Battling is the basis for all rap music. The battle is the truest essence of rap and where rap music started. The object of a rap battle is to come up with insulting rap lyrics on the spot (not pre-written or pre-meditated) and rap them towards an opponent. The rapper with the best delivery, lyrics, and crowd response usually wins. This manual will outline the basic steps of how to begin battling, and some tips that will make you better. Make sure that the lyrics match the beat, because the beat is an important factor in the final process in a rap battle. Also, learn to accept that it’s only a vocal battle and there is no chance of you actually losing your life, surviving a rap battle is easier than it seems.
- Watch videos online of battles, or try to go to rap battles near your hometown. There is a scene in the movie 8 Mile that is a good representation of what a freestyle rap battle is really like.
- Try to get your ears on some freestyle raps done by accomplished artists who are well known for their rap battles. You can learn a lot from rappers like Eyedea, Atmosphere, Tech N9ne, AMB, Nas, Eminem, Tupac, Jin and Biggie. Good battles to look up include the Blaze Battles from HBO, Scribble Jam, among others. YouTube.com is an easy way to find these.
- Pay careful attention to the techniques those artists use to battle, and try to mirror them which will help you enhance your own techniques.
- Start writing. Write down anything that comes to mind and try to rhyme it. Write down sets of rhymes and then choose the best rhymes to go with your subject of rap. Consider getting a rhyming dictionary. The ability to write an effective battle rhyme will aid you when it comes to the battle. Note: Some rappers don’t write everything down, they keep everything in their head so that they can only talk about what’s ‘real’
- Practice freestyling (rapping without pre-written lyrics on the spot or impromptu) – anytime, anywhere, as much as you can. Even if you run out of things to freestyle about, just keep going, the longer you force yourself to rap without giving up the stronger you’ll become mentally. It’s like a mental workout.
- Try freestyling battle rhymes, once you get freestyling down. Take a picture of someone, look at your dog, do what ever you can to picture an opponent you are about to rap against and try and come up with clever ways to insult the opponent with rap lyrics.
- Start freestyle battling. The best way to start battling is to find opponents that are just for fun and don’t care if you insult them or mess up for that matter. Constantly battle like that with people, especially if you can find a friend who is actually good at battling so they can teach how to improve what you lack. Again, continue to practice this until other friends you know (especially those into hip-hop music) think you’re pretty good. House parties and rap concerts are also good places to practice your battle rap techniques before actually entering a staged freestyle rap battle.
- Don’t worry if you lose your first few real battles, the point is to constantly practice freestyling and writing. As with anything, the longer you do it the better you’ll become. Continue practicing until you’ve got it down. There are many techniques to battling, but these are just the basics.
- Most of all, don’t get nervous, try and keep calm. Be sure to drink water and hydrate before and after the battle. A good technique for freestyle rapping is to have key words that you can return to. These words will help you out if your drawing blanks. Know what words rhyme with your key words, allowing you to use them more often because you know what flows with them.
- When in a rap battle, you want to make sure that your verse includes three major things!
- Similes – Making comparisons with your opponent to something that insults them. Try to link it with something going on in the world at the moment that everyone has heard of.
- Disses – (a diss is an insult)You want to diss your opponent on broad topics like: how they dress, speak, spit, look, walk, talk, act, or their personality; or personally: the way they live, their past, their lifestyle, or any other weaknesses about them.
- Humor – Make the crowd and judges and even your opponent laugh. Sometimes that will win the battle for you.
- Battle raps are made up of two parts; a set up and a punch line. The set up is a line that is an opener or rhyme line that your punch-line (where the insult is) will follow. A Punch-Line is basically a line that incorporates a Metaphor, Diss, and/or anything else to enhance the flow directed at your opponent.
- Example: In Nas’ song called Ether (a famous rap battle song directed towards Jay-Z) he says “Put it together (the set up), I rock hoes y’all Roc-Fellas” (the punch line is an insult using the name of Jay-Z’s rap label and insinuating that Jay-Z and his camp prefer men over women).
