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So you want to learn how to rap and freestyle? It's easy with our (patent-pending) ten-step technique. You'll find the guide full of tips below plus lessons on wordplay, punchlines, flow, battles and more in The Rapper's Handbook.

Freestyle rapping is spitting lyrics in ciphers (or alone) that you make up on the spot. While you might sneak in a line or two that you wrote the night before, most of your flow should be improvised, spontaneous, and off the top o' the dome. Keep your freestyle lyrics funny, improvised and creative.

Learn How to Rap
This Freestyle Guide comes from The Rapper's Handbook. The Official Flocabulary Ten-Step Technique for Learning to Freestyle Rap by Emcee Escher, esq.

Step 1. Start easy

No need to start off rhyming “the toasty cow’s utter” with “most o’ my flow’s butter”. No need to even rhyme. Just forget everything else and flow. The rhythm can be simple, the words might be second-grade level, but you’re still freestyling as long as you make it up. This was my first freestyle rap, which I spit when I was 11 months old:

I am funny,
I like bunnies,
Touch my tummy,
Mummy

Step 2. Keep flowing

You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to sound stupid. Make your first freestyle rap verses your stupidest verses just to get them out of the way. Keep flowing. Can’t think of a rhyme? Keep flowing! Stutter over words? Keep flowing. It’s inevitable that at some point some of your lines won’t rhyme, won’t make sense, or that you will inadvertently diss yourself. (I knew one guy who accidentally dissed himself all the time when we were freestyling.) Just keep flowing. If you make a mistake, do your best to incorporate your mistake into your next lines like Eminem did on this freestyle:

I take a beat and loop it,
I take a beat and choop it,
Choop it? What does that mean?
I don’t know but I got fat jeans on,
And I already said that,
I don’t know where my head’s at,

Another technique to use when you find yourself in a bind is to whip out a quick filler. Fillers are just little phrases that you can insert occasionally to give you more time to think of a dope line. Every emcee has his own fillers. For example, Eyedea says “I grab the microphone.” Jin often says, “I’m (nasty) when I’m freeing.” I usually say, “You know what I’m sayin’?”

Try to come up with a few fillers that you feel comfortable using. They’ll bail you out of some awkward pauses. As you get better, you can rely less heavily on your fillers.

Step 3. Rhyme in your mind ahead of time

Here’s the biggest trick to freestyle rapping: as soon as you know what word you’re going to end line 1 with, your mind should start racing to find out a word you can use at the end of line 2. Let’s say your first line is, “I’m colder than a Dairy Queen Blizzard.” As soon as you realize that you’re going to end the line with “Blizzard,” you should immediately think of something that rhymes with that word and might possibly be related:

wizard
lizard
scissor
miss her
pins hurt

Pick one and then try to carve the second line to lead toward that word. Let’s say you pick “wizard,” your next line might be:

I’m colder than a Dairy Queen Blizzard, This is Lord of the Rings, you’re the hobbit, I’m the wizard,

If you pick “scissor,” you might say:

I’m colder than a Dairy Queen Blizzard, A rebel since I was five, went running with scissors,

The real trick of freestyling is to have your mind constantly racing ahead of what you’re saying. This isn’t easy, but you’ll get quicker with practice. Learn How to Rhyme and Rap

Step 4. Write

Writing raps will help you freestyle. When you write, rhymes become embedded in your head, and you’re more likely to be able to pull these rhymes off the top of your head in a freestyle.

For the most part, you should never spit a long pre-written verse at a cipher, but you can certainly use rhyming words and shorter phrases that you’ve worked out beforehand. When Proof rhymes “Ewoks, treetops, and Reeboks” in a freestyle, you better believe he’s thought of those rhymes ahead of time. He’s still freeing, but he’s using rhyme words he’d already worked out.

Sitting down and writing every day will improve your freestyles. It will expand your memory of rhyming words, and it will give you experience working these words into clever lines. It’s also a good idea to write a few multi-purpose bars that you can spit at a freestyle in case you get really stuck. Put those lines in a “Break Out Rhymes In Case of Emergency” box, and smash the glass when you need help. This isn’t cheating; it’s shrewd.

When you’re writing these “in case of emergency” lines, make them strong and interesting, but not too ridiculously amazing. In other words, don’t do this:

Turn the beat up, it’s all that I need, (free)
Rocking my pumas … and my white tee, (free)
Hit or miss, this penetrates the uranium nucleus, (written)
Smoke crews like a hookah plus I’m nuking your crib, (written)

You don’t want your “emergency” rhymes to be that obvious. Try to write rhymes that generally match your level of freestyle but are clever and smart.

