im going to teach u about wordplay with help from flocabulary


Wordplay has been used by everybody from Shakespeare

to Atmosphere to make audiences

ooh and ahh

. The

best rappers combine wordplay and metaphors to


create amazing lines that people remember and tell


their grandkids about.



Pro Example

What you get on, it’s fam you can’t trust,

Words and Punch

make rappers March like the third month

Punchline, “Twice Inna Lifetime”

What is Wordplay?

An instance of wordplay in rap is when words signify

two or more different things that make sense in the

context of the line. Wordplay is literally just playing

with the meanings of words.

This is made possible by the fact that words in the

English language (and most languages) can have

multiple meanings. Words can have multiple dictionary

definitions, scientific definitions, colloquial definitions

and slang definitions. The skilled rapper can bounce

between these meanings to create a line that knocks

a crowd off their feet. This is another way in which

having a big vocabulary is a real benefit to your rhymewriting.

In the example that opened this chapter, Punchline

plays on the two definitions of the word “march”

(meaning ‘to walk’) and “March” (‘the month after

February’). In doing so, he creates a line that stops

you in your tracks, because it’s so damn clever. You’ll

notice that most instances of wordplay in rap involve

metaphors as well. Here’s another example from

the same song. This is Wordsworth playing with the

meaning of “stereotype”:

Revive or ruin, my theories of mics,

Sony or Aiwa, black or white, I fit in all stereotypes

Creating Wordplay

How are you supposed to write lines like that? Follow

these steps and don’t do too many drugs.

Step 1. Pay Attention to New Words

Pay attention to words and their meanings in your life.

When you read or hear words that you don’t know,

write them down and then look up their definition.

Step 2. Look for Multiple Definitions

When you do look up a word, don’t just read the first

definition in the dictionary, read all the definitions.

This is crucial because wordplay is based on messing

around with multiple definitions.

Creating Wordplay

How are you supposed to write lines like that? Follow

these steps and don’t do too many drugs.

Step 1. Pay Attention to New Words

Pay attention to words and their meanings in your life.

When you read or hear words that you don’t know,

write them down and then look up their definition.

Step 2. Look for Multiple Definitions

When you do look up a word, don’t just read the first

definition in the dictionary, read all the definitions.

This is crucial because wordplay is based on messing

around with multiple definitions.

3. Think About Words You Already Know

Do this exercise: look around you wherever you are

and make a list of the things you see. You could write

it down, or do it in your head. Now go through each

object and try to think if there are alternate meanings

for that word. If there are, take note of them.

For example, say I’m on the bus. This is my list, with

possible wordplay listed after each one:



– a bus is a big vehicle for moving people. It’s

also the nickname of Jerome Bettis, the former


running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A


busboy busses tables; he clears them. Bus’ (short


for bust) can mean a lot of things: bust off, shoot,


rhyme, break out.





– a driver is a person who is steering a car

or bus. A driver is also the club you use in golf


to hit the ball off the tee. Driver also sound like


“drive her.”





– a place where you sit. [Now I couldn’t think

of any for ‘seat,’ so I went to the dictionary, and


this is what I got:] A seat can be your “buttocks”


(that’s what the dictionary says). A seat can also


be a position on a board of trustees or committee.


A member of congress also runs for a seat.


I could keep going, but I’ll stop there. In general, the


more you train yourself to think this way, the more


easily these double-meanings will come to you.



Step 4. Create a Line Using Double-Meanings

Take a double meaning that you’ve observed and try to

craft some lines out of it. Here’s what I can do with the

three above. These lines don’t rhyme together, they

would be used apart:

I’m a driver like what Tiger Woods holding,

I used to be a busboy like Jerome Bettis’ son,

Missed the bus, like a senator I’m running for a seat.

None of those are the kind of wordplay that would

make you stop in your tracks. If I was writing a song I

probably wouldn’t use any of those. But I did that with

three random words. As with everything, you’re going

to create a lot of bad, unusable lines before you find the

rhymes you like.

Step 5. Study Slang

You can also start with a slang word and look at the

different meanings. A lot of slang terms have dictionary

definitions along with their street definitions:



– slang def / dictionary def



– diamonds / frozen water




– money / cheese




– good / physically ill




– good / somebody stupid / drugs

Then take these and write lines playing on the different





I’ve got more cheddar than a Wisconsin farmer

Rhymes sicker than lyme disease and gangrene

– Pharoah Monch, “Right Here”

I’m diarrhea ni**a, you ain’t ready for this sh**

– Little Brother, “Flash and Flare”

Step 6. Use Idioms

You can also create wordplay by studying idioms.