- If someone beats you in a battle and it gets to you, practice more until you think you’re really ready. Then challenge them again: if you win, you will earn a lot of respect back. It’s a great feeling, and chicks or dudes will dig your system and flair.
- The more you write the better your freestyle will become.
- When you think you lost it, don’t worry – just relax. The worst thing to do is freak out. Just relax and keep going. There is always value in overcoming a mess up.
- While your opponent is rapping, you should be figuring out what you are going to say in your next verse. But be careful not to tune your opponent out, because sometimes the insults they say to you can be flipped (re-directed as an insult towards the person who said it) and used to your advantage.
- Ordering of the spit is also important to some degree. While you are trying to rebut someone dissing you when you reply back, but when you spit first, you want to take that away. You can do that by self-deprecation. Anyone who can self-criticize can be very unexpected for the opponent trying to find flaws.
- Take 8 Mile’s Final Battle for example, since B-Rabbit was put to spit first, he insulted himself and basically said a big ‘so what?’. “Yes, I’m white, I’m a bum, I live in a trailer, my mum’s a drug addict…”, thus basically taking every possible insult directed at him away from Papa Doc before Papa has anything to fight back. Then B-Rabbit dissed Papa Doc for being a private-schooler, then he closed out his turn by saying this battle is pointless, “Here, tell these people something they don’t know about me”.
- Use humor in your rhymes, especially if your opponent is dead serious, that will make them mess up and possibly crack up. If you can get your opponent to agree with you during your battle verse, you are making great strides towards a win.
- Just stay focused and be confident in what your saying. Remember delivery is everything.
- There are two types of battles, free style and thought out, now.A battle may go longer than you thought so just remember to practice and bring out words out of the blue.Try to write the lyrics that are thought out when you’re angry or hyper, energy puts words on paper.
- Don’t say anything that is unrelated to the person, and don’t say your going to kill them or that you sell drugs if you don’t.
- Even if the opponent is not using pre-writtens, say that he is using them. Create some uncertainty in the crowd.
- Don’t look down, when you look down you show that you are getting beat, stay looking into his eyes, but not like you are hard and you’re gonna hit him, cause chances are he will hit you.
- You should prefer facts and actualities in your freestyle rap battle, they will reduce your opponent’s self-confidence.
- If you had made pre-writtens don’t think too far ahead of yourself. Thinking ahead may make you bring up lines from, say your second verse, thus bringing up the problem of you repeating that line in the second verse because you had spit it before. Just take your time and go with the flow.
- Make your opponent feel embarrassed, for example by saying something about his hair.
- Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t win the first few times, you have to practice, nobody’s good when they are just starting
- Smash them with punchlines. Lyricism is important, but usually three or four punchlines will make sure you win.
- Don’t battle anyone who you think will become violent if you win.
- Make sure to never copy someone else’s lyrics.
- How to Write Rap Rhymes
- How to Write a Rap Song
- How to Be a Human Beatbox
- How to Freestyle Rap
- How to Become a Great Rap Performer
- How to Write a Rock Song
- How to Come up With a Rapper Name
- How to Be a Good Rapper
- How to Become a Good Freestyle Rapper
- How to Write You Own Raps That Are About Anything
Sources and Citations
- IllestRhyme-live user vs user battles – Site that allows you to battle other users live
- Freestyle Rap Guide – Learn how to improve your freestyle rap battles with this
- Learn to Freestyle Rap Battle – Blog dedicated to helping others learn how to rap
- rap battle – Learn to rap battle and freestyle
- rap forum – freestyle rap site feed back site. post your verses and receive feed back on how to improve.
- Check The Technique – book that breaks down classic Hip-Hop albums, and has insights into writing rap songs.
- Can’t Stop Won’t Stop – book on history of Hip-Hop and how the genre evolved.
- How To Rap – book interviewing many MCs to see how they write their lyrics.
- Classic Material – book reviewing many classic Hip-Hop albums and detailing why their lyrics are timeless.
- Spoken vs. Written – This is for all you Ghost writers and Starving Artists.
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