Hip-Hop Analysis: The Three Skills of a Rapper – Delivery


The third of the three main core skills of a rapper is delivery. Delivery is the simplest of the three forms of rap skills, but arguably the most important. The vast majority of all popular, high-selling, “mainstream” rappers ALL have great delivery. So to the inexperienced listener, everything they say sounds nice despite how meager their lyrics or techniques are. Actually, creative delivery can even be off-putting to some people and distract them from a rapper’s other skills. This is evident in people’s reactions to artists like Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper, and Flatbush Zombies.

I’ve seen and read many times from various people and media advisors that it’s optimal to catch the audience’s attention in the first 15 seconds. If, in that time period, you come across as off-putting, dull, weak, etc. then people aren’t going to want to continue listening to you. Part of this is an attitude expressed in one of my other articles, but the other part may be a bad delivery on the rapper’s part.

There are many key points to what can be considered an effective delivery, although the concept of it is somewhat relative (mostly because of creative nuances). The first and most widely applicable key is projection. As stated before, this is relative, sometimes projection is preferred, sometimes it isn’t; but the latter situations are mostly for theatrics and creativity. When one projects, their words are much clearer. People aren’t struggling to figure out lyrics; the engineer has more to work with, the speech comes across as confident and strong.

Next up is inflection and intonation. Ideally this is used to express emotion. The way the lyrics are stated in the song should make it sound totally believable. “I’m so sad” in the same regular speech you used to rap all your other lyrics isn’t cutting it (again unless intentional for an artistic reason). In a song, a rapper could be talking about anything. They could be saying the most ridiculous story, and with a great delivery they sound completely believable. In the song “I Wonder Why”, by Rick Ross (who has an excellent delivery, btw), the man is wailing “I WONDA WAIII” and “STAN’ YA GROUWWWWN” in the studio like the man about to break down and cry in desperation. Was he likely to be that emotionally motivated? I doubt it, but he sure sounded like it.


Last point is the actual voice of the rapper. The aforementioned rappers in the first paragraph are rapper’s that use really weird voices most of the time, but depending on the tone of the song, they change their voice to match. In “30” Danny switches his voice from his high-pitched squawk when he’s talking trash to forceful ranting when he’s mentioning his personal struggles. In “Bath Salt” the Zombies’ delivery are very eccentric and over-the-top, but on a beat that’s more smooth and relaxed, like “Chuch” their deliveries are more toned down. Another great example is one of Eminem’s best tracks, “Stan”. Throughout the whole song, Eminem demonstrates excellent delivery.

Em gets angry, he gets sad, surprised, at all the appropriate moments. Another thing to note is that Eminem usually has a much different rapping voice than he uses in the song, he sounds much more whimsical in songs like “The Real Slim Shady” and whatnot.

And like my other skill descriptions, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Using sprechgesang, having a singing voice, and managing speech impediments are some more of the many different facets of rap delivery.

Read up on lyricism and technique as well.


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