💬 Creating a Hip Hop Track: Notes from a Rock And Roll Observer

Replied to Deconstructing the Modern Hip-Hop Song by Kevin Hodgson (Kevin's Meandering Mind)
  1. Start with a simple beat. Maybe kick drum on the beat or on the off beat. Keep it pounding until your feel it in your skull.
  2. Add piano or organ over it. Do this for about four measures. Just enough to establish the melody.
  3. Drop the drum and transform the opening melody part to synth after the first few measures. Come in strong with a big kick drum sound (think: John Bonham from Led Zep. That’s the sound you want. Bigger than your head.).
  4. Make sure the bass is deep enough, rich enough, to reach into your esophagus. Deep in sound, but not too complicated in parts. The bass will become the thread that holds this whole thing together. Modern bass is the river on which the melody floats.
  5. Shout out “yeah” on the offbeat until you create synergy off the beat. Wave your hands in the air if you care. Get hangers-on in the studio to the mic, and have them join in.
  6. Name-check yourself. Maybe a few times. Don’t let the listener forget who you are.
  7. If your lyrics are a mostly meaningless flow about nothing much to talk about, pump up the effects to bury the meaning beneath your voice. Also, do this, too, if you can’t really sing. If your lyrics have meaning, push the voice up over the beat during verses. Make it known.
  8. If your partner(s) are the DJ at the mix machine, have them interject a few odds and ends now and then. Maybe during live performances tell the crowd to make some noise, but with a slew of profanity. Say it at least a dozen times. Keep their microphone volume lower than yours, though.
  9. Have a famous friend? Invite them into the track for some verses or a line of words or two. Guest overdubs are the rage right now. If you are a male rapper, having a female singer take over the chorus seems like a good bet to get heard.
  10. Bury the words of the chorus with layered overdubs of voice and effects. Ideally, you do this in stages, so that by the end of the track, the chorus is bigger than a building. Unless you can’t sing. Then, bring in a guest (see #8) or add more effects (see #6)
  11. End by either reversing the flow — ending back on simple opening beat and keyboards — or by taking the track in another direction, and the come to a full stop. A big boom blast — cannon shots are popular — with tons of reverb will end the track with a slow-fading tail. Add lights and fire during live shows.
  12. Start over again until you find your groove and your audience.
I really enjoyed this reflection on hip hop Kevin. One thing that it reminded me of was a few recent episodes of the Vox’s Earworm series looking at sampling:

I am always intrigued by the roll of technology on what is possible and what is created.

Also on: Read Write Collect

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