Step 5. Rap about things around you

This is definitely the best way to prove to the crowd that you’re really freestyling and not just spitting something you wrote in your room the night before. It’s also a huge crowd-pleaser, ‘cause it’s impressive and it makes everyone real glad that they’re hanging out with you. Rap about things you see. Incorporate objects, actions, people, clothing, situations, and sounds into your rap. When I’m in the shower, I’ll rap about what kind of soap I’m using:

Trying hard to get clean, maybe just a smidgen,
Make my Dove dirty, oh, now I call it pigeon

At a battle competition, this is crucial. You’ve got to spit things specific about your opponent. These are the hardest-hitting punches. Take Iron Solomon’s opening lines against The Saurus in a battle on the streets of New York. He looks his opponent up and down, sees that he’s wearing shorts, and then spits:

Maybe you should have come here rocking a better flannel,
Or at least some long pants,
You should have checked the weather channel.

One of the freestyle kings is a rapper from North Carolina named Spectac, who can spit a rhyme off the top of his head that sounds like it was pre-written. I’ve heard Spectac freestyle for 40 minutes straight over various beats, and I’ve seen him in action at a show, getting some kid to walk around the audience pointing at things and Spec rhymes about it. I asked Spectac what it takes to freestyle. Here’s what he told me:

“Honestly, first of all, you have to have a love for the music and not just the hip-hop genre. You have to love the instrumental. Once you have the passion for it, anybody can develop the ability to freestyle. It comes down to how much time you’re willing to invest in practicing that part of the art. When I’m freestyling, I’m thinking ahead. I’m definitely thinking ahead. At the same time, I don’t get too far ahead of myself. You try to enjoy it with the crowd. Enjoy the punch lines, but keep yourself focused on the fact that the party isn’t over.”

Step 6. Include metaphors

Metaphors and similes are an advanced but important part of freestyle rapping. They are often found in a rapper’s funniest and cleverest lines, and they really differentiate beginners from skilled emcees. A rapper like Lil Wayne lays down verses that straight-up drip with similes and metaphors. He’s the one who is balling like “Rawlings and Spalding,” who is a giant like “fee fi fo fum,” who is counting (money) all day “like a clock on the wall.” Not only does he drop lots of similes, he drops clever, original similes. So do like he does. Don’t just say “sharp as a knife.” Say:

I’m sharp as Samurai swords…
I’m extra sharp like cheddar…
I’m sharp as a Schick Quattro…

Metaphors and similes are really the backbone of an advanced rapper. Learn how to use metaphors correctly. Your rhymes will not only be funnier and smarter, they’ll sound better too. Take these lines from rapper Chingo Bling: “I’m fly like Big Pun on prom night with a cummerbund.” You know that is fly!

Step 7. Reference current events

Just as good as referencing something nearby is referencing something timely. Let’s say, for example, that you are at a cipher, rapping with some of your friends (dissin’ each other, just goofin’ around), and the day before you remember reading that Star Jones recently lost 200 pounds. How dope is it if you throw that in your rhymes:

You big now, but you ‘bout to get cut down,
Faster than Star Jones dropping 200 pounds

I recently heard an emcee reference soaring gas prices:

Fast? Son, that ain’t fast—
I’m rising faster than the price of gas

Whether it’s related to sports, politics, music or celebrities, if it’s in the news, reference it. As Wordsworth told me recently, “I just try to think of what’s important to the people in my surroundings and try to speak on it.”

Step 8. Pass the mic like it’s contagious

Rap in ciphers—groups of two or more rappers playing off each other, trading verses. This is a great way to improve, and it’s definitely fun. One of your friends can beat box, you can throw a beat on the stereo, you can search on youtube for the instrumental version of your favorite song, or just freestyle over nothing. Take turns, cutting in whenever you want or when someone “passes you the mic.” (You probably won’t have an actual mic). Never drop the invisible mic! Pick it up and pass it!

Work off other people’s rhymes. If they throw in something about the Bible, pick up that theme and run with it. Try to stick to similar topics, or riff off topics in creative ways. Expand on or reference their lines. When my friends and I cipher, we like to kick about random stuff that we all know about, like our personal lives.

