Unarguably, the main part of most rap / hip hop songs is the chorus. It is the section that people will remember the most, long after they’ve listened to your song, so artists must know how to convey their message the right way in order to create a greater impact in their audience. let’s dive in deep to learn How To write a rap chorus
There are a lot of guidelines that may help you while writing a chorus for your rap song such as proper rhyme scheme, repetition, and using the right words.
In this article, we will show you how to write a rap chorus and explain everything you should pay attention to when writing hooks; As well as a few tips and tricks to perfect your rap lyrics and melodies.
Table of Content
- What Is a Rap Chorus?
- What Is The Difference Between a Hook and a Chorus?
- What Are the Main Characteristics of A Good Rap Chorus?
- The Importance of the Melody on a Rap Chorus
- Preparing For The Chorus
- Does Every Rap Song Need a Chorus?
- How Long Should a Chorus be in a Rap Song?
- Overdubs and Vocal Harmonies
- Recording A Great Chorus/Rap Song
Tip: For beginner rappers, we recommend you start your studies with our How To Rap article where we break down everything you need to know to start rapping.
What Is a Rap Chorus? (Plus Examples)
Like said before, the chorus in a rap song is the main part of the track. The section is usually less complex than the verses so it creates an impact on your listeners more easily. Here is an example of a song with a great chorus:
Eminem – Not Afraid
“I’m not afraid (I’m not afraid)
To take a stand (to take a stand)
Come take my hand come (come take my hand)”
The first outstanding factor in Eminem’s lyrics is the strong message. The rapper is taking a confident position and delivering a line that many people can relate to. Most of us will feel invited to sing along these lines when we hear the song.
The second interesting point is repetition. Note how Eminem repeats each line at the end of each verse thus making it more impactful and helping stick those words into people’s minds. Speaking about repetition, let’s look at the lyrics of this song by Migos:
Migos – Walk It Talk It
“Walk it like I talk it (walk it)
Walk it like I talk it (yeah)
Walk it, walk it like I talk it (walk it)
Walk it like I talk it (woo)”
Quavo repeats this hook for several bars. While it is very simple lyrically speaking, the words “walk it like I talk it” will probably linger on your mind for hours after listening to this song. If you’re going the same route with your song, keep in mind that your flow should be on point because repeating the same lines over and over again without “stumbling” is not as easy as it seems.
Let’s look at another example, this time a song by Post Malone:
Post Malone – Congratulations
“Now they always say congratulations
Worked so hard, forgot how to vacation
They ain’t never had the dedication
People hatin’, say we changed and look, we made it
Yeah, we made it”
The rapper makes use of simpler rhymes to make it easier for the audience to follow along the lines. It is also interesting to note how the pace of the chorus changes on the last verses thus giving the listeners a sense of unexpectedness and making us curious to hear what’s coming next.
We recommend that you actually listen to this song’s chorus and notice two things. First, the flow of the melody: the time of the notes is slightly dragged across the section so it is easy for anyone to sing together.
Next, the melody is very simple melodically speaking: there are only three notes throughout most of the chorus: C#, D#, and A#, and the note C# is repeated seven times. This makes the main hook very catchy. We will get into more details on how the melody can affect your chorus further down the article.
The Weeknd – Heartless
“Cause I’m heartless
And I’m back to my ways ’cause I’m heartless
All this money and this pain got me heartless
Low life for life ’cause I’m heartless
Said I’m heartless
Tryna be a better man, but I’m heartless
Never be a wedding plan for the heartless
Low life for life ’cause I’m heartless”
We’ve decided to include the chorus of the song Heartless by The Weeknd in the article because it is another perfect example of how repetition can literally glue a word onto one’s mind, in this case, heartless; At the same time, the artist reiterates the story he’s trying to tell with the song lyrics very strongly.
Tip: For an in-depth guide on how you can start rapping and even producing your own rap songs, please check our How To Start Making Rap Music article.
What Is The Difference Between a Hook and a Chorus?
These two often get confused by many artists so it is important that we explain the difference between them.
A hook can be any outstanding instrumental motif, melody, or element. For example, the phrase “walk it like I talk it” from the Migos song that we’ve just studied Walk It Talk It is a hook itself – it is a catchy, simple phrase that grabs the listener’s attention.
A chorus, on the other hand, is the name of a part of the song/section. You can make a rap chorus with one or more hooks in it to make it catchier.