Idioms are phrases in a language that have a meaning

other than what they say literally. For example,

“piece of cake” means both literally a piece of cake

and something that’s easy. Idioms are a great place to

start for wordplay because they inherently have double

meaning. The rapper Legacy from Little Brother uses

the idiom “hold my own” (meaning to be as strong as

anyone else on a team) and raps: “


I hold my own like





.” Get the idea?

Flip to the back of the book to



Appendix I – Idioms

for a

long list of idioms that you can use to create wordplay.



Step 7. Put It All Together

Then just put it all together to write some lines:

This is

off the top

like the foamy head on your beer,

my metaphors are



over your head

like your wack

ass hair,



stand clear


like Casper the ghost waiting in line,

like Geoffrey Rush or shoe polish, dawg, I’m ready to



In the above lines, I play with the meanings of words

in each line, creating four different metaphors with

wordplay. Here’s another example from the underground

rapper Session, on Tonedeff’s “Quotables.” He plays

with the double meanings of “bug” and “spotted.” You

can usually count on the best underground rappers to

drop some high quality wordplay and metaphors, and

Session is no exception.

Pro Example

Puff an L and bug, cause I won’t be swatted

I can’t be seen –

I’ll be a Dalmatian and still won’t be spotted

Session, “Quotables”

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How To Count Bars

im going to show u how to count bars with help from the emcee mind

The Bars and The Beats

Everyone into hip hop has heard the phrase 16 bars. This refers to the length of the standard rap verse, but can you answer these questions? What’s a bar? Can you count them properly? Why 16 in the first place? In this post I will answer these questions for you.
I’ve heard the bar described from the emcee’s prospective. This description is, with one rhyme….
(i.e. “I stabbed moments of idle and got time on my hands.
 its dripping down my arms as I try to make a plan
a bar would be half of the rhyme or one line ( I stabbed moments of idle and got time on my hands = 1 bar). While this is true it is not completely accurate. The length of rap lines can vary. A rhyme can occur within a bar, meaning half a rhyme is half a bar. Listen to some Tribe Called Quest for excellent examples of this kind rhyme scheme.
What is a bar? Simply stated a bar is one complete measure of music. Just like a ruler can measure the size of your shell toe Adidas with inches, we can measure music with beats. Just like 12 inches equals a foot, well in hip hop 4 beats equals a bar. There are exceptions of course. Music can be measured by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 beats per bar and so on, but most common “boom bap” hip hop is measured by 4 beats per bar. If you are listening to music right now, I want you to try something. Just nod your head in sync with the music. If you are doing this right, your head is moving at an even pace and certain sound patterns begin to emerge. When you feel the beginning of the pattern, begin counting to 4 starting with 1 every time your head nods, then repeat after you reach 4.
The next time you listen to a rap verse, start counting the bar. After you complete the count of the first bar, instead of repeating with 1, 2, 3, 4, repeat with 2, 2, 3, 4, then 3, 2, 3, 4 and so on. The first number represents the bar you are on. A 16 bar verse counted would look like….

1,2,3,4                   2,2,3,4         3,2,3,4                   4,2,3,4
5,2,3,4                   6,2,3,4         7,2,3,4                   8,2,3,4
 9,2,3,4                  10,2,3,4       11,2,3,4                 12,2,3,4
13,2,3,4                 14,2,3,4       15,2,3,4                 16,2,3,4
This is the same technique used by orchestras, brass, and marching bands to count measure rest in a piece of music. I teach this method to my freestyle students because it is effective for understanding what a bar is from the prospective of music, not just the emcee. I know rappers like to think they are the center of the world.

Speaking of music, why is “16 bars” the standard for rap music? There are many theories behind this formula. Some feel it’s a music industry influence on hip hop meaning shorter, catchier songs equals more radio play. So they apply a song writing formula to hip hop. 16 bar verse, 8 bar hook, but why 16? Why 8? Does the industry just have a fetish for multiples of four?
Nas’ father said it best it all comes from the blues. Really, it all comes from the negro spiritual, but the blues is a good place to start for hip hop and the discussion of 16 bars. The 16 bar format comes from the blues. I doubt there was a man, who spoke like Moses read the commandments and declared “From this forward, all rap verses shall be 16bars (Throws a mic down and parts the seas)!” It is true that hip hop needed a shorter format. The original version of “Rapper’s Delight” is over 14 minutes long! Hip hop borrowed from the same sources it always borrows from (jazz, Latin, funk, rock, which all have roots in the blues) and the 16 bar formula is born.

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How To Bend Words

im going to teach how to bend words with help from eminem
and rap genius.

Bending Words

Bending words are a variant on assonance, in which a rapper “bends” a word (pronounces it in an odd way) to create a shared vowel sound between two words that, when pronounced normally, have similar — but slightly different — vowel sounds. This is a common technique among southern rappers, who naturally pronounce words in a way that sounds “odd” to the Northern ear. Take this verse from Lil Wayne off “I’m Blooded”, where he pronounces “thing” (in reference to repping Bloods) as “thang”, so it rhymes with “gang”:

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Rhyme Scheme

im going to show yall what a rhyme scheme is with help from flocabulary.

Rhyme Scheme


The rhyme scheme in a rap verse (or in a poem) is where


the rhymes fall in relation to other words or lines. In


a simple verse, the rhymes will fall only at the end of


each line. In English class, when analyzing poetry, the


rhyme scheme would be written out like this:


Rats in the front room, roaches in the back,






junkies in the alley with the baseball bat,






I tried to get away, but I couldn’t get far,






cuz the man with the tow truck repossessed my car






These lines are from the 1982’s “The Message” by




Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The flow




is by the lead emcee, Melle Mel (who we’ll discuss in




more detail in the chapter on flow). These lines show


off the most basic rhyme scheme possible. There are no

internal rhymes and there is no multi-syllabic rhyming.

All of the rhymes fall right on or near the second snare

kick, the 4

th beat of the bar, which musicians call







Mapping the rhyme scheme out like that (AABB)


works fine when the lyrics are simple, but not when


the rapper’s start dropping internal rhymes.




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Kool G Rap Was The First To Master The Multi Syllabic Rhyme Scheme Style

I supply the data, he’s the wheel operator
We’re walking tall and we’re called the terminators
I’m Kool G Rap, and he’s Polo
He cuts like a pro when I go solo
He’s a record spinner winner, that you can bet
Eats DJ’s for dinner on his table set
With cuts he concocts and the party rocks
DJ’s want to Xerox it out the box
A professional performer, wheels of steel trainer
One hundred percent excellent entertainer
The maker and creator of the lyrical line
Idea of Shakespeare, the mind of Einstein
Surrender, pretender, you don’t exist
As a vocalist, so you can kiss this
I’m Kool G Rap, greatest of all times
And you can see it, inside my rhymes
See it’s a demo

this was 87 and g rap had already mastered
that shit

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Big Punisher Was A Beast

rip big pun he was a beast
with the multi syllable rhyme style
he is easily a top 5 mc.

I ain’t a player, I just fuck a lot
Jump on top of my dick and work them hips, until I bust a shot
It doesn’t stop, I’m only beginnin I’m bonin your women
While you home all alone, I’m blowin up in em
Sendin them back to you, mad at you
Don’t catch a motherfuckin attitude
I’m just showin you how this rapper do
Capital Punishment, when I’m up in it, suckin it
Bustin it out, nice blouse, let me unbutton it
You’re fuckin wit King Papi Chulo when knockin culo
Pop your mulos out the socket tryin to ride with the sumo
You know my rise is high, word I be drillin em
Bitches be tryin to ride but the current be killin em
Fillin em with the cash, my cheese premium unleaded
Come get it, first wreck the ton, then let the Pun hit it
Split it in half, watch the gas, baby take a bath
Be good, I might put away the wood and give you the mustache

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Illmatic Is Nas Most Complex Album Lyrically

Musician, inflictin composition
of pain I’m like Scarface sniffin cocaine
Holdin a M-16, see with the pen I’m extreme, now
Bulletholes left in my peepholes
I’m suited up in street clothes
Hand me a nine and I’ll defeat foes
Y’all know my steelo with or without the airplay
I keep some E&J, sittin bent up in the stairway
Or either on the corner bettin Grants with the celo champs
Laughin at baseheads, tryin to sell some broken amps
G-Packs get off quick, forever niggaz talk shit
Remeniscing about the last time the Task Force flipped
Niggaz be runnin through the block shootin
Time to start the revolution, catch a body head for Houston
Once they caught us off guard, the Mac-10 was in the grass and
I ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin

to me this nas most complex album rhyme scheme wise.

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