Me:
Got no girlfriend, and girls are good for your health,
Know what I mean? Uh, at least I work for myself,
You see me here, kid, and I rhyme crazy,
Used to have a job reading to a rich blind lady,

Zach:
You rhyme crazy, and sometimes you rhyme lazy,
But I love this rap game, ‘cause rhyming is my baby,
Visually, lyrically I’m known as a mystery,
Y’all couldn’t even see me on HDTV,

It’s always good to pick up the rhyme scheme of the person right before you. In a great freestyle between Brooklyn rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli (back when they were together as Blackstar), Mos Def ends his first verse asking Kweli if he’s with it. Kweli responds, “I’m always with it…” Later Kweli spits rhymes about some emcees looking wack, then he passes the mic to Mos who continues the rhyme, saying that they always look wack “cause look at the way they dress.” These are the best freestyles: raps that connect with the rhyme sounds and topic of the rappers around you. In the best-case scenario, the rhymes intertwine like the fibers in a Shredded Wheat biscuit.

Step 9. When you’re in a cipher, think ahead

One of the great things about rapping in ciphers is that after you spit one verse you get a break before you spit again. This break is your best friend. It’s during this break that you’ll be listening and responding to your friends’ verses. But you’ll also be planning out your next verse.

Whenever I’m in a cipher, I never like to get back on the mic until I’ve composed four to six quality lines in my head. To be most impressive, these lines will be about things around you, or they’ll be about something your friend said in his verse. Let’s say your friend is wearing a shirt that has Daffy Duck on it. While he’s spitting, you can write a line like this:

I know you’ve had a tough year and had some crappy luck,
But why you gotta wear a shirt with Daffy Duck?

That’s not an amazing line, but I guarantee you that in a cipher people will go nuts over that. (Make sure to point at his shirt as you say it). I always try to think of two or three of those rhyming couplets before I spit again. Usually I’ll drop one right away and then use the other two later in the verse.

Step 10. Listen and practice

Freestyling, like sculpting or shooting three-pointers, takes an insane amount of practice. Practice as much as you can. Freestyle with homeless people, with your friends, and with your family. Listen to pro rappers who freestyle and try to analyze their styles. Rap all the time; practice all night and day. Practice might not make perfect, but it makes real good. Oh, and pick up The Rapper's Handbook for more lessons like this one. With examples from the pros, the book covers battling, wordplay, flow, recording, song-writing and more.

How To: 5 Ways to submit music to websites and blogs

Starting a viral campaign can provide an obstacle if artists do not know where to begin. I have provided five simple ways to submit your music to make sure that people will listen to the music (Email Etiquette). Now this my not lead to your music being posted on websites or blogs but it is a start.

Rule 1. Research
As an artist you should research sites that upload or promote music that is similar to yours. Do not waste time trying to promote to bigger websites if you haven't built a buzz. Remember that coverage on bigger blogs is usually based on draw or how many comments a song or video can garner. So take the time to research a website and find out the contact information and introduce yourself. Don't forget about the importance of international blogs or websites as well. Coverage on international websites or blogs can lead to new fans.

Rule 2. The Importance of Subject
Make sure that you value the importance of the subject of your email. Present a call to action that motivates people to check out your material. Words or phrases such as "Listen to this song about obesity", "Video about Violence", "Song about domestic abuse" etc will resonate better than "Check this Song out". You are unknown and these people have never heard of you before, make it easy for them to know what the song is about and who you are as an artist.

Rule 3. DETAILS! DETAILS! DETAILS!
I think that this is very important. Let people know that type of music you make, let them know who produced the track and most importantly provide links to your site or sites. The details should be stated within the first few paragraphs. Also let them know what the song is about.

Rule 4. The Power of Attachments
Make sure you attach the track (preferably mp3) and the artwork. This gives the recipient the option of previewing the track. Also include download links that the recipient could incorporate into the post. You can also attach a short bio and promotional pictures if the site requires more information. Video submissions are different because the recipient can watch the video and make a decision to include it or not. Make sure you attach the mp3 and the artwork for the song just in case the recipient wants to provide a downloadable option.

Rule 5. Personalize your emails
I have been guilty of mass emailing and this is a sure fire way to prevent website or blog coverage. BCC or blind carbon copy has become an ally to musicians and artists worldwide. The problem with this approach is that it is not intended for one website or blog (the campaign is focused on a plethora of websites). Personalize your emails. Refer to Rule 1 and use the research that you conducted and address what you like about a certain website or blog before pitching a song or video to them. Yes this may be time consuming but remember that this a relationship building experience.

PS: PROMOTE! PROMOTE! PROMOTE!
If your song or video is uploaded and featured on a website please promote it. Utilize your social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Last FM, SoundCloud, YouTube and more) to get the message around. Ask fans to leave comments on posts, this is beneficial because it makes people feel connected to something. Promotion also leads to repeat coverage on a blog or website.

Always send a thank you email/tweet or respond directly to the post to show your appreciation.

Let me know if this information is useful.

If you know anything about marketing, you already understand that having a growing email list of fans can be your most powerful promotional asset. But, like any good tool, you have to know how to use it.

