of loyal. Now the ending syllable (only syllable) of boy is rhymed with the first syllable of the word loyal.
It’s still a rhyme that can be used in rap. So study the use of syllables and be mindful of them as you write your rhymes.
A stanza is basically a short set of phrases/lines in a poem or song. It’s not an entire verse, for example, but rather one part of an overall verse.
Because most rap music is based in 4/4 time (4 quarter-note beats for every bar/measure of music), and most verses are between 8 and 16 bars in length, you can think of a single stanza in rap as a set of 4 lines.
That would mean there are from 2 to 4 stanzas (i.e sets of 4 lines) in one verse.
Usually (not always) each stanza will be a self-contained thought/idea being expressed in lyric. How you play with words, syllables and rhymes within that stanza is also usually self-contained.
You can continue the same rhymes across different stanzas, but often you’ll notice the rhyme scheme of a rap changes across the different stanzas of a verse.
So when you’re coming up with rhymes, try to think in terms of stanzas. Focus on rhyming within your stanzas to begin with.
Once you get better at this, you’ll be able to continue rhymes and rhyme schemes across an entire verse without it becoming boring/stale. It’s hard to do, but can be done.
Most of the time, however, you’ll be changing up your rhymes and rhyme schemes across stanzas.
Rhyme schemes are integral to rap. Understanding and mastering various rhyme schemes will help you become a better rapper overall.
The rhyme scheme you pick will have a significant impact on how you rhyme your words/syllables together.
What is a Rhyme Scheme?
A rhyme scheme is simply a rhyming pattern. It’s basically a “template” of how a set of lines will rhyme together overall.
Normally, the rhyme scheme will depict how the end of line rhymes will unfold within the stanza.
This doesn’t mean that the only rhymes that occur within the stanza are only at the end of the lines. It just means that this is the overall/overarching rhyme pattern of the stanza.
Different Rhyme Schemes for Rap
There are a ton of different rhyme schemes one could use in writing poetry, rap or song lyrics in general.
A lot of them are more abstract and difficult to make work well, especially in the context of rap music.
So below are the most common rhyme schemes you’ll find rappers using.
It’s a set of 4 letters, corresponding to the 4 lines within a stanza. Each letter simply represents the end of line rhyme. If you see the same letter, that means that line ends with a rhyme similar to the lin with the same letter.
Disclosure: get ready for some wack examples of rhyme schemes.
- AAAA: The most simple rhyme scheme is where each line rhymes with each other line in the stanza. An example would be “Gotta make it happen / Aint no time for all the nappin / All you other rappers cappin / While I’m really out here trappin”
- AAAB: This is similar to the above rhyme scheme, but the last line does not rhyme with the first 3. “I could wave a flag / or this goyard bag / but you gotta keep a mag / for the schemers that stay schemin”
- AABB: In this rhyme scheme each set of 2 lines rhymes together. “I once met a girl from long island / And the way she made it move had me wildin / Tried to play it cool in this situation / But my mind went crazy like a mental patient”
- AABA: In this scheme you rhyme together lines 1, 2 and 4 while line 3 is a non-rhyme. “No room for the bullshit and the vanity / It’s the only way a legend keeps his sanity / I got a room full of bricks and a room full of tricks / Pushin pussy and the Kane like I’m Danity” (nah, ngl that last line was kinda fire tho…)
- ABAB: This is a pretty straightforward rhyming scheme where lines 1 and 3 rhyme together, and lines 2 and 4 rhyme together. “I need a new spot / cuz mine blew up / alphabets made it hot / so now I’m fucked”
Like I mentioned earlier, there are a lot more rhyme schemes that you’ll see used in songwriting and poetry, but these 5 are very common in rap lyrics.
Others are less focused on parallel rhymes and are difficult to make work in an interesting way rap-wise.
But hey, go study them and you may just come up with some really interesting stuff.
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Types of Rhymes in Rap Lyrics
Beyond rhyme schemes, which focus on end of line rhyme structure, there are different types of rhymes you can use in your lyrics.
You can probably tell by some of the examples above, or by your favorite songs, that it’s not only the end of the line we can rhyme together.
Here’s a brief explanation of the different rhyming techniques you should practice and master.
Perfect rhymes are a simple concept to understand as well. Many of the rhymes we used in our examples so far are also “perfect rhymes.
The words themselves sound almost exactly the same – boy and toy are perfect rhymes. It’s not about the letters of the words, but the rhyme sound of the words. Terrible and bearable are also perfect rhymes.
An imperfect rhyme, on the other hand, happens between words that sound similar but aren’t exactly the same sound. Examples would be the words “asking me” and “tragedy” or “patient” and “waiting.”
Of course, a lot of the times, imperfect rhymes are helped in their rhyming by the way you pronounce a word. That’s why you’ll often hear rappers mispronounce words so they can make the rhyme work better.
End of Line Rhymes
These rhymes are the most basic form of rhyming in literature (and rap). They are the types of rhymes we used in all of the examples so far.
