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Writing and Rap Music: A Mother’s Dilemma

If you have teenage kids, you probably know all about rap music. If you’re like me and have a child who writes rap, well, you may know more than you’d like to know about rap music. And, like me, you may have a mixed opinion about it.

Rap music is really all about beats and lyrics. As a writer, I can appreciate that. I like good writing and a good message performed to a catchy beat.  Of course, a big complaint of parents is the profanity that seems to make its way into rap songs, and I’m no different. I’ve always wondered why rappers couldn’t get their point across without using all the colorful language. My son’s lyrics are relatively tame, but an expletive here and there can still feel like nails on a chalkboard. I’m sure other moms of rappers agree. So what are we to do?

I decided to sit down with my son and find out a little bit more about what goes into the writing of a rap song. The result? His answers not only helped me understand and even embrace his passion, they offer some good tips for writers of all genres. Here’s what my son had to say:

What or who inspired you to start writing rap?

A friend of mine used to write raps, which were more like poems, and text them to people. He got me inspired to write my own raps. Professionals who’ve inspired me along the way include Lupe Fiasco, Blu, and J. Cole.

How is writing rap like writing poetry? How is it different?

Well, rap music and poetry both need flow and rhythm. They also should have a conclusion and tell a story. But with rap, you’re more inclined to make everything rhyme. You also have to have more structure with rap, because it has to fit within a beat and be musical at the same time.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing rap?

There’s a lot of pressure to show your credibility, which can limit you as a writer. You have to try to keep it real and be true to yourself, approach every song as yourself.

Why do you think profanity is so prevalent in rap music?

There’s always a place for filler words, like swear words, in rap songs. Profanity is used because artists are mostly from a younger generation, so they’re more desensitized to that type of word. Plus, the fan base is young people, who again don’t care about swear words. The profanity is more a reflection of the generation than the music itself.

In your opinion, is profanity necessary for a good rap song?

No, but a swear word wouldn’t hinder a song’s success. On the other hand, too much swearing in a song wouldn’t make it mainstream, but some artists don’t care if they’re not mainstream.

How do you come up with an idea for a rap song?

I usually come up with a concept from my mood or something that happened. I don’t know how the song will unfold or end, though, until I start writing.

Has writing rap music helped you in other areas of your life? If so, how?

Mostly, it’s helped my vocabulary grow. It’s also helped me socially and kept me up on current events. And it’s helped me become a deeper thinker.

What advice would you give an aspiring rap writer?

Find a way to separate yourself from everyone else, and keep some ambiguity in your lyrics so that listeners have a reason to listen to your music again and find new interpretations of it.

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