One of the great challenges with email is getting people to open and read your messages. It’s not the end of the world if your fans see your emails pop up in their inboxes but don’t have the time to open them. At least they see your name and are reminded of who you are.

But your real goal is to motivate fans to open your emails and further interact with you. So how do you do that?

One great technique to accomplish this was revealed when I interviewed Joe Vitale. He’s the author of more than 50 books on hypnotic marketing, the law of attraction, and more. You may have seen him in the movie The Secret, on “Larry King Live” or “The Donny Deutsch Show.”

The interview was wide-ranging, but here’s one nugget of marketing advice that Joe offered related to emails:

Putting a question in the subject line of your email can be a great way to create a “hypnotic” message that compels people to open and read it. But not any question will do! The key, Joe says, is to ask a question that can’t be answered unless you dig deeper to find out more. For instance, here are two examples of weak email subject lines:


Would you like to buy my new album?
What’s your favorite love song?

The problem with these questions is that the recipient can answer them and resolve the issue without any further action on their part. It offers no compelling reason to open the email. However, here is an example of a more powerful, “hypnotic” email subject line question: Which one of these three beautiful women inspired my latest love song? A question like that creates a mental state of dissonance. It’s an incomplete thought. And for many people, unresolved ideas compel them to take action to uncover the answer and complete the thought before they move on.

Here’s another example:
Have you ever made THIS big mistake on the dance floor?
See the beauty in a question like this?

It’s similar to when you can’t think of a person’s name that you should know. It often drives you crazy and you can’t concentrate on anything else until you resolve the issue by remembering the name.
Curiosity-inducing questions offer a great way to create a hypnotic message that demands attention. Another related method is to make a provocative statement that doesn’t include all the details, such as:
Don’t let your parents watch this new music video

You could also use the word kids, boss or lover in place of parents and get the same effect, depending on your audience and subject matter. The point is that the statement creates curiosity and an incomplete idea that begs for a resolution. So start thinking about how you can use hypnotic questions to increase your email open rate.  Important: If you’re going to use tactics like this to inspire action, you should put a priority on delivering an interesting message inside the email. If you mislead people or simply don’t offer a story that’s funny or compelling in some way … they may not trust you the next time you use a strategy like this. Also, you wouldn’t want to use questions and statements like these with every email you send. Just sprinkle them in here and there when you have really important info to get out.

What do you think of this email subject line approach? What have you done to get fans to open more of your emails?

I’m a big fan of the 1,000 true fans theory. Whether or not you think that it is the key that unlocks your music career, it is always good to build an army of enthusiastic supporters who will fervently support your music. The best way for any company or new artist to grow their fan base is through referrals. The combined energy from a hardcore fan base can create some serious momentum (just look at the career of Justin Bieber or even the popularity of the book 50 Shades of Grey, both were launched by obsessed fans). 

So how do you create that loyal, energetic army? Here are some tips:
Always Over-Deliver: Always take the time to get to know your fans: online, via social media or email, and especially at the show. Turn your fans into friends. When people order merch from you or book you for a show, over-deliver by doing more than promised.

Get Creative: Find new, fun ways to surprise your fans. For example, when my band is on tour, we’ll buy postcards throughout our tour and randomly pick people on our mailing list to send them to. Everyone sends a personal message about the tour, draws a little doodle, etc. We’ll often find photos of the postcards tagging us on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter and know that we just made someone’s day.
Get to Know the Mavens: Malcolm Gladwell writes about how things go viral in his book, The Tipping Point. One of the key concepts is getting the social “mavens” (or leaders/influencers) on board with what you’re doing. These are the trendsetters, the people who are hip to what’s cool. Think about your target audience and who influences them. Music blogs? Skateboarding icons? Guitar gurus? YouTube cover artists? If you get these folks on board, they’ll help you spread your music in no time.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency: When you start something, you have to consistently follow up on it or it’ll fall through. When people sign up on your email list at a show, get them into your database ASAP, then write them and thank them for coming to the show. If you have a mailing list, send out a newsletter on a regular basis. If you are on social media, update on a regular basis. Don’t spam them with an overwhelming amount of updates, just be consistent so that they know to expect you and can depend on your updates for show announcements, new music, or other fun things.  Think Telephone, Not Megaphone: Who do you pay more attention to, the guy standing on a street corner yelling into a megaphone and holding up signs or your friend on the telephone? Think of your e-newsletter and social media as a phone, a prompt for a two-way conversation and not simply as an information/propaganda service.

Think of creating fans in terms of the golden rule. How would you want to be treated by your favorite bands? What’re some of your tips for developing loyal, enthusiastic fans?

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