Ending rhymes are rhymes where the end of a line rhymes with the end of another line. In the rhyme scheme examples, almost all of the rhymes used were end of line rhymes
A “misplaced” rhyme is simple a rhyme that’s not exclusively at the end of a line. It may happen between the end of line 1 and the beginning of line 2. Or it may happen at the beginning of line 1 and the middle of line 2.
The idea here is that the rhyme happens, but not in the most “basic” place (i.e. the end of a line).
An example would be something like“I’ve got a lot of bad habits don’t blame me / you might shame me but it’s all irrelevant”
In that example the rhymes “blame me” and “shame me” happen at the end of line 1 and the middle of line 2. Line 2 doesn’t end with a rhyme, but it can still work.
This idea is where we can definitely say, no not every line in a rap has to rhyme. But usually, a rhyme will occur somewhere.
The idea behind a multi-syllable rhyme is that you’re trying to rhyme as many syllabic sounds as possible within a line.
These rhymes can add some complexity to your rhyming by stacking rhymes on top of each other. The syllables you rhyme can be across lines or across several words within a line.
Here’s an example:
“My rhymes are straight combustible / and my life is like you juxtapose / a family like the huxtables / that be trappin on these country roads”
The rhyming words are com-bust-i-ble / jux-ta-pose / hux-ta-bles / coun-try-roads.
The “uh” syllables across all the words within the line rhyme together. You can really go crazy with multi-syllable rhymes.
This type of rhyming happens within the same line of your lyrics. You’re rhyming within the line itself, instead of just across the different lines.
An example of an internal rhyme would be me taking the above line and shortening it to:
“Life’s combustible as I juxtapose the huxtables / with the nine on my lap steady strapped so I’m comfortable / I stay trappin all night no sleep / its not so wonderful on the country roads”
In the above example, combustible/juxtapose/huxtables are an internal rhyme all within line #1.
Line 2 still has an end of line rhyme with line 1, but also an internal rhyme with my lap/steady strapped.
And finally line 3 has no rhyme while line 4 internally rhymes wonderful with country roads.
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Tips for Better Rhyming
Now that you’ve got some more in-depth details on what rhyming consists of when you’re a rapper, let’s talk about how you can get better at it.
Here’s a couple of tips that should help you improve your technique.
Buy a Rhyming Dictionary
The first thing you need to do is buy a great rhyming dictionary. Then you need to study it.
Spend some time every day going through the book and just familiarizing yourself with different words that rhyme together.
You don’t have to memorize the dictionary, but the more you study it, the more your “rhyme” vocabulary will improve.
When you see a few words that rhyme together, try using them in a few lines of lyrics you make up on the spot.
Don’t worry, there’s no time limit. This is just practice.
One of the most important aspects of rhyming well is your mastery of the concepts of rhythm and flow in rap.
If you can really get a sense of “timing” in music down, a world of possibilities opens up. Being able to ride a beat or groove smoothly will present you so many different opportunities to rhyme intricate things.
But you have to study (and practice) rhythm. Get good at various flows and be able to wrap words around the rhythm (i.e. the beats in music) in interesting ways.
This will allow you to rhyme words in complex patterns. Really there’s only one way to master rhythm and that is to…
Study Great Rappers
There’s no getting around it – if you want to be great, study the greats.
You should be listening to a lot of your favorite rappers. But not just passively listening like a fan would. You want to be a student of the game.
Study their lyrics and their flows. Study their rhyme schemes. Listen to a song over and over again until you can spit it bar for bar.
A great way to really study lyrics is to count out the syllables of different lines, and examine where the rhymes occur within those lines.
It can be helpful to write them down on paper, or at the very least print out the lyrics while you’re studying them.
Rhyming is all about syllables, and syllables are integral to various flows. They all work hand-in-hand.
So study them and practice using these concepts yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, rap does not ALWAYS have to rhyme, but normally it does. Rapping is synonymous with rhyming because it’s an integral part of the art form. More raps will rhyme, than not rhyme. But not every single line you write absolutely has to rhyme. In some contexts, non-rhyming lines can sound great too. But the competitiveness of the art stems from a rapper’s ability to come up with clever and compelling lines that rhyme together in various rhyme schemes and flows.
Rappers rhyme their lyrics because it’s a foundational part of the art form from it’s roots. Not only do rhymes help to make the lyrics more compelling, they also require skill to pull off making individual rappers more compelling than others. Conveying an idea in non-rhyming prose is much easier than conveying it in a rhyme that is clever and compelling.
Rhyming is, no doubt, an essential part of rapping. But it’s not your basic-bitch nursery rhyme shit that some normies might think.
We aren’t just out here rhyming cat with hat like Dr. Seuss. We can – and we can make it sound dope, too. But it’s so much more intricate and complex than that.
So make sure you get good at rhyming words in different ways. Remember, the less basic you are in your rhymes, the better your lyrics will be overall.
Now that you know the landscape of rhyming in rap, start to study the greats, and write a lot of rhymes. That’s the only way you’ll ever get better.
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Thanks for reading this entire guide on how to rhyme better in rap. I hope it was helpful.
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