What Are the Main Characteristics of A Good Rap Chorus?
Now that we’ve looked at a few examples, here are some of the characteristics that are essential for your rap chorus and how to apply them when writing your hooks.
Simplicity (Less Is More)
No one is going to remember your chorus if it is too complex or if people have to search for your song lyrics in Google to understand what you’re saying. Try to create simple lines so your song speaks to the audience as easily as possible.
Simplicity will also help you create a contrast between the chorus and the verse, the latter usually being more complex and wordy. Try to tell a story and create tension in your verse so you can release it through the chorus.
Wordplay can be a great tool to help you write a rap/hip hop chorus, and can make your lines more appealing if used right. Here is an example of wordplay from the rapper Tinashe where she plays a little bit with the rhyme scheme in each line to spice up the section and make it catchier:
Tinashe – Hopscotch
“Hopscotch, block’s hot, pop rocks
Off top (like I know it)
Non-stop, bop bop, bop
Drop top ‘(cause I own it)”
One of the most outstanding factors when it comes to writing a rap chorus is repetition. The proper use of repetition will make your statement bolder and easier to remember and follow along.
As we’ve seen so far, most of the rap and hip hop song examples in the article have some degree of repetition in them. One rap song that takes this concept to the extreme is Meghan Thee Stallion – Body. The rapper raps “body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody” for several bars thus making the chorus very catchy. This can also be a great example of how wordplay can improve your hooks.
Keep in mind when writing though that if you choose to go this route, you should think extensively about what words to use, cause some may not sound good. Consider the length of your hook: 4 bars is a good rule of thumb; It is also a good practice to try throwing some variations here and there.
Another key factor is flow. It is not enough to have outstanding lyrics, you need to perform each line in a way that sounds smooth and inviting to the audience. Similar to what we’ve mentioned in the simplicity (less is more) topic, we also advise you to keep your flow as simple as possible in the chorus to make it easier for singing along.
Meaning / Strong Message
The chorus is the perfect part of the song to reiterate the whole message/idea you’re trying to pass to the audience. The meaning doesn’t need to be complex or deep, though; It just needs to be clear enough that your audience gets it from the first listen.
Repetition is important in a chorus, but a little bit of variation also needs to be present so your hook doesn’t sound boring to the listeners. The variation can but doesn’t necessarily need to be in the lyrics – you could also use other tools to create it such as a change in dynamics, style, flow, and/or instrumentation.
Travis Scott’s rap song Goosebumps is a good example. The hook is introduced right at the beginning of the song but with Travis rapping it an octave below and softer. This goes on for several bars before the rapper unleashes the actual chorus along with a change in instrumentation, and this time rapping much louder.
The Importance of the Melody on a Rap Chorus
Unarguably, the number one route for creating a catchy rap/hip hop chorus is by creating a catchy melody. Many artists underestimate the power that melodies have when it comes to delivering a message: the melody is a message by itself.
The Notes In The Melody
Let’s start by examining the chorus of Better Now by Post Malone. Here are the lyrics for the hook to help you understand better where each word falls into place:
Post Malone – Better Now
“You prolly think that you are better now, better now
You only say that ’cause I’m not around, not around
You know I never meant to let you down, let you down
Woulda gave you anything, woulda gave you everything”
The song is in the key of A#/Bb. The melody starts in the perfect fifth of the scale, with four F notes that serve as an anchor for each line. There, it descends to the major third D passing through D# and switching back and forth between D and C. This interval between the fifth and the third is widely used by artists in pop, rap, hip hop music, etc.
Don’t worry if the whole technical talk sounds too complex. What we’re trying to explain here is that the melodic motif plays a huge part in the catchiness of the chorus and how most popular songs in the charts share similar melodic characteristics.
Even so, we still recommend that you learn basic music theory to be able to write good hooks. Learning to play an instrument is a good idea too. Make sure to check out our Best Online Music Theory Course and Best Music Theory Books to help you as a beginner.
You can also check out this great video from Andrew Huang to get started on music theory:
To reiterate what we’ve just said about melodic similarities, let’s take a look at the chorus lyrics of another popular song:
50 Cent – Candy Shop
“I take you to the candy shop
I’ll let you lick the lollipop
Go ‘head girl, don’t you stop
Keep going ’til you hit the spot (woah)”
Several years later and this hook from 50 Cent is still catchy. The starting chord of the chorus is F#min. The melody, however, starts at C# which is its perfect fifth. From there, guess what? It descends to the minor third A before finally resolving on the tonic note F#. See the idea? There are a lot of similarities between this song and the one that we’ve previously examined. Remember the fact that both tracks are very popular and considered to be very catchy.
