Battle Rap Writing.

Battle rap writing is one of the most specific, niche, intricate and frustrating types of writing I’ve ever tried. It’s also been, by far, the most rewarding, fun and satisfying format for me. I absolutely love the craft of it, the technicality, the freedom you have with it.

But hold the f**k up now. How do you write a battle rap? Are they even written at all? Is it freestyle? How do you win one? What are the rules? Are they judged? Aren’t they usually just pathetic men shouting at each other in rhyme in pubs (yes)? All fantastic questions, but please stop asking me them, because I’ve already answered them below in this incredible and also very handsome article. Read on to find out exactly what the hell is going on here.


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How do you come up with all that stuff so quick??

Okay, people, listen. The vast majority Battle rap is not freestyle. It is written ahead of time. This may be crushing to some of you, but, to be honest, I thought it was obvious! I mean, when a battle is announced and put on a flyer 4 months before the battle is due to happen, how could you NOT come up with anything? Are you meant to ban yourself from thinking about your opponent until the day?

Nobody really freestyle battle raps on major leagues, the performers have weeks if not months of prep time to watch their opponents’ old battles, research them, rifle through their bins and break into their parents’ house for vital, vital clues.

The amount of times people have said to me “You and Marlo on that Wizard and Scizzahz 3rd round was great, how do you just think that up on the spot?” Like, buddy, we did it synchronised! Nobody’s THAT in synch with anyone. Okay, MAYBE Ant and Dec, but apart from them.

Okay so then, how do you write a battle rap?

Obviously, the method of writing is different for every person. For this article, I’m just going to give you the inside scoop for how I write my battles.

First things first – rarely do I start at the beginning and end at the finish. Writing a battle isn’t like writing a story, for instance, where you’d most likely start writing from the beginning and write through to the end. It’s looser than that, really. For me, it’s a collection of ideas that take a wild form, which you slowly tame into a structure.

When I first start writing, it’s just a collection of potential angles on a spider diagram. Tall, short, gained weight, lost weight, got a stripper pregnant and moved to Mexico, whatever it is. It all goes down.

Then I start to think about what has the most mileage. Does this angle feel like it could go on and on, or is it just a one-off mention and then leave? This is usually based on how many jokes I can get out of it that I’m happy with. If there are a few, then I know this is an angle I can bring up again and again, poking fun at it whenever there’s an opportunity. But there’s nothing worse than an angle going stale. One too many lines on a topic and then people forget what you said and only think “he harped on about that a bit too long, leave the guy alone, he’s back from Mexico now, move on!”

When you have your assortment of ideas, it’s time to start the most boring fu**ing part of writing: structuring.

How do you structure a battle rap?

If you enjoy structuring, congratulations, you’re a psychopath. But you’ve got to bloody do it, or you may as well be freestyling.

First of all, I want to get my material into individual rounds as best I can. Knowing which line goes into which is, essentially, preference, but for me, these days, I know that…

Funnier stuff goes towards the beginning of the first round and the 2nd. Experimental, more risky stuff, also, goes in the 2nd round. More aggressive parts go at the tail end of the 1st and the end of the 3rd. And plain-and-simple-breakdowns go in the 3rd as well.

The best way for me to do this is, basically, instinct. I open a document, label it ‘round 1’ and put EVERYTHING I have in there. I then move everything that doesn’t fit into a document called ‘round 2’, do the same and put everything that doesn’t fit into ‘round 3’. Then I’ll go through round 3 and assess if anything in there doesn’t belong in there. If there’s material that doesn’t fit, it goes into a document called “RANDOM BARS” and, basically, never gets utilised. Though sometimes, ideas are salvageable.

Then, it’s just a matter of seeing if ideas connect. Are there subconscious or conscious thematic links between two lines? Is there a rhyme in common between two schemes? Does one idea set up another idea? Whatever it is, we’re using it to create cohesion, a narrative flow throughout the material as best we can.

When this is established, you’ll notice you’re missing stuff. An opener or closer, a connector between two ideas that hasn’t yet been identified, set-ups to ideas, jokes and wordplay and rhymes will present themselves. This part is filling in the blanks. It doesn’t happen immediately for me, it takes a while, but at least now you know what you’re meant to be writing, not just trying any angles you can think of.

When you’ve completed that, the rest of the process is just fine-tuning, getting bored of what you’ve written to the point where you start from scratch and hating yourself for it. Easy.


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