You may be asking yourself: is this characteristic a strict requirement for a great chorus? Not exactly, there are plenty of popular songs with hooks that don’t use the perfect fifth and the third as anchors for the melodic motif, but knowing that there are lots of successful music with this feature can help you understand why it works so well and aid you to better write lyrics.
If you’re already familiarized with basic music theory, we do recommend that you go ahead and listen to the rap/hip hop songs in the charts to analyze further similarities between their choruses as an exercise.
The timing structure of the notes in the melody can make or break a chorus. Of course, timing structure goes hand in hand with your word choice: you need to consider the syllables on each word of your hook to create a good flow and fit it to the beat without affecting its meaning.
Let’s go back to the lyrics of a song we’ve studied in the last topic to check out something that can help you write a better chorus:
Post Malone – Better Now
“You prolly think that you are better now, better now
You only say that ’cause I’m not around, not around”
Pay attention because this is a golden tip: this chorus sounds very smooth mainly because both the first and the second line have 13 syllables each, thus fitting it perfectly inside the rhythm of the melody. This kind of structure is not a requirement for a good hook, but it is one of the most powerful songwriting tools/tips there is.
Let’s step out of the rap/hip hop world a little bit and take a look at a pop song. It is undeniable that pop artists create some of the most catchy choruses and they can teach you a lot of things as a rapper.
Katy Perry – California Gurls
Daisy dukes, bikinis on top
Sun-kissed skin so hot
We’ll melt your popsicle
Ooh oh ooh Ooh oh oo”
Let’s notice something here: the line “California gurls” has 5 syllables, “we’re unforgettable” has 6, and “daisy dukes, bikinis on top” has 8. Similarly, the last three lines each have the same amount of syllables as their previous counterparts (5, 6, and 8, respectively).
See the pattern? Subconsciously, it is easier for our brains to make sense of something that is that well organized and we may not even perceive it. The chances that your listener remembers your hook when you have a pattern/rhythm like this are much higher.
Again, having the same or a similar number of syllables on each verse of the chorus is not a requirement – there are tons of hit songs that don’t follow this so feel free to be creative. But, it is a great tool to keep in mind when writing. Ultimately, it comes down to how well the words fit into the melody regarding the time of each note.
Preparing For The Chorus
After we’ve learned about the key factors that need to be present in a chorus and the importance of paying attention to melody and timing while writing, let’s see how what comes before and after the section influences the impact of the hook.
Don’t go thinking that the verse doesn’t have anything to do with the chorus. We need to zoom out a little bit and think of the song as a whole to get an idea of how each section supports the other.
One of the first guidelines when it comes to creating a verse that prepares for your chorus instead of clashing with it is building contrast. If you want a hard-hitting hook, it is better to stick with a dynamically quieter verse. If you’re producing your own beat, try to use softer instruments on it too.
When it comes to rap lyrics, use your verse to tell a story. Feel free to make the lyrics more complex than in the chorus.
Many songs feature a pre-chorus even though it is not a must. Writing a pre-chorus helps to set the mood for the main hook several bars before it hits the listener and usually has a change in the lyrics. Let’s take a look at the song Amazing by Kanye West:
Kanye West – Amazing
“No matter what, you’ll never take that from me
My reign is as far as your eyes can see, it’s amazing”
“So amazing, so amazing, so amazing, it’s amazing
So amazing, so amazing, so amazing, it’s amazing (Let’s go)”
We encourage you to go and listen to the song to understand better how these two sections interact with each other. Basically, on the pre-chorus, there is a big change in the melody before the chorus drops. Also, pay attention to the changes in the beat. This helps create apprehension in the listener.
When the chorus of the song finally hits, a choir is introduced in the background giving Kanye support and the lyrics get much more repetitive. Another interesting factor in this song is that there is a slight similarity between the beginning of the verse and the chorus melodies, so when the main hook drops it gets you thinking: I’ve heard this before.
Another great example of a powerful pre-chorus is on Coolio feat. L.V. rap song Gangsta’s Paradise. Before the most memorable part (“Keep spending most their lives, living in a gangsta’s paradise”), L.V. takes the mic and builds up the tension for a few bars with a preceding verse.
Finally, there is the post-chorus. It is used by artists to reiterate the meaning of the main hook and serve as a conclusion to the message. It is not as common as the pre-chorus and whether you need one or not will depend on your song.
When writing a post-chorus, you can change your hook’s lyrics, melodic motif, and even timing. The key here is to create contrast and prepare the song to head to another section smoothly.
Does Every Rap Song Need a Chorus?
Not exactly. There are tons of great rap songs that don’t have a chorus and are straight-up made only of verses. But, if you choose to go that route, you should still try writing a very catchy rap hook to compensate for it.
Let’s use Travis Scott – SICKO MODE as an example. This rap song stayed for 52 weeks on the Billboard charts yet it doesn’t have a very well-defined chorus. However, the lyrics are filled with punchlines that make up the hook of the song. Plus, Travis’ flow is so smooth that it keeps the listeners entertained.
Tip: If you want to learn more about punchlines, please visit our How to Write Rap Punchlines article.
How Long Should a Chorus be in a Rap Song?
It is up to you to decide the length of a chorus, but try to make it at least 4 bars long. It is also a great idea to change things up a bit between the first, second and third (or more) choruses. Try, for instance, making your first chorus shorter, then going for an 8 bar hook in the second one and ending the song with 16 bars.
Bonus Tip 1: Overdubs and Vocal Harmonies
Sometimes one voice isn’t enough to cut it through a beat with a busy instrument section. When you record your chorus, make it a habit to record extra takes so you can layer them along with the main voice in your hook.
You can also record some vocal harmonies to spice up the section a little bit: change some notes in the melody of each take and/or sing it one octave, a fifth, or a third higher/lower. But do so in a way that makes melodic sense so your chorus sounds tighter and more impactful.
Here is a great video about vocal harmonies from YouTube channel 12tone to help you get started on the subject:
Bonus Tip 2: Recording A Great Chorus/Rap Song
Another tip that we have is about the recording process of your track. If you’re recording your own rap song, we recommend that you research the best practices and equipment extensively before doing so.
In general, the pieces of equipment you will need to record a rap song are:
- Audio interface.
- Digital Audio Workstation software (DAW).
To help you understand better the concept of writing rap choruses here is a sum-up of all the points we’ve talked about in the guide:
- Keep your chorus simple (less is more). Also, have a well-defined theme and style before you start writing it.
- Wordplay is your friend: play around with different words to make your hooks even catchier.
- Repetition is one of the most powerful tools for writing rap choruses. Don’t be afraid to repeat a word or concept over and over.
- Even though repetition is great, some degree of variation in your chorus is also recommended so it doesn’t sound boring.
- Pay attention to your flow and how well you perform your chorus. Practice for several days before you record it.
- Have a meaning and/or strong message in your hook. It doesn’t have to be complicated: a word repeated over and over again can also be a strong message.
- Pay special attention to the vocal melody and focus on improving your music theory skills.
- Timing structure is also essential. Consider how well your words fit into the beat.
- Other sections of the song will have a great impact on how good your chorus sounds, so pay attention to your verses and use a pre-chorus or post-chorus to spice up your rap song.
- The length of your chorus is also important. Try to have some variation in length between the different hooks in your rap song.
- Consider recording some overdubs and vocal harmonies to support your lead voice.
- Last but not least, if you’re planning on recording your own rap song, research extensively about the subject and what are the best practices to take in the process.
These were our tips on how to make a rap chorus. In this guide, we covered everything you need to know on how to write a rap song that is catchy and delivers a strong story to your audience.
We recommend that all rappers, regardless of knowledge level, start writing every day to keep improving their rap lyrics and songwriting skills even further. Also consider working on your flow, on your voice, and on your rapping style by creating a practice routine.
The last tip we have is that you take every idea that comes to your mind throughout daily life and write it down without judging if it is good or not. The most random ideas can sometimes help you write the best hooks.We hope this guide was helpful. If you have any more questions or want to discuss further about writing rap a chorus, feel free to hit us up!
Ian Sniesko is an experienced music producer and musician who loves to share his knowledge about the best audio equipment for making and enjoying great music. For the past 6 years, Ian has written extensively about the audio equipment industry and has contributed to many of the